Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has claimed President Muhammadu Buhari and his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan paid ransoms to kidnappers.
Obasanjo made the bombshell statement when he received members of Tiv Professionals Group (TPG) at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) in Abeokuta, Ogun State, on Wednesday.
Obasanjo said not just the Buhari administration but that of former President Goodluck Jonathan negotiated with kidnappers.
“Government has always paid ransom. Not only this government, even during Jonathan (administration). They paid ransom, but they deny it,” he said.
Obasanjo urged the government to develop a means to deal with kidnappers and bandits, instead of pampering them with ransom payment.
“Some people are still reaching out, and hoping that lives can still be saved. But a situation whereby anybody thinks paying ransom is the way out, that person is folly.
“He is a folly. This is because when you pay ransom, you encourage. But if you are not going to pay ransom, you must have the means to deal heavily with it. You must have the stick to deal with it,” he said.
Rumours of ransom payment had emerged in several negotiations between the Buhari administration and Boko Haram terrorists.
There were also speculations of ransom payments in negotiations between state governments and terrorists.
The Buhari government was said to have paid ransom to secure the release of both the Chibok and the Dapchi schoolgirls.
The Chibok schoolgirls were kidnapped on 14 April 2014 during Jonathan’s era.
But four years later, Buhari had his own dose of kidnapping, when the Dapchi girls were captured in February 2018 in Yobe state.
Less than a month after, the girls were released, with one of them, Leah Sharibu held back.
Ransom was suspected, but the Buhari administration vehemently denied it.
A UN report in August 2018 also disclosed ‘large ransom payment’ to ISWAP, but Information Minister denied. He said what government paid was a promise of ‘ceasefire’.
With more kidnapping targeting students in Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Niger states, President Buhari in February publicly denounced ransom.
Instead, he urged states and security agencies to be more proactive in preventing abductions.
He warned state governors on the dangers of rewarding armed bandits stating that such policies can be disastrous.
“State Governments must review their policy of rewarding bandits with money and vehicles. Such a policy has the potential to backfire with disastrous consequences”, Buhari said.
“States and Local Governments must also play their part by being proactive in improving security in & around schools.
“Let bandits, kidnappers and terrorists not entertain any illusions that they are more powerful than the government.
“They shouldn’t mistake our restraint for the humanitarian goals of protecting innocent lives as a weakness or a sign of fear or irresolution,” he said.
The Kaduna governor Nasir El-Rufai agreed with the President as he has vowed not to pay a dime to terrorists holding people hostage.
He has advocated a policy of annihilating the terrorists, saying the only thing they deserve is death.
Obasanjo on Wednesday suggested a carrot and stick approach in dealing with insecurity and terrorism, although he did not elaborate.
According to reports, Obasanjo was instrumental in the release of the 27 students abducted from the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, Kaduna State.