Two days after media reports, the Nigerian Army on Wednesday confirmed the arrest of the Chairman of Mafa Local Government Area of Borno, Shettima Lawan, for his alleged link with Boko Haram.
Lucky Irabor, the Theatre Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole, confirmed the arrest of the council chairman during a news conference at the 7 Division headquarters in Maiduguri.
“All I can say is that the chairman is a big supporter of Boko Haram,” the major general said.
“We heard that he harboured Boko Haram members along with his father. He kept the Boko Haram members because the father begged him to do so.
“The chairman was in the habit of accommodating people that had fled from the bush.”
PREMIUM TIMES had reported the arrest, which was denounced by the Borno State government which said the official was innocent.
“While we do not intend to question the intelligence gathering, judgment and authority of the military, to us at the Ministry for Local Government and Emirate Affairs, the whole development is a worrisome twist,” The Borno commissioner for local government and chieftaincy affairs, Usman Zanna, said on Monday.
“It is a twist because, for years, the caretaker chairman has been known for his courage in joining hunters to go into front lines to battle Boko Haram fighters. His commitment in the fight against insurgents is known to different Army Commanders that served in Mafa local government area in the last two years.”
The Army also confirmed this point but said it also had evidence to the contrary.
“At some point, he has been valuable to us being with the Civilian JTF to fight Boko Haram; but that does not mean we cannot investigate him for a crime like this.” Mr. Irabor said.
The major general said the army also “arrested the Vice Chairman of Kaga Local government and he is undergoing interrogation.”
In his statement on Monday, the Borno commissioner had also explained the alleged presence of a suspected Boko Haram member in Mr. Lawan’s house.
“The Chairman is also known to champion the course of citizens fleeing from communities after attacks by insurgents. From information available to the military, the Chairman recently got involved in assisting some citizens trapped in a village within his local government area and he is believed to have Internally Displaced Persons living in his residence at 505 estate like most adults in Maiduguri, Jere and parts of Konduga do have fleeing relatives and friends living with them.
“There is an information that a certain suspected member of the Boko Haram might have joined some of the citizens he helped last week but whether he knew the identity of the suspect and deliberately hid him and for whatever purpose is what we look forward to being determined by the military,” he said.