The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said this while featuring on a programme aired on Radio Continental 102.3 FM.
Adesina posted excerpts from the interview on his Facebook page on Sunday evening.
The presidential spokesman said in the process of negotiating with the fake sect leaders, the Federal Government under Jonathan was swindled out of millions of dollars before it realised that it had been deceived.
Adesina said the ugly experience formed part of the reasons why the present administration was being careful on the issue of the Chibok girls.
He said the position of President Muhammadu Buhari remained that the authenticity of persons, who claimed to be leaders of the sect, must first be ascertained before the current administration would engage them in talks.
Adesina added, “We need to know a little bit of what happened behind the scenes between the last government and some people masquerading as the leadership of Boko Haram, who wanted to get the Chibok girls released.
“They actually turned it into a franchise, it became a commercial thing and they got money, possibly in millions of dollars, only for the government to discover it had been deceived.
“They kept saying they could get the girls released; they could interface with Boko Haram and they went laughing all the way to the bank with all that money, and nothing happened.
“So you should understand why this government is being careful and the President has said the genuineness of the leadership of Boko Haram must be determined before any negotiation takes place.”
On the continued detention of the ex-National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, and the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, the presidential spokesman said despite being granted bail, the suspects still had other charges against them, which informed their re-arrest.
He said there would not have been any reason to continue to hold them if there were no fresh charges against them.
When asked to react to the Nigeria Labour Congress’ threat to embark on strike if fuel subsidy was removed, Adesina wondered whether any hardship could surpass the one being expressed on fuel queues across the country.
He said, “What hardship can be greater than what Nigerians passed through in the past four to six weeks, queuing endlessly to buy petrol and at the end of the day, buying it at N200, N250, N300 per litre? What hardship can be greater than that?
“On the flip-side, what we are entering into now is something that would make life a lot easier for Nigerians, getting petrol, making sure that the supply is sustained because with crude oil prices down, why should Nigerians pay so high for refined petrol?
“That is what government is doing. Now that crude prices are down, this is the opportunity to arrive at appropriate pricing for refined petrol; that is why we now have N86 from NNPC, N86.5 from other marketers, and it has also been said that this would be subject to review every quarter.
“That means if oil prices inch up again, it would affect how much we buy petrol. Labour, I am sure, will look at the matter again, and know that it would be better that Nigerians get petrol at clearly affordable prices, reacting to prices of crude oil, rather than a subsidy regime that is fraught with so much corruption.”
Adesina also debunked insinuations that Buhari hates the Igbo.
He said, “When the President ran for political office in 2003, who was his running mate? Dr. Chuba Okadigbo. And in 2007, Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke. If he hated Igbo, would he run with them?
“That shows you the respect and the regard he has for the Igbo, it was political reality that compelled him to come to the South-West in 2011 and in 2015. Let me tell you a story. There is a prominent Igbo family in this country, if I mention the names, you would know them, they are very prominent in the society.
“They told me a story that in the 70s, President Buhari was Minister of Petroleum, the family wanted to join the petroleum industry and then they made a bid. By then, there were not too many Nigerians playing in that industry, and there was a lot of scepticism from those around the then Lt.-Col. Buhari, who was oil minister.
“They all said they don’t believe that the company as represented by that family had the capacity to play in the industry. This family told me that eventually, they got to Lt.-Col. Buhari; he listened to them, and asked them; ‘Are you sure you have the capacity to do this?’ And they told him, ‘we can do it’.
“Then he removed his military cap, banged it on the table and told them, ‘it is done.’ And he instructed that they give them that opportunity they wanted in the oil industry and today that family is so big and it never forgets that the then Col. Buhari as oil minister gave them the break they needed. They told me that story about three weeks ago.
“The next day, when I saw the President, I told him the story. He laughed and then went on to tell me that when people say he is against the Igbo, it baffles him, that really he never knew that family, he just trusted the assurance they gave him that they could play in the oil industry.”