Terrorism financing: Presidency economical with truth – experts, legislator

Experts and lawmakers have blamed the Presidency for Nigeria’s worsening insecurity as it has consistently refused to bring to book those said to be sponsoring terrorism in the country, despite verbal threats.

The observation is coming on the heels of the report that the late founder of NASCO Group, makers of Nasco biscuits and Nasco cornflakes, Ahmed Nasreddin was a supporter and financier of Boko Haram in Nigeria.

NASCO Group however released a statement on Tuesday debunking the claims in a rare one-page statement where it described the report circulating on online platforms that assets of NASCO and its late founder had been used to support terrorist groups in Nigeria and elsewhere, as “defamatory and slanderous contents.”

Those who spoke with BusinessDay wondered why the Federal Government had been pussy-footing over those it claimed mastermind terrorism in the country or those evidences have pointed to, as having links with terrorists in the country or offshore.

Aliyu Umar Babangida, a retired Army captain, said: “What is happening, in this case, is not different from what happened when a very senior police officer was fingered of having a complicit relationship with some fraudsters; it is not different from what happened when a serving minister was fingered as a member of the terrorist group; it is not different from when people were arrested in the United Arab Emirates; is it not obvious enough? What again do Nigerians want? Do they want God to come down and write it? It is now left with the government, but when the government decides to pussy-foot over these serious things, then what does it tell you?”

An investigative report titled, ‘Cornflakes for Jihad: the Boko Haram Origin Story’ by Nigerian journalist, David Hundeyin had revealed how Nasreddin and Yakubu Musa Kafanchan, also known as Sheikh Yakubu Musa Katsina, an ally of Nigeria’s terror-linked Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Pantami funded Islamic terror cells in 2002.

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The report published in West Africa Weekly said that Hassan was a founding member of the Izala Movement (JIBWIS) and the current chairman of its board of trustees and the chairman of the Katsina State JIBWIS chapter.

It was also alleged that they have funded the activities of people like Kabiru Sokoto, who masterminded the Christmas Day bombing of the St Theresa Roman Catholic church on December 25, 2011 in Madalla, Niger State that claimed the lives of 37 Christians.

Other reports online had also suggested that NASCO’s late founder had secretly financed terrorism while being close to governments in Nigeria. One report alleged that at a point NASCO sacked all Christians working in the organisation and replaced them with workers from Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, and other predominantly Muslim countries.

But in a one-page statement issued Tuesday night, the management of NASCO Group described as “defamatory and slanderous contents,” circulating on online platforms to the effect that assets of the group and its late founder had been used to support terrorist groups in Nigeria and elsewhere.

The company acknowledged that following the 2019/11 attacks, “thousands of people and entities around the world were subjected to various investigations. A detailed examination by the United Nations Security Council and the US Government totally exonerated NASCO’s late founder, Ahmed Nasreddin and his business interest of all false allegations.”

The Group further said: “It was clearly established that NASCO was never at any time associated with the sponsorship of terrorism directly or indirectly anywhere in the world.”

The management of NASCO did not, however, say why it refrained from informing the Nigerian public after the company and its late founder had been investigated and cleared of the serious allegations as referenced in a United Nations Security Council resolution dated January 17, 2008.

The statement noted that “a similar investigation was carried out by the National Intelligence Agency of Nigeria, where it also came to the same conclusion, thereby exonerating our late founder and NASCO group or any act or complicity in the sponsorship of terrorism in Nigeria or in any other country.”

As it was in the past, NASCO also did not issue a public statement at the time after it was investigated and cleared by the National Intelligence Agency of Nigeria.

NASCO said in their statement that it, “categorically affirm that it has never been associated with nor had business dealings with any of the persons mentioned” in the report circulating online.

Oluwole Ojewale, ENACT Regional Organised Crime Observatory coordinator, said: “Where is the evidence that the old man was vindicated by international bodies? The NASCO group didn’t substantiate their counter-claim with any evidence whatsoever. Therefore, the burden of proof is on them and we can say this is not admissible in the court of public opinion.”
“It is symbolism of impunity if there are high profile sponsors of terrorism and the government is not willing to mention them. But that in itself might be tantamount to playing to the gallery. It’s not the optimal responsibility of the executive to make such a pronouncement; that lies in the realm of the court. What the executive ought to do is to go beyond the realm of second-guessing but to report such individuals to the relevant organs of government and let the law run its full course,” Ojewale said.

Ben Rolland Igbakpa representing Ethiope East and Ethiope West Federal Constituency of Delta State, had Tuesday, under matters of privilege on the floor of the House, recounted his recent experience in Ghana.

He said: “On that day, I went to Akure to be part of the burial ceremony of our fellow colleague, Hon. Expensive. On Saturday, I had to honor an invitation to Ghana for a wedding. Mr. Speaker, it will amaze you what I faced in the hands of Ghanaian officials. They detained me for about four hours, that they are trying to confirm something; I stayed at the airport for four hours, missed the wedding I went for and at the end of the day one of them walked up to me saying sorry sir there’s an announcement in Nigeria that a member of parliament is sponsoring terrorism and we are put on red alert to ensure that no member of parliament comes here to hide or cause trouble. I had to come back home dejected.”

Explaining the negative effects of the blanket allegation against lawmakers by President Muhammadu Buhari, Igbakpa said: “The right thing for a father to do is to name and shame any child that’s bringing about division. But Mr. President didn’t shame that person or name them; instead, he named 469 members. Because of the fact that we’ve always cooperated and the fact that Nigeria has a lot to deal with, so I’m appealing, if not, the right thing to do is to invoke Section 28 of the Constitution; they can tell us who among us is sponsoring terrorism. All of us here are prime suspects. I appeal that the leadership of the House should liaise with their counterparts in the Senate to try and see the President so that he can tell us who’s sponsoring terrorism amongst us.

The President should also go ahead and prosecute and convict that person.”

Ahmad Sadjo, a former commissioner for Information in Adamawa State, who spoke on the Channels Television Sunrise DailyWednesday, urged the Federal Government to, not only name and shame sponsors of terrorism, but to allow the laws take their course.

“The major problem we have in this country is that we have two tribes- the rich and powerful on one hand, and that of the poor and despondent that are discriminated against. The laws are not weak, but the application and implementation are weak. We are speedily eroding confidence in our governance structure. Government must urgently address this fundamental problem,” Sadjo said.

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