Obadiah Mailafia
Mailafia

By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA

The announcement by a former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr. Obadiah Mailafia that some repentant terrorists told him that a serving Northern governor was the commander of the Boko Haram sect is raising a lot of dust, and totally catching the federal government by surprise.

The former deputy governor of the CBN had dropped the bombshell last week during a radio programme on Nigeria Info 99.3 while speaking on the current crisis in Southern Kaduna. He said two repentant terrorists identified the Northern governor to him, insisting that Boko Haram had already infiltrated Southern Nigeria with the intention to ignite a second civil war.

“Some of us also have our intelligence networks. I have met with some of the bandits; we have met with some of their high commanders, one or two who have repented, they have sat down with us not once, not twice.

“They told us that one of the Northern governors was the commander of Boko Haram in Nigeria. Boko Haram and the bandits are one and the same. They have a sophisticated network. During this lockdown their planes were moving up and down as if there was no lockdown. They were moving ammunition, moving money, and distributing them across different parts of the country.

“They are already in the South, in the rain forests of the South. They are everywhere. They told us that when they finish these rural killings, they will move to phase two. Phase two is that they will go into urban cities, going from house to house killing prominent people”, Mailafia had said.

Coming at a time tension was already mounting in the nation following the renewed activities of    the Islamist group as well as incessant attacks against Christians in the North by suspected Fulani militias, various interpretations were already being given to the decision of the Department of State Security (DSS) to arrest, intimidate and dismiss Mailafia’s allegation as baseless.

While some alleged it was part of the reasons the war against insurgency has been intractable, others alleged that it is in line with the plot by the Fulani ethnic minority to force Islam on the entire north and the whole country, as well as exterminate non-Muslim indigenes and give their lands to Fulanis and Muslim faithful.

Some northern Christian’s, particularly from Kaduna, Plateau and Borno who spoke with BusinessHallmark, alleged that there is an ongoing systemic extermination of northern Christians in a major push for their lands. The reaction of the Federal Government to the killings and destruction did not also helped matters. While reacting to the attacks in Southern Kaduna, the FG said the attacks were revenge killings by the Fulani against the indigenes.

The statement raised suspicion that the government may have deliberately refused to protect the indigenous people because the Fulani were on revenge mission. BusinessHallmark reliably gathered that the revelation and the attendant reactions from concerned Nigerians rattled the Federal Government, forcing it to quickly activate a damage control mechanism.

According to a security source, the DSS, which initially foot-dragged on taking any action on Mailafia’s disclosure, out of fear of further inflaming the already charged atmosphere, was prevailed upon by the Presidency to quickly douse the tension by bringing in the economist to retract his statement.

The source revealed that after undergoing a grueling six-hour interrogation, Mailafia, who submitted himself to the security police in Jos, the Plateau State capital, was coerced into retracting his statement. However, the temporary reprieve obtained by the government was short-lived, as Mailafia, after regaining his freedom, retracted the statement he gave to the DSS.

While speaking with journalists last Wednesday, the development banker disclosed that he won’t retract his statement that a northern governor is the leader of Boko Haram, insisting there was no need for him to retract anything. Mailafia said he would not keep silent in the face of the current security challenges facing the country even if it meant for him to die. He called for an end to the killings in Southern Kaduna and other parts of the country.

“If I retract anything, I won’t be able to leave this place. I am a man of peace; I am not a man of violence. I must never give up on Nigeria, if need be, I will die for Nigeria,” he said.

Rattled by the rebuttal, the DSS went into attack mode, describing Mailafia’s allegation as fake news designed to incite the citizens and cause mayhem in the polity. The service in a statement at the weekend signed by its spokesperson, Peter Afunnya, the agency said it was disappointed that Mailafia, a Directing Staff at Nigeria’s foremost Policy Research Institute, the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, who is expected to be conversant with official information management tried to create unnecessary tension with his outburst.

The DSS said it is even more condemnable that Mailafia, who had profusely apologized during his visit to the Service’s Plateau State Command for his ignoble statement, would, afterwards, announce to the world that he stood by his misguided eruption.

The security agency alerted the country that the recent outburst of former CBN deputy governor reiterates its earlier warning that prominent persons in the country are plotting to destabilise the country. It warned that it will not stand idly and watch disgruntled and aggrieved elements take laws into their hands and cause mayhem in the polity.

In a curious twist some hours later, another rebuttal by Mailafia hit the news stand. In the purported statement, he admitted he got the information about a northern governor leading the Boko Haram insurgents from Fulani traders in a market and did not know that his comments would go viral.

Mailafia said he explained to the DSS what he knew about the incident and apologised for any statements he made that offended others. He added that he is a fan of President Muhammadu Buhari, “but there are bad people who don’t give him the advice to help him”. However, many Nigerians doubted the new video where Mailafia backtracked, tracing it to the DSS and the plot to discredit the banker.

Troubled by the uproar that trailed the allegation, the Federal has moved to douse tension. BH reliably gathered that President Buhari, at the weekend ordered  the deployment of Special Forces to Southern Kaduna.

It was gathered that the visibly embarrassed president ordered the Defence Headquarters to contain the perennial killing of indigenes by alleged Fulani militias in Southern Kaduna. Some government officials, who spoke with our Correspondent on Saturday, revealed that the Special Forces drafted from the Nigerian Army arrived Kafanchan on Friday and are awaiting formal deployment to violent locations in the Southern Kaduna.

The state Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs in Kaduna State, Samuel Aruwan, it was learnt  received the security operatives at Sector 7, Headquarters of Operation Safe Haven. The commissioner enjoined the troops to take the battle to the bandits towards strengthening the counter war for the restoration of security and safety of the people in Southern Kaduna.

Southern Kaduna has experienced several deadly attacks, particularly in the rural communities by Fulani militias. According to residents over 100 rural communities have been invaded and occupied by the Fulani militias, chasing out the indigenes to other locations.

Meanwhile, several groups and individuals have continued to react to the shocking revelations made by Mailafia. In its reaction, the Arewa Consultative Forum advised the government not to sweep the allegations under the carpet. The National Publicity Secretary of the ACF, Emmanuel Yawe, said the revelation that a northern governor was a Boko Haram leader was weighty and should be looked into. Yawe said the allegations were weighty and should not be swept under the carpets.

“Given his status as former deputy governor (of the CBN) and the weight of the allegations he raised, the DSS did the correct thing in inviting Obadia Mailafia. He owes it to the country to shed more light on these allegations. We cannot afford to sweep such allegations under the carpet.

“Boko Haram has killed many people, destroyed the lives of many Nigerians, foreigners and Nigeria’s image in the comity of nations. The allegation that a governor who swore by the constitution and the holy book to defend the lives and property of the citizenry is behind such a satanic group is repugnant and must be properly screened.

“Additionally, we fought a costly civil war in terms of human lives and materials between 1967 and 1970. If there is any information that a group is planning a civil war, we should do all we can to verify such information and abort the plan. We cannot afford a second civil war.”

Also, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNGs), urged the former CBN deputy governor to name the northern governor who was the commander of Boko Haram. According to the group’s spokesperson, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, the fact that Mailafia is sticking to his guns even after his arrest called government to question.

“We look at the Mailafia saga from two perspectives. One is the direct accusation of the involvement of government and in particular, a serving northern governor with the unceasing insecurity and other disturbances in the region. The fact that Mailafia is sticking to his guns even after the arrest has certainly called government to question.

“The man has made a serious commitment by claiming that he has reliable intelligence of the existence of such dangerous plot. The authorities should get him to prove his claim, perhaps, he can even assist the government.”

Likewise, middle-belt youths under the aegis of the Middle Belt Youth Council, lauded Mailafia for his bravery by sticking to the truth despite the intimidation and harassment he received from the DSS. The National President of the group, ,Emma Zopmal, stated that the people of the region were happy that Mailafia did not retract his statement despite the pressure put on him to do so.

“We in Middle Belt are happy that the former CBN deputy governor did not retract his statement despite the invitation meant to intimidate him by the DSS because what he said was nothing but the truth. And we are not surprised by his statement at all”

A former lawmaker from Kaduna State, Shehu Sani, warned the government against harassing the former CBN deputy governor.

“This is a democracy; people in the position of power must learn to respect the fundamental rights of citizens as guaranteed by the constitution of this country. We shouldn’t use Mailafia as a scapegoat or an excuse. Mailafia is not responsible for the insurgency and the violence, he is only expressing his opinion and that should be respected.”

In the same vein, human right lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, says the N5 million fine imposed by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) on Nigeria Info 99.3 is illegal. The radio station came under sanction because it aired the interview where Mailafia made the revelations. While announcing the fine, the Commission had said Mailafia’s claims were not verifiable and could cause public disorder.

However, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), said the amended code under which the radio was fined was yet to come into force.

“The chairman of the NBC board disclosed that the amendment of the code authorising the payment of the fine of N5 million was not approved by the board. That means that the amendment of the code has not come into force.

“Assuming that the code was properly amended the board cannot charge a suspect with criminal offences, prosecute, convict and impose a fine on him. “Section 33 (4) of the constitution provides that anyone charged with a criminal offence shall be tried before a competent court or tribunal. Only a competent court of law is empowered to try, convict and impose a fine on a criminal suspect after a trial has been conducted before a competent court.

“In view of the fact that the imposition of the N5 million fine was anchored on a purported amendment of the code and since the NBC lacks the legal competence to impose a fine on any broadcasting station without a finding of guilt by a properly constituted criminal court, the NBC should suo mutu quash the illegal fine,” Falana stated.

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