New facts showing stronger links between former governor of Borno state, Ali Modu Sheriff, and the Boko Haram sect have emerged, further fuelling suggestions the ex-governor is a major financier of the terrorist sect.
Intelligence insights obtained by PREMIUM TIMES in Maiduguri, Damaturu, and Abuja show dated communications between field officers and the velvet ranks of Nigeria’s military chronicling Mr. Sheriff’s involvement in promoting the growth of the sect.
The communications painted a picture of what appears to be a powerful regional support structure involving the Chadian president, Nigerian officials and Niger Republic, and spearheaded by Mr. Sheriff whom the intelligence presents as a powerful figure within this circle.
Strong evidence indicates that the Nigerian government received actionable intelligence about Mr. Sheriff’s links to Boko Haram as far back as 2011 but has, curiously, ignored all warnings and nudges to act to stop the Boko Haram call him in for interrogation.
Mr. Sheriff has long been suspected of masterminding the Boko Haram sect, but the documents sighted by this newspaper offers deeper understanding into how Mr. Sheriff allegedly finances the deadly sect and his probable motivations.
When Sheriff visits Abeche
Nourished by deep and impeccable sources from members of the Chadian Army, Nigerian intelligence experts had arrived at fairly certain conclusions that Mr. Sheriff was actively involved in the recruitment, training and deployment of Boko Haram members.
“…members of Boko Haram sect are sometimes kept in Abeche region in Chad and trained before being dispersed. This happens usually when Mr. Sheriff visits Abeche,” a 2011 intelligence memo from field officers in N’djamena,the capital of Chad, read.
When Mr. Sheriff visits Abeche for these activities, he lodges in Chadian Presidential Guest House in Abeche, and is provided security by the Chadian government, the intelligence communications claim.
Mr. Sheriff is a close friend of the Chadian president, Idris Deby.
In 2011, during the Chadian presidential elections, Mr. Sheriff reportedly supported the Chadian president with 35 vehicles, for security, and is believed to have significantly bankrolled Mr. Deby’s re-election.
Nigerian defence and intelligence community members typically describe Mr. Sheriff as a gun runner in their many communications, and they often speak in conviction that his weapons find their way into Nigeria through Niger Republic into Yobe state. Yobe is Boko Haram’s stronghold and has suffered heavy casualties in magnitudes only second to Borno.
Money, Politics and Power
Back in August 2011, intelligence officials were characterising Mr. Sheriff’s motivations for sponsoring Boko Haram as similar to a certain “3rd generation South South governor,” with the aim of covering up financial irregularities he might have committed as governor of Borno state, as well as propagate a stay-put in office strategy by suppressing the opposition.
The officials suggest that Mr. Sheriff did not create the sect but was actively using the “monster” and could be sponsoring the sect as a way of protecting himself from the sect members who were “calling for his head” at the time.
“One way of reclaiming the lost loyalty of the sect therefore, was sponsorship of their cause,” intelligence officials were telling their principals.
Mr. Sheriff was not reachable for his comments. A former commissioner under his administration as governor of Borno state who also speaks for him, Inuwa Bwala, told PREMIUM TIMES Mr. Sheriff was outside the country and could not respond to enquiries.
Both the Nigerian defence headquarters and the Nigerian government also declined to comment on this intelligence.
Phone calls were not answered, and text messages were not replied to.
This is not the first time that Mr. Sheriff will be accused of links to the terrorist group, Boko Haram. He denies any links.
An April 2, 2012 report by a Cameroonian daily, L’Oriel du Sahel, said the former governor, now a member of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was arrested in 2012 upon entering Cameroon from Chad on his way to meeting the governor of that country’s northern region.
The report said Cameroonian police authorities questioned Mr. Sheriff for hours and only released him later following pressure from senior government officials in that country.
An Ambassador Usman Galtimari Panel, set up by President Goodluck Jonathan to investigate the genesis of the insurgency in the North East, had also blamed Mr. Sheriff for the growth of Boko Haram in a report.
Chadian President Connection
An Australian negotiator, Stephen Davis, recently named Mr. Sheriff, alongside former Nigerian Army Chief, Azubuike Ihejirika, as sponsors of the Boko Haram sect, quoting the sect’s leadership.
Nigeria’s intelligence authorities have been equivocal on the role of Mr. Ihejirika in promoting the deadly sect whose bloody campaign have killed up to 5000 Nigerians and left many homeless, broken and internally displaced, but they have lately spoken of the Chadian president, Mr. Deby, as a new dimension to the Boko Haram sponsorship dynamics.
In 2011, a strong Boko Haram army was also beneficial to the Chadian president, as it provided a “ready army and possible refuge” for a president that was facing growing distrust from his legitimate army, Nigerian intelligence officials claimed.
The Chadian president’s support for the sect was made majorly through his friendship with Mr. Sheriff and at the expense of his country’s relationship with Nigeria, the report said.
Violence by the Boko Haram sect, which had only religious interest in the past, is traceable to the five days of clashes in July 2009, between the group and members of the security forces in Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, and Kano states that left more than 800 people dead, including at least 30 police officers.
The police summarily executed the captured Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf, along with several dozen of his followers in front of the police headquarters in Maiduguri. Dozens of its members were also arrested.
Boko Haram frequently said its attacks on the government, especially the police, are in revenge for these killings and an attempt to set free members incarcerated by the police.
Recently, the ideology behind Boko Haram attacks got more confusing with increasing attacks on schools, media houses and almost any soft target with wide media reach. The group has gotten bolder by the day and has shown interest in capturing and occupying cities it calls its Caliphates.
The sect has overrun towns and villages, including Mubi, Michika, Bazza, Gulak, Gwoza, Bama, Gamboru and Ngala in Adamawa and Borno states. Ngala is the home place Mr. Sheriff.