By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU
The statement credited to Prof. Babagana Umaru Zulum, governor of Borno State that Islamic State of West Africa Province’s (ISWAP), a splinter terror group of Boko Haram, aim is to take over Nigeria has not only become worrisome but has elicited responses across groups including Afennifere, a sociocultural organization and Ohanaeze, another sociocultural organization; which in separate statement lambasted the federal government for being cosy towards the terror sponsors.
Thus followed Nigerian government reaction last Thursday that it had uncovered 96 financiers of terrorist groups Boko Haram and the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP).
Nigerias information and culture minister Lai Mohammed made the disclosure at a press conference in Abuja.
Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), in 2020-2021, revealed 96 financiers of terrorism in Nigeria, Mohammed said.
He further stated that NFIU had intelligence exchanges on Boko Haram, ISWAP, banditry, kidnapping and others with 19 countries. The minister said that 424 associates and supporters of the financiers were also uncovered.
Mohammed further averred that about 123 companies and 33 Bureau de change were linked to terrorists in addition to 26 suspected bandits/kidnappers and seven co-conspirators who have now been identified.
He added that an analysis has resulted in the arrest of 45 suspects who will soon face prosecution and seizure of assets.
Meanwhile, authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in September named six Nigerians with ties to Boko Haram as terrorist financiers.
Nigerians on the UAEs terrorism list were Abdurrahaman Ado Musa, Salihu Yusuf Adamu, Bashir Ali Yusuf, Muhammed Ibrahim Isa, Ibrahim Ali Alhassan and Surajo Abubakar Muhammad. The six persons had been previously tried and sentenced in UAE.
The UAE Cabinet issued Resolution No 83 of 2021, designating a total of 38 individuals and 15 entities on its approved list of persons and organisations supporting Boko Haram and other terrorist cause. In April 2019, an Abu Dhabi federal court of appeal sentenced both Surajo Abubakar Muhammad and Saliuh Yusuf Adamu to life imprisonment followed by deportation.
Ibrahim Ali Alhassan, AbdurRahman Ado Musa, Bashir Ali Yusuf and Muhammad Ibrahim Isa, were each sentenced to 10 years in prison, and also followed by deportation.
The court found them guilty of setting up a Boko Haram cell in the UAE to raise funds and material assistance for the insurgents in Nigeria.
Afennifere and Ohaenneze wondered why the federal government is not ready to name and shame those troubling the soul of the country. Both said they are tired of empty rhetoric without commensurate action on the part of the Buhari administration to fight the terror.
Professor Adeagbo Moritiwon, a political scientist told Business Hallmark that “even United Arab Emirates and other conservative countries such as Turkey are taking strong measures against terror and terror sponsors, it is the norm everywhere to name and shame them before taking them out.
He said the recent action of the United States government in Idlib where U.S. special forces surrounded the house of ISIL leader before the later blew himself up is yet another example of zero tolerance for terror.
“Honestly, the Nigerian government’s unwillingness to name them is something that should bother Nigerians. I think there is need to investigate them. At a point the government brought an irresponsible red herring by telling us that Kanu and Igboho are terror sponsors, for me this is highest level of lack of imagination”.
In his own reaction, Dr. Mohammed Yusuf, an historian in a chat with this medium said “The only logical explanation for Buhari’s unwillingness to name them and dilly-dally on prosecution suggests something close to either politics or sympathy for those indicted. But it does this administration no good. History will be hard on this administration. The administration’s pattern of inaction and body language has been long-standing”.
Earlier, Nigerians had expressed doubts about the willingness of the Federal Government to embrace the offer by the U. S. government to help and identify the sponsors of Boko Haram, which has waged an insurgency war on Nigeria in the last 12 years.
Many security experts, former diplomats, and leaders of some socio-cultural/civil society organisations who confided in BusinessHallmark said they knew the federal government would not embrace the offer.
Recall that the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, had during a round-table on U.S.-Nigeria military cooperation with journalists in Abuja, sometime in 2019 declared that her country was very eager to partner with Nigeria on identifying Boko Haram sponsors.
A former Assistant Director of the Department of State Services, Dennis Amachree, asserted that the U.S. had been positively disposed to supporting Nigeria, especially in the fight against terrorism, noting that the question was whether the Federal Government would embrace the current gesture.
Are we ready to arrest and prosecute these sponsors when exposed? Are we simply going to lock them away as has been done in the past? These are the concerns and the Americans may lose interest if we dont take it seriously.
Nigeria will do well to accept the offer as the country is really at a crossroads and will accept any help she can get. United States agreeing to support Nigeria means that they will come with some of their cutting-edge technology, which will boost the capability of Nigerian security agencies.
A former Naval Chief, Rear Admiral Godwill Siempre Ombo, simply said: These are touchy questions. Who truly wants to end issues in his or her life that will not embrace any support to end such issues?
To a former Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) Prof. Bola Akinterinwa, if the government of Nigeria is serious about the need to bring Boko Haramism to an end, the government should consider it as an opportunity to be taken advantage of.
He added: I remember that in 2020, either in July or August, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, accused the international community, particularly the big powers, that they were blocking all Nigerian efforts to deal with the Boko Haram group.
Lai Mohammed by that time was accusing the United States, the big powers, their allies, holding them responsible for the government of Nigerias inability to contain Book Haram insurgency.
Now, a year after, the U.S. is offering to assist in knowing who is doing what, who is funding Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria. It will be very illogical for the government of Nigeria to have accused the big powers in the year 2020 that they were blocking their efforts, now when they are de-blocking your alleged efforts, it will not make any sense for government of Nigeria to refuse.
What I am saying, in essence, is that the first point is that the government of Nigeria wanted assistance, but it was allegedly blocked. Now that the U.S. is giving the opportunity of de-blocking, it is only logical to accept.
The second point is that the Nigerian people have been asking President Buhari to seek international collaboration to end Boko Haram. If the government accepts, he will be doing so in the spirit of public request that Boko Haram cannot be suppressed without international support. So, if they accept the support, it is consistent with the spirit of the public in Nigeria.
Thirdly, the reason we should support U.S. to reveal is that Nigerians themselves have been accusing the Nigerian government that the government knows all those who are responsible for Boko Haram.
Theophilus Danjuma had already accused the military of aiding and abetting Boko Haram. Dr. Malaifa Obadiah told us the report of the meeting with Boko Haram commanders.
“Just last year, Commodore Omowunmi on Channel TV said that from 2007 to 2009, nothing has happened to the people they arrested as4 Boko Haram, that government knows. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo said there is a Fulanisation agenda. So, if Nigerians know those who are in charge but they did not say it, we need the intervention of a country like the U.S. to reveal the secret.
Two years after, nothing is heard about the offer, and between then and now, in terms of security, the country is worse off, as Nigerians daily face prospects of death from the guns of terror groups such as Boko Haram, Islamic State West Africa Province, herdsmen and bandits. Nigerians in their numbers have repeatedly called on the federal government to name sponsors of terror groups but these calls have always been ignored.
Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman had in March 2021 said the Nigerian Government arrested 400 Bureaux De Change operators for allegedly funding Boko Haram insurgency in the country, saying the suspects were transferring money to the terrorists. Up till now, they are yet to be prosecuted.
On that Moritiwon said “the attitude of the administration towards the so-called known terror sponsors is something that should be of interest to the international community. We should call on them to help institute investigations and sanctions on the Nigerian government for condoning terrorism.
Recall that Garba Shehu’s colleague, Femi Adesina in a Channels Tv program some time late last year said the Buhari-led government was not interested in naming and shaming the financiers of terrorism but in their prosecution.
Yet, the prosecution has been in rhetoric no specific action.
At about the time Adesina stated the position of government on not naming and shaming suspects, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), who was in the United States as part of Buharis entourage to the United Nations General Assembly, also said the government would not name and shame the suspected financiers of terrorism before they were tried and convicted.
Naming and shaming of suspects is not embarked upon as a policy by the federal government out of sheer respect the constitutional rights of Nigerians relating to presumption of innocence, Malami had said in a statement.
It is a product of constitutionalism and the law. It is rooted in the law and the names of the suspects will accordingly be made public at the point of judicial arraignment while the trials are judicial processes and not about media sensations. Naming and shaming in the Nigerian context must be rooted in constitutionalism. We must strike a balance between constitutional presumption of innocence and evidential proof of reasonable ground for suspicion in making disclosures associated with terrorism funding and financing”, Malami said.
Where reasonable grounds are established, suspects must be naturally taken to court at which point their identity must be disclosed and the naming becomes apparent. Shaming, on the other hand, is the product of conviction at which point the public is equally judicially put on notice. In essence, naming and shaming within the context of Nigerian law are judicial functions which commence with arraignment and terminate with convictions.
Though the Minister at that time claimed 285 suspects have been charged before the Federal High Court, it was learnt that only over 40 were being prosecuted by the government before the court based on prima facie cases of terrorism.
It was learnt that over 400 persons were arrested by security agencies in 2020 during a nationwide crackdown on the suspected financiers and collaborations. They were reportedly arrested in an operation being coordinated by the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), and in collaboration with the Department of State Services (DSS), Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The operation was said to have been approved by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2020. They were reportedly being kept in military and DSS facilities in Abuja and other places.