July 20, 2024

It has been known for a while that Boko Haram is now two factions, the Shekau and Al-Barnawi groups. They are said to be bitterly opposed to each other and engage in fierce gun battles.

The leadership crisis erupted in 2016 shortly after endorsement by ISIS of the group as a cell of the terror network in the Lake Chad region.

It is generally perceived that the Al-Barnawi faction is more business-like, unlike the Shekau group which is said to be simply fanatical and bloodthirsty. The Barnawi group was said to be open to negotiations and wanted money offered by government for the Chibok girls, whilst Shekau was all for escalating hostilities.

The reported 2016 violent infighting between the two combatant factions was said to be over money and control of Shekau’s most priced assets, the Chibok girls.

This may explain the difference in fates of the Chibok and Dapchi girls. One is elated at the news of the return of the girls and reunion with their families, while also hoping for the safe return of all other abductees. The information and defense ministers announced yesterday that no ransom was paid. Reports from Sahara Reporters and BBC however suggest the government lied. Both allege that €5m was paid for the Dapchi girls in addition to release from military custody of some Boko Haram bomb makers. Now one knows not who to believe and can only imagine what terrorists might do with €5m! One question however arises. For how much longer will this continue and at what cost?

With this latest alleged under-the-table payment, how can anyone reasonably expect the terrorists to stop abductions? Whoever voluntarily ends a venture whose monetary returns are so much as to be mind-numbing? But if you don’t end nuisance, you pay nuisance money. If the payment allegations are true, then are we not empowering terrorists to buy more ammo, more kits, vehicles, food and drugs to continue to terrorize us, abduct, kill and maim. If we will continue like this, perhaps we should kukuma add terrorist provisions as line items in our national budget. But how will this end the carnage and at what cost in human lives?

It is banal logic that if government refuses to pay terrorists, it will make abductions for ransom money unattractive. If government pays, abductions remain profitable. And vice versa.

My take: the Nigerian government should learn its lesson and adopt an official policy of NOT ever again paying ransom to insurgents, militants, terrorists and other criminals howsoever called for abductions, kidnaping, and other criminal activities, including vandalization of oil and gas infrastructure. Payment of ransom to criminals may bring about temporary reprieve but has a way of coming back to haunt the payer. The only direction from after the first payment is downhill. Capitulation to the demands of criminals only helps to sustain the notion that crime pays. It encourages criminals to increase the tempo of crime for even more payoff. Ransom payments can only escalate kidnaping and abductions. Government should end it. Indeed payment of ransom by government and/or state actors should be criminalized with no caveats or exceptions.

It makes no sense to pay criminals for crime. So government needs to remove the imperative for the opaque dealings associated with terrorist payments. It must end possible complicity of state officials and terror negotiation entrepreneurs who profiteer from terror and death. Some have even argued that government is incapacitated by its anti-graft posturing from simply emptying the treasury to finance briberies for the next polls like the immediate past administration did, so it is using terror payments to fund a war chest for the ruling party preparatory for the 2019 elections. True or false, government has to come clean by ending ransom payments. This will in turn mitigate suspicions of underhand dealings and corruption as currently being insinuated in opposition quarters. It will add credibility to government and increase its approval ratings.

Frankly speaking, government should just end negotiations with these dastardly insurgents, force them to disarm and close shop and/or take the war to them and finish them off. After all we were told over a year ago that Boko Haram has been “technically defeated”. Why should we then be tactically rearming and re-provisioning them with ransom payments?

This reign of terror has gone on for too long. Government should put an end to the Boko Haram nihilists and their nonsense.

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