Rights activists and lawyers have urged the Nigerian government to immediately investigate allegations by a government-appointed negotiator naming former Chief of Army Staff, Azubuike Ihejirika, and former governor of Borno State, Modu Sheriff, as chief sponsors of Islamist insurgent group, Boko Haram.
The Australian hostage negotiator, Stephen Davis, who was helping the Nigerian government to secure the release of the over 200 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram militants, reaffirmed his earlier claim that Messrs Sheriff and Ihejirika, were top facilitators of sect that has been blamed for the death of over 4,000 Nigerians since it took up arms 2009.
Mr. Davis spoke in an interview with New York-based Sahara Reporters.
Lanre Suraju, the Chairman of the anti-corruption group, the Civil Society Network Against Corruption, CSNAC, said the International Criminal Court, ICC, should be immediately invited to investigate the allegation and commence the prosecution of Messrs, Ihejirika and Sheriff immediately. He said the number of deaths attributed to Boko Haram in Nigeria qualifies the situation as genocide. He said the allegation was even more indicting as it was made by a government-appointed negotiator.
He said Mr. Iherijika was merely trying to divert attention by accusing the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nasri El-Rufai, of being a Boko Haram commander. He said the failure of Mr. Ihejirika to back the allegation with evidence, when he was the army chief, showed that he might be culpable of the allegation.
Similarly, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, said President Goodluck Jonathan should immediately refer those fingered to the Special Prosecutor of the ICC as any investigation undertaken by the government could be muddled by political interests.
He also said that the government should not treat this allegation as it has treated previous allegations and findings on the sponsors of Boko Haram.
“It would be recalled that the Ambassador Usman Galtimari Committeee on insurgency in the north east 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.” In a White Paper issued on the report of the Committee the Federal Government accepted the recommendation and ditrected “the National Security Adviser to coordinate the investigation of the kingpins and sponsors to unravel the individuals and groups that are involved,” he said in a statement.
The Chairman of the Ikeja branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Monday Ubani, said government needed to immediately dig into the claim made by Mr. Davis. He said Mr. Davis should be approached to provide proof as this was key if those he accused were to be convicted in court.
“It is a very grave allegation. I think the government now needs to dig into it. You have to now investigate the claim especially asking for more details and facts. It is very key if the government is sincere with that allegation whatever they come up with must be put into use. If there is evidence that these people are linked to Boko Haram they have to be prosecuted. It is not because the negotiator said it is prove of evidence. There must be something more evidential.
Because you will prosecute them in the court of law and in prosecuting criminal case it must be proved beyond reasonable doubt. It is not balance on probability, it is prove beyond reasonable doubt and whoso ever alleges must supply the evidence in order to convince a court that these crimes were committed by these people. Evidence is very key allegation alone is not enough to convict anybody. It should not be taken lightly and nobody should be dismissed. This is a matter that should be swept under the carpet,” he said.
Debo Adeniran of Coalition Against Corrupt Leader, CACOL, said the government should investigate the claims with due diligence and devoid of political wrangling that has characterised previous claims.
“The security agencies should investigate whatever allegation with due diligence as to ascertain the veracity of such claims. The authority should not leave any stone unturned,” he said.
He also warned that people should not be unduly persecuted based on mere allegations. He however said it worried him that it was taking so long for the government to find out those “powerful elements” sponsoring the group. He said anyone found culpable should be prosecuted in such a manner as to make it unattractive for future sponsors of insurgency.
In interviews with Lagos-based THISDAY newspaper and online news platform, Sahara Reporters, Mr. Davis insisted that Boko Haram commanders told him on several occasions that “Ihejirika was one of their sponsors.”
In an earlier interview by Arise Television, Mr. Davis also alleged that Mr. Sheriff was a major funder of the militant group describing him as a “really bad guy” and said his defection to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was to stall his arrest for financial crimes.
“First thing to do is to arrest the former Governor Sheriff. Former Governor Sheriff has been funding this for years. He is satisfied that he will be picked up and he has now switched to the ruling party, PDP, in the hope this will give him protection. That guy is really a bad guy and he is known to be corrupt and why the EFCC has not picked him up is anybody’s guess,” Mr. Davis said.
In the interview with Sahara Reporters, he specifically accused Mr. Sheriff for leaving the roads in the state in such a terrible state thereby making soldiers susceptible to Boko Haram ambushes.
He said the former governor should be trailed for funding the recruitment of young men into terrorist activities.
He said Mr. Sheriff’s threat to sue him in an Australian court after the initial revelation on Arise Television was mere grandstanding, adding that he would be at the airport to welcome Mr. Sheriff if he ever mustered the courage to visit Australia to carry out his threat.
In the interview with Sahara Reporters, Mr. Davis also alleged that an unnamed senior official at the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, helped the insurgent group with its banking transactions.
According to Mr Davis, the CBN official was connected to Aminu Ogwuche and other suspects of the Nyanya bombing.
He also said a man based in Cairo, Egypt acts as the group’s bagman.
Mr. Davis told Sahara Reporters that he was unsure the level of information available to President Goodluck Jonathan as to the alleged involvement of senior officials with Boko Haram, adding that the absence of military loyalty and years of security negligence has weakened the presidency.
“By the time Goodluck Jonathan became president Boko Haram had become a potent weapon with a command structure embedded in 16 northern states fanned by support from corrupt politicians,” he said.
Mr Davis also accused Minister of Defence, Aliyu Gusau, of dereliction of duty and leaving the president to combat the security challenges alone.
The Australian also said corruption of top security officials was a chief reason the war against Boko Haram was taking too long. He specifically accused the late National Security Adviser, Owoye Azazi, as being utterly corrupt. According to him, Mr. Azazi was planning to buy a hotel in the UK for $100 million before he died in a helicopter crash in December 2012.
He said Nigerian intelligence agencies worked at cross-purposes and were in the habit of not sharing intelligence with other agencies. For instance, he said the lack of intelligence sharing hadled to a situation where Mr. Ogwuche, has not been interrogated several weeks after he was extradited from Sudan.
El-Rufia and Buhari exonerated
Following the accusation of Mr. Ihejirika that former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nasri El-Rufai, was a senior commander of Boko Haram after the former Minister posted the transcript and the video of the Arise Television interview on his Facebook timeline, Mr. Davis said Mr. El-Rufai’s name was never mentioned to him as a sponsor of Boko Haram.
When asked if former head of State, Muhammed Buhari, was mentioned as a sponsor, the Australian responded in the negative. Mr Buhari has been accused by top PDP members, chief among them being Femi Fani-Kayode and the party’s publicity secretary, Olisa Metuh as being a major sponsor of the Islamist group.
Sekibo fingered in Harry Marshall’s murder
Mr. Davis also shed light in perhaps why most of the high profile assassinations in the country remained unsolved. According to him Nigerian presidents were too timid to bring prominent people accused of serious crimes like murder to justice.
For instance, he said that former president Olusegun Obasanjo, despite his pleas, refused to take account against his Minister of Transportation, Abiye Sekibo, after it was discovered that he contracted the assassins that killed late frontline politician, Harry Marshall. According to Mr. Davis, Mr. Obasanjo said the trial of Mr. Sekibo could bring down his government.
Boko Haram is here to stay
If Mr. Davis’ analysis of the Boko Haram insurgency is anything to go by, Nigerians may as well brace up to live with the gruesome activities of the group for another 20 years. The Australian told Sahara Reporters that from experience, after an insurgent group survives the first eight years of its existence, it would take at least 20 years to defeat it completely.
“If we don’t do our utmost now to dismantle Boko Haram then we may not be able to do so for another generation. That is a very gloomy scenario for Nigeria,” he said.
He also shared what appeared to be a deep understanding of the insurgent group’s formation, capability and its evolvement over time during the interview.
Apart from small makeshift camps where kidnapped girls and woman were being held, he said Boko Haram operated about six major camps with about 700 fighters in each camp in the northeast and neighbouring countries.
He said the group used to be a loose coalition of three different sects but that these sects have come together to form a more formidable entity about four months ago.
“They are now linking with other terrorist group in the region and will soon be very difficult to dismantle. If these political sponsors think they can turn these groups off after the 2015 elections they are going to be surprised to find it is out of their control,” he said.