• Friday, March 01, 2024
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Boko Haram: Inaction leaves presidency atop sponsorship suspicion list

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The dust raised by the latest revelation by Stephen Davis, an Australian hostage negotiator on the alleged local sponsors of the Boko Haram Islamic sect which indicted former Nigerian Chief of Army Staff, Azubuike Ihejirika, a retired general, and again accused Ali Modu Sheriff, a former Borno State governor, and the yet-to-be unmasked senior official of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) may not settle any time soon as fingers are now being pointed at the Presidency, BD SUNDAY has gathered.

Stephen Davis had told an online media platform that prominent politicians through the CBN were funding Boko Haram. The Australian, who had reportedly spent four months negotiating with the insurgents on behalf of the Nigerian government to free the 275 abducted Chibok schoolgirls, alleged that prominent politicians are sponsors of Boko Haram and that the money passes through the CBN and appears to be legal, saying that the official in charge of the transactions currently works in the currency operations division of the CBN.

He also alleged that one of the biggest suppliers of arms and military uniforms to Boko Haram currently lives in Cairo, Egypt. Davis further explained that the suppliers were the recipients of money sent by political sponsors from Nigeria.

Some highly placed Nigerians who spoke on the development were of the opinion that since it was evident the country may never win the fight against insurgency unless the sponsors were identified, tried and prosecuted, the time has fully come for President Goodluck Jonathan to go after the local sponsors of the sect responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent Nigerians in the Northeast if the President was indeed serious to end the scourge of insurgency.

Femi Falana (SAN), radical lawyer and activist, told BD SUNDAY that the international negotiator, Stephen Davis engaged by President Jonathan to enter into dialogue with the Boko Haram sect with a view to securing the release of the abducted 275 Chibok school girls again revealed the identities of the sponsors of the terrorist organisation in a well-publicised televised interview in London last week.

He confirmed that the negotiator disclosed that a former governor of Borno State, a former Chief of Army Staff and a former top official of the Central Bank of Nigeria had provided funds and other logistics to the nihilist body for the terrorist attacks which had claimed the lives of innocent people in the country.

“The disclosure was backed with some detailed accounts which confirmed some information in the domain of the security forces in the country.

“It would be recalled that the Ambassador Usman Galtimari Committee on insurgency in the Northeast zone set up in 2011 by President Jonathan had recommended the prosecution of ‘some politicians’ who sponsored, funded and used the militia groups that later metamorphosed into Boko Haram,” he said.

According to him, “in the ‘White Paper’ issued on the report of the Committee, the Federal Government accepted the recommendation and directed the National Security Adviser (NSA) to coordinate the investigation of the kingpins and sponsors to unravel the individuals and groups that are involved.”

Falana stated that although the ‘White Paper’ was published in May 2012, the directive of the Federal Government has not been carried out up till now because the individuals involved are said to be connected to the Presidency; adding that the naming of few kingpins and sponsors of the sect by special envoy of the Federal Government has exposed many deceits.

“Having regard to the report of the Oputa Panel on human rights abuse in Nigeria from 1966-1999 which indicted the Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha juntas for bombing certain ‘subversive’ individuals and extra-judicial killing of others for phantom coup d’état, the alleged involvement of military officers in the terrorist activities of the Boko Haram sect cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand.

In view of the gravity of the allegations of crimes against humanity committed by the sponsors of the Boko Haram sect, President Jonathan should refer the suspects to the Special Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Any local investigation conducted by the Federal Government in the circumstance may be manipulated by vested political interests,” he said.

The peg of allegation that some individuals involved in the Boko Haram onslaught are connected to the Presidency also seem to have found round hole if the manner the late NSA to President Jonathan, Andrew Owoye Azazi, was removed from office after he accused some elements within the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of backing the sect.

General Azazi had, during a South-South Economic Summit held in Asaba, the Delta State capital, accused the PDP of being responsible for the Boko Haram onslaught in the Northeast, coupled with a purported list of names of politicians allegedly backing the Islamic sect soon to be released to the public in May 2012 during Azazi’s tenure as NSA before he was unceremoniously removed from office; and his subsequent death in a helicopter crash with former Kaduna State governor, Patrick Yakowa, has remained mysterious.

The decision to compile the list was said to be born out of the belief of the security chiefs that the anti-terrorism battle could be won sooner than expected if people linked to the violence were exposed.Security chiefs were said to have worked on intelligence report that some top politicians have been giving financial backing to terror groups with the aim of destabilising the present administration.

The alleged politicians were identified to include those who held the opinion that only persons from their region could contest the presidential election after the demise of president Musa Yar’Adua.

These were the exact words of General Azazi: “PDP got it wrong from the beginning, from the on-set by saying Mr. A can rule, Mr. B cannot rule according to PDP’s convention, rules and regulation, and are not according to the constitution and that created the climate for what has manifested itself this way. There is some level of political undertone to the problem. They (PDP) know me and I am not afraid to tell them. The wrangling within the PDP should be blamed for this.

“Let’s examine all these issues to see whether the level of violence in the Northeast just escalated because Boko Haram suddenly became better trained, better equipped and better funded, or something else was responsible. It takes a very long time for somebody to be a sniper. Is it possible that somebody was thinking that only Mr. A could win, and that if he could not win, there would be problems in this society?”

Azazi had also noted that the bombings, suicide attacks and jail breaks that had been raging in the northern part of the country could be traced to the politics of exclusion of the PDP in the region. Tracing the rise of Boko Haram’s attack, the late NSA stated that the extent of violence did not increase in Nigeria until when there was a declaration by the current president that he was going to contest.

General Aziza had acknowledged the level of sophistication of the group and emphasised that government was in the know of the sect’s activities. “I can assure you that Boko Haram can garner that level of sophistication over time, if it has not got it already. There are a lot we know that they are doing, and there are a lot that could be done to address the problem,” he said.

President Jonathan had also admitted in January 2012, during a church service at the National Ecumenical Centre as part of the annual Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebrations, that members of Boko Haram sect had succeeded in infiltrating his government, planting its members in government agencies and security outfits.

Earlier in 2011, a serving senator of the Federal Republic of Nigerian, Mohammed Ali Ndume, from Borno State, was detained and later arraigned before an Abuja Magistrate Court on terrorism charges in connection with links to the Islamic militant group. Ndume, an original PDP senator from Borno State until he joined other 11 PDP senators who defected to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), had earlier confessed to knowing the spokesperson of the sect operating in the Northeast.

The Boko Haram spokesperson, Ali Sanda Umar Konduga, a.k.a, “Usman Al-Zawahiri” was arrested and paraded in public by the State Security Services (SSS). He spoke openly about Senator Ndume’s support in helping the group frame threat messages to various politicians and Nigerian officials.

Zawahiri had pleaded guilty while Ndume pleaded not guilty. The SSS appeared then to have established a strong connection between Senator Ndume and Sanda Umar Konduga.

The Boko Haram’s spokesperson had also indicted Ibrahim Shekarau, former governor of Kano State, who at the moment is the minister of Education in Jonathan’s cabinet and Isa Yuguda, Bauchi State governor, and Modu Sheriff, former Borno State governor who is again on the searchlight, had at one time or the other paid a substantial amount to the sect monthly, in order to avoid attacks in their respective states.

However, the indicted persons have continued to deny the allegations in strong terms.

Solomon Esongban, a Lagos-based political analyst, told BD SUNDAY that the latest revelation by Davis has exposed the insincerity of the Presidency with Nigerians in its fight against insurgency, saying that it was obvious the removal of General Andrew Azazi as NSA was President Jonathan’s “desperate sacrifice” to powerful northern politicians whose toes the late NSA had stepped.

“It is a simple political calculation. Azazi, as NSA, declared to the whole world that the wrangling within the PDP was responsible for the mass onslaught against innocent Nigerians following the demise of former President Yar’Adua and the declaration by Jonathan that he wanted to succeed his boss as president of Nigeria and a month later, he was removed from office. They needed to remove him from office before he does damage. Remember he also promised to publish names of the sect’s backers and had advised the current president to grant security agencies the authority to arrest unnamed powerful northern politicians who are financiers of the sect,” he said.

Esongban said the political calculation of General Azubuike Ihejirika’s alleged involvement in the Boko Haram’s financial and logistical supports was a bit confusing and maybe tactical as well because some northern elites had accused him (Ihejirika) of having committed genocide against Moslem youths in the name of fighting terrorism.

It would be recalled that the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, had in Kaduna in April raised an alarm that the Nigerian Army under Ihejirika was out to wipe out the entire Moslems in the name of fighting terrorism in the land.

“Northern outcries actually led to the removal of Ihejirika because at the time he was removed, he was doing well in the fight against the insurgents. He had taken the fight to the enemy’s territory and under him the rate of bombings reduced drastically! It is unfathomable to me that the same person is being accused of funding Boko Haram. We should wait to hear Ihejirika’s side of it and pray nothing happens to him,” he said.

According to the analyst, if the latest revelation was true and anything to go by, Nigerians should be more concerned about the “powerful northerners” who would have bought Ihejirika’s conscience to get involved in a struggle known to be northern affairs.

“Nigerians should not rush to conclusion. The questions I think Nigerians should be asking are: what is the interest of Ihejirika, an easterner, by involving in a mess caused by northern gladiators? If Ihejirika is found culpable, who paid for his conscience? Who is he working for? What is the rationale for a professional terrorist negotiator mentioning Ihejirika and refused to call the name of the CBN’s senior official and others for any reason? Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is the only CBN’s senior official we know who just left the apex bank. He should also come to tell Nigerians what he knows about Boko Haram! Something is definitely not adding up here; and I can smell the odour of these masked powerful northern politicians,” he said.

He also heaped the blame of the prolonged battle against Boko Haram insurgents on President Jonathan who he described as “desperate” and lacking the leadership courage to go head to head with the financiers of the sect and come out victorious.

“Jonathan is desperate again now because of his 2015 second term ambition and he is ready to sacrifice best officers in order to appease northern elites who are also desperate for power. No one knows the next officer to be sacrificed on the altar of Jonathan’s personal ambition! This is not the time for politicking; but rather, this is the time Jonathan must rise and show Nigerians that he is the president they elected by going after the sponsors of the sect. This is the only way he can win the confidence of Nigerians back again,” he said.    

In the same vein, Yinka Odumakin, publicity secretary of the pan-Yoruba socio group, Afenifere, told BD SUNDAY that Ehejirika must come out as a matter of urgency to clear himself of the allegation leveled against him if he was indeed not involved in whatever ways in the sponsorship of the sect.

According to him, “there have been rumours of ‘fifth columnist’ going by the revelation of President Goodluck Jonathan sometime ago that his government was infiltrated by sympathisers of the insurgents.”

He asked: “Could it be that Ihejirika was sponsoring Boko Haram so that he can get more money for security from the President? So, I think he has to clear his name big time!

“But why are people quiet about the high CBN official who was also mentioned by Davis? Davis said a high CBN official who recently left the bank was one of the sponsors; why are people not responding to this? Why are people not asking LamidoSanusi to respond to this? We need a serious investigation of those who are mentioned both now and in the past. Ihejirika has been mentioned; Sheriff has been mentioned; LamidoSanusi has been insinuated; Ali Ndume and the rest must be seriously investigated. They must all be probed to get to the root of this matter; because I don’t want to believe that the amount of money Boko Haram sect is spending in their operation that the CBN under Sanusi would claim they don’t know how the money was being moved,” he said.

Odumakin further said that the development was a huge challenge to the Department of State Security Service (DSSS) to up its game (to investigate) in order to get to the root of what he called ‘network of terror’ in the country.

Also speaking to BD SUNDAY on the alleged Boko Haram sponsors, Lai Mohammed, national publicity secretary of opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), whose party addressed a press conference recently calling for arrest and prosecution of those named by Davis, said the leadership of the party was particularly happy because the latest revelation was coming from the negotiator hired by the government of President Jonathan.

He said the presidency should come out and tell Nigerians how long the negotiator has been working for it, adding that the party has always suspected that the former Borno helmsman (Ali Modu Sheriff) was a mole planted in the APC by the PDP in the interest of the latter.

“We challenged him (Sheriff) severally, he denied it. When you look back at the time he was in ANPP, how he became a governor, how Boko Haram was nurtured under him, the revelation of Davis should not be a surprise to anybody,” he said.

On the allegation of a yet-to-be unmasked senior CBN official who recently retired from the apex bank as taking part in the finance operation of the sect, the APC’s mouthpiece said the negotiator should name the CBN retired officer whose three nephews were implicated, adding that the CBN was primarily government banker.

“I am not aware that any individual or corporation has an account with CBN. People deal with CBN through their banks. As a lawyer, I understand that the CBN is the bank of government. Nigerians are not stupid. Is the government going to say they don’t know what is going on in the country? Are they going to say they have no file for Ali Modu Sheriff? Why has he not been interrogated even for one moment? How come the Maiduguri Airport that was closed to the pilgrimage was opened for him?”

He said the ball was now in the court of Ihejirika and Sheriff to defend themselves, but that he could not say much on CBN’s involvement since no name was mentioned; insisting that anyone involved in the sponsoring of the sect should be tried and prosecuted accordingly.

“The ball is in the court of all of us; the media and the Nigerian people. Davis said, until we go after the sponsors of Boko Haram, you cannot weaken the sect. So, why is the government not going after the sponsors of Boko Haram? This attempt by the Federal Government to put a distance between them and Davis is not going to help matters at all! We all knew Davis was negotiating for them before now! The man said the President has assisted him by providing logistics, how can they now come and say he was on his own?” Lai Mohammed asked.

But Ali Modu Sheriff last Wednesday swiftly denied any involvement with the insurgents in an elaborate press conference in Abuja. He vowed to sue the Australian negotiator in a competent court for defaming his character.

According to him, he had never associated himself with terrorists anywhere in the world and that he never met the founder of Boko Haram Mohammed Yusuf until he was captured by security agencies.

“I was very disappointed with the National Chairman of the APC (John Odogie-Oyegun) for saying the party never wanted me in the first instance. This is the same man who came to my house to beg me not to leave the party. This is the kind of leaders we have in this country,” he said at the briefing.    

Attempts at reaching Ruben Abati, special assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, and Olisa Metuh, the PDP’s national publicity secretary, did not yield result as none of them picked his calls put through their cell phones. As at the time of filing in this report, they had also yet to reply text messages asking their comments on the issue.

NATHANIEL AKHIGBE