Australian Negotiator Names Ihejirika, Sheriff as Sponsors of Boko Haram…This Day
Australian Negotiator Names Ihejirika, Sheriff as Sponsors of Boko Haram…This Day
Pillories US, UK for not giving Nigeria tangible assistance
Former governor, army chief deny allegation
El-Rufai calls for their prosecution
Camerounian troops shell sect’s camp
A Perth-based international adviser, Dr. Stephen Davis, who for four months was involved in negotiations on behalf of the federal government with commanders of Boko Haram for the release of over 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the sect last April, has named a former Governor of Borno State, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, and a former Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-General Azubuike Ihejirika, as sponsors of Boko Haram.
Davis, who spoke yesterday in two separate interviews to Arise Television, a THISDAY sister company, also disclosed that a man resident in Abuja whose three nephews had been identified as being behind the Nyanya bus station bomb blast that killed 77 people, was one of the financiers of Boko Haram.
Davis, in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Wednesday had pointedly alleged that one of the primary sources of funding of the terror group was Nigerian politicians, but failed to disclose their identities until his interview with Arise TV.
But in reaction to the allegation, Ihejirika and Sheriff angrily dismissed the allegation, saying they had nothing to benefit from the sponsorship of Boko Haram.
However, a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nasir el-Rufai, has called for their prosecution and expressed hope that the authorities will take the steps necessary to act on this revelation.
In his interview with Arise TV, Davis said he had been informed by Boko Haram commanders whom he dealt with that there are prominent politicians who have been sources of funding to Boko Haram, adding: “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.
“There is a former Chief of Army Staff, who retired in January, rightly sacked by the president, who is another sponsor.
“Then Boko Haram senior commanders said there are three nephews of one man. The three nephews participated in the bombing of the Abuja bus station early this year that killed at least 77 people. These nephews were living with him.
“He has been linked several times to their activities and why that someone, with the interrogation of the nephews who are in the custody of the State Security Service (SSS), doesn’t seem inclined to interrogate these young men to produce concrete evidence against their uncle in whose house they were living in during their activities for Boko Haram.”
The Australian negotiator was emphatic that the people he identified are current sponsors of Boko Haram, adding: “Some of them, I had had information from Boko Haram about three years ago; one of them four years ago. “One sponsor particularly was providing money and also in one case provided six (Toyota) Hilux vehicles used for suicide bombing.”
Davis said the first thing that should happen in Nigeria is to arrest the sponsors, as this would slow down the fighting dramatically and the military may have a chance of fighting Boko Haram.
He recalled that when he was involved in the release of kidnapped oil workers in the Niger Delta region in 2004, “we found repeatedly that candidates for governorship in any of the 36 states often funded gangs and heavily armed them with AK 47, RPGs.
“And after the elections and the candidates won, they abandon these people who are heavily armed. This is happening in the north, it is not uncommon.
“Yes, I have worked with presidents in the past, one Christian president, one Muslim president. But we are horrified by what is going on today. This is being fuelled by politicians, in my view, who certainly want power in the next elections”.
He was of the view that the problem President Goodluck Jonathan was faced with was the fallout if he arrested the politicians.
“If he (Jonathan) now arrests prominent politicians who may want to certainly take power in the next election, the US, UK and France may cry foul, saying you are arresting people to the advantage of your re-election.
“But the threshold for evidence is very high and I think he will have to keep sufficient evidence to make the Western nations happy before this thing is totally out of hand,” he said.
On how he handled negotiations with Boko Haram to secure the release of the Chibok girls, Davis explained: “There had been kidnapping going on since last year. Apart from the 220 Chibok girls, there are over 300 other children that had been kidnapped from villages and towns.
“The problem we found in getting the girls was that they had other Boko Haram cells outside the ones we were dealing with, so that became a problem.
“President Jonathan had made huge progress with peace discussions over the last two years but as it was leading up to the elections, the sponsors of Boko Haram, the politicians really picked up the tempo and all the discussions – sitting down with leaders of Boko Haram for peace – was sabotaged.
“While I was there in the last four months, President Jonathan gave me full logistical support whenever I required it, whenever I requested for it to continue this work.
“We were able to get four of the Chibok girls out but what we found was that if we were also able to get 20 or 30 of the girls, the guys will go and kidnap another 50 to replace them. So we came to the conclusion that freeing Chibok girls was putting them in more callous situation costing the lives of many other people.
“So what we have been doing since then is keeping an eye on the girls who were able to escape, picking them up and bringing them to safe havens.”
Davis further revealed that the effort to get out 60 girls was botched when another group kidnapped them. “The president gave me a military jet and a military convoy and ambulance from the local hospital. We were waiting for Boko Haram to bring them from the border with Cameroun.
“We had a call the previous morning that there were some girls, about 60 of them, so we set out with a number of ambulances and we travelled for four-and-a-half hours to reach them… However, the police had offered a very large reward for the girls 24 hours before then.
“So someone connected with the kidnapping of Chibok girls, who had good information about them decided to grab the girls so that they will have the reward.
“The Boko Haram commander who was keeping an eyes on the whole situation told me the details the next day of all that had occurred,” he said.
Davis warned against the use of force to rescue the girls, stating: “Doing a raid on the villages where the girls are will waste their lives. Getting sponsors out of action will certainly lead Boko Haram adrift for a while.
“But they will regroup because ISIS, Al Qaeda will move in because that will give them the leadership they need. But in that period of time, thy will be adrift and there are commanders in Boko Haram who are willing to hand over the girls and will love a peace deal. They would want to demobilise.
“Now, those guys, they have told me clearly that they will not attempt to hand over the girls or hold discussions for peace because the sponsors will get the other guys to kill those who are getting into the peace deal. So without the sponsors, we can’t start a peace deal.”
He said another challenge with dealing with the insurgency stemmed from the fact that Boko Haram camps are on the border, “so they slip back and forth between two countries.
“They go in convoy to attack a town, they stay for an hour or an hour-and-a-half and get out. That is enough time to hit them. However, on their way from town, they may have 40 or 50 girls on board with them and this is not the time to hit them,” he added.
He also questioned the manner of assistance offered by the US, UK and France which had not yielded results. According to him, “France, UK and the US all agreed in Paris to assist Nigeria, Cameroun and Niger to work on this matter. The US, for example, said they would assist with intelligence.
“Yet, when Boko Haram members leave their camps they travel without interference to a town, they destroy six villages on their way to a particular town, and no one touches them.
“So one wonders if the UK and US are really serious about the matter, and why there has been no collaboration to intercept Boko Haram when they are on their way to these towns.
“For goodness sake, it is arid area, you can see a convey six miles away and these guys travel with 20, 40 or 60 vehicles with armed personnel. There is something going on very wrong in the collaboration that was preached.”
But in reaction to Davis’ allegation, Sheriff said they were baseless. In a text message he sent to Arise TV, he stated: This is absolutely not true. I have absolutely nothing to do with them. Boko Haram existed before I became a governor and they killed my family members and they kidnapped my brothers. This is not true.”
Ihejirika, on the other hand, told THISDAY that the allegation was diversionary, warning that its timing might be a prelude to an attack or an incident that the authorities and securities should preempt.
“This is meant to divert the attention of anyone – the nation, federal government and the international community – who is serious about stopping Boko Haram. If Boko Haram told Davis I am their sponsor, is it not hard to believe? “Anyway, the only reason they can say so is because they suffered the most casualties when I was in charge. They know who gave them the most trouble; that is why they have resorted to telling lies to divert attention.
“Remember that when we stepped up our counter-terrorism campaign and they recorded several deaths, they changed tactics to make it appear like the military was involved in human rights abuses, which America and others fell for.
“This is diversionary. Why should this come up at this time? Some diversionary issues come up as a prelude to either an attack or an incident that the authorities and security agencies should look out for before it happens. There is history of this as a tactic, so they should watch out,” he warned.
However, el-Rufai, who also spoke to Arise TV, called for Ihejirika and Sheriff’s prosecution, stating: “Many of us have made very open allegations that elements within the government and outside must have been financing and directing the affairs of Boko Haram.
“The revelations by Stephen Davis are only confirming the suspicion that some of us hold and have held since October 2010 when the first bomb exploded in Abuja and that was the beginning of a new trend in terrorism in our country.”
He said right from the onset, the Boko Haram phenomenon pointed to the fact that the ruling party and the government were somehow involved in terrorism.
“It began in October 2010 when the first bomb exploded in Abuja and President Goodluck Jonathan declared that it was not MEND that was responsible for the bombing. Now, how would a president, without security briefing, from investigation, declare that a terrorist group which had claimed responsibility for bombing was not responsible unless he knew who was responsible,” he said.
He also pointed to the fact that the former National Security Adviser (NSA), the late General (Andrew) Azazi had declared that the promises and selection procedure of the party for offices by PDP were responsible for the insurgency.
“We know those who have been linked to the Boko Haram, including a serving senator of the PDP. Today, not one person or official that are connected to the opposition party, APC, has been linked to terrorism. All those that have been arrested and put on trial for terrorism are all members of the ruling PDP.
“So it is disingenuous for the Jonathan administration to point accusing fingers at APC when in fact all the sponsors of terrorism so far named are from the ruling party,” he stated.
El-Rufai predicted that Nigeria would not get a break from Boko Haram for two reasons: “We have an incompetent government that is incapable of doing anything right, in my opinion.
“Secondly, I think the ruling party and the presidency feel that sustaining the insurgency is going to be helpful to them in 2015 elections. As long as the country is getting divided along religious and ethnic lines, Mr. Jonathan thinks that will help him in 2015, which is why desperate efforts are being made by the ruling party to link the APC to the insurgency, to be a Muslim party, to be linked to the Muslim brotherhood and all that.
“It is in the government’s shallow and narrow thinking that sustaining the insurgency until 2015 will be useful to them to win the election. The danger is that as time goes on and Boko Haram gets better resources and better organised, they will become better. And it will become a credible threat to the Nigerian state.
“Now our soldiers cannot fight Boko Haram, they are running into Cameroun. People are saying our soldiers cannot face Boko Haram without better arms and ammunition. This is a government that is interested in returning to power at all cost, even at the cost of killing thousands of people.”
He was of the opinion that the international community would not do much to help Nigeria fight the insurgents, stating that this “is a Nigerian problem, we can solve it by ensuring that our army is well motivated to fight the insurgency.”
Shortly after the interview, el-Rufai, on his twitter handle, called for the prosecution of Sheriff and Ihejirika, saying: “The kingpins not only finance BH operations but select targets for assassination and execution”.
“Finally, the truth about BH is coming out. Hopefully, the murderers of General Muhammadu Shuwa, the abductors of the Chibok girls, those truly responsible for the Nyanya bombings, and attempted assassination of General Buhari and Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi, will be known.
“We hope the authorities will take the steps necessary to act on this revelation, and thereby discharge their duty to protect us, the citizens of Nigeria. That is just what it is, a hope!” he said.
Meanwhile, the Camerounian army on Wednesday attacked Boko Haram, shelling one of their camps across the border and killing many fighters, a security official said yesterday.
The source told AFP that the army had shelled the camp on Wednesday evening, two days after the jihadist group had seized control of the town of Gamboru Ngala on the Nigerian border with Cameroun. “It was tanks stationed on the frontier at Fotokol (on Cameroun’s side of the border) that shelled the camp on the other side,” the source said on the condition of anonymity.
“Seen from Fotokol this morning, Gamboru looks empty and smells of death,” he added. Nobody knows how many Boko Haram members were killed, but it is obvious that many were,” he added. The shelling was confirmed by a local police officer.
“These were abandoned houses that they have occupied since they entered Gamboru. We think they still control the town, because there are many of them and they didn’t all gather in the same place,” he said.
Calm had returned to Fotokol by Wednesday following days of panic as residents and Nigerian security forces fled there to escape the Boko Haram attack on Gamboru.
After clashes in Gamboru Ngala, Nigeria’s army dismissed suggestions that the soldiers had fled, saying they had been “charging through the borders in a tactical manouevre” and found themselves on Camerounian soil.
Goddy Egene and Zacheaus Somorin with agency report,THIS DAY