October 10, (THEWILL) – Ben Roland Igbakpa, a member of the House of Representatives, will not forget his experience while on a trip to Ghana, recently, in a jiffy.
Narrating what he described as a “nasty experience” in the hands of the Ghanaian authorities on the floor of the House last week, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmaker representing Ethiope-East/Ethiope-West Federal Constituency, said, “They detained me for about four hours, saying they were trying to confirm something. I missed the wedding that I went for. And at the end of the day, one of them walked up to me saying, ‘Sorry, sir. There’s an announcement in Nigeria that a member of parliament is sponsoring terrorism and we were put on red alert to ensure that no member of parliament comes here to hide or cause trouble.’
“I had to come back home dejected. They have been calling me all over the world; my friends have been telling me, ‘Who among you is the person sponsoring terrorism?’’’
Only a few days before Igbakpa’s trip, President Muhammadu Buhari shocked Nigerians in his Independence Day broadcast, when he revealed that the Federal Government had identified some lawmakers sponsoring separatist movements in the country and they were being investigated.
Lamenting the President’s failure to openly name culprits, Igbakpa noted, “The right thing for a father to do is to name and shame any child that is bringing about division.”
He maintained that all the members of the National Assembly were “prime suspects,” as he urged the leadership of the House to liaise with their counterparts in the Senate to try and see the President “so that he can tell us who is sponsoring terrorism among us.”
Undoubtedly, the recent allegation by President Buhari has, once again, brought to the fore calls by Nigerians that sponsors of terrorism in the country should not only be identified, but also exposed and prosecuted in accordance with the laws of the land.
THEWILL, however, gathered on Friday that the Federal Government would soon arraign the 400 Bureau De Change operators allegedly implicated in financing Boko Haram’s activities in the country.
Presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, told this newspaper that the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, would soon go to court with the matter.
He said, “The Attorney-General has said he is going to court with the 400. So wait for that day. The whole thing will become public. Once the case goes to the court, everything will become public. Journalists can go and check.”
He however refused to comment on ongoing reactions by Nigerians to perceived delay by the Federal Government in prosecuting the financiers as a deliberate ploy to cover up for the culprits.
But he responded to the question on the way forward by reassuring that the alleged terrorism financiers would be charged to court.
“The way forward is to wait for the court papers to be filed and you as a journalist go to the registrar and file your reports,” he said.
THE BEGINNING OF DOUBTS
The issue had almost taken a public backseat on the backdrop of the ever present topical and, at times, controversial issues that regularly spring up in the country until President Buhari made his 61st Independence address on October 1, 2021.
While restating the unity of the country and the desired need for Nigerians to rally behind the government to overcome the current crises, President Buhari took six paragraphs of his address to underscore the seriousness of the threat to the country posed by secessionists and separatists.
In paragraph 31, he said, “Nigeria is for all of us. Its unity is not negotiable. And its ultimate success can only be achieved, if we all come together with a common goal of having peace and prosperity for our nation.
In paragraph 32, he stated, “We shall continue to work on dialogue based solutions to address legitimate grievances. But we remain ready to take decisive actions against secessionist agitators and their sponsors who threaten our national security.”
Then the clincher in paragraph 33: “The recent arrests of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Adeyemo, and the ongoing investigations being conducted have revealed certain high-profile financiers behind these individuals. We are vigorously pursuing these financiers, including one identified as a serving member of the National Assembly.”
Paragraphs 35, 35 and 36, laid emphasis on his argument, respectively: “This is a clear example of how people abandon their national leadership positions for their selfish gains. Instead of preaching unity, they are funding and misleading our youth to conduct criminal acts that sometimes lead to unfortunate and unnecessary loss of lives and property.
“As the so-called leaders run abroad to hide, our innocent youths are misled and left in the streets to fight for their senseless and destructive causes.
“Government will continue, with greater level of peoples’ participation and in collaboration with our international partners, to improve the security architecture, reduce enabling environment for criminality to thrive and eliminate opportunities for terrorism financing,” he added.
Like Igbakpa, many Nigerians in their organisations and professional groups took on the President for failing, in their estimations, to go the whole hog and also name the alleged sponsors and financiers of Boko Haram, an issue that has been in the public domain, particularly after the United Arab Emirates first announced its investigation on the matter before going ahead to disclose the names of six alleged Nigerian financiers of the terrorists group a fortnight ago.
Those listed by the UAE as Boko Haram are Abdulrahaman Ado Musa, Salihu Yusuf Adamu, Bashir Ali Yusuf, Muhammed Ibrahim Isa, Ibrahim Ali Alhassan and Surajo Abubakar Muhammad.
“The impression the President created in his Independence Day address when he said government knows that sponsors of Sunday Adeyemo, alias Sunday Igboho and IPOB’s Nnamdi Kanu, including an unknown lawmaker, is that only a section of the country has financiers and sponsors of separatists or terrorists,” Mr Emmanuel Yawe, spokesperson of the Arewa Consultative Forum told THEWILL in a brief interview.
For Chief Will Ezugwu, General Secretary of the Conference of Nigeria Political parties (CNPP), this is the time for President Buhari to treat every citizen in the country as a father.
He said,” Let him name and shame the financiers of Boko Haram, except we are not serious in ending the war against terror. In his Independence Day address, he said his administration was ready to enter into dialogue to address legitimate grievances. Let him go ahead and do it. There are aggrieved Nigerians from all over the country and not a section of it. It makes Nigerians suspect that the President knows what is going on, but he is trying to hide some things. They should emulate late President Umaru Yar’Adua, whose administration was ready to enter into dialogue with an aggrieved group in Nigeria. The United Arab Emirates named Nigerian financiers of terrorism in our country. Yet the government is keeping mute over it. I read Malami’s (Attorney General and Minister of Justice) reaction on this issue on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly a few days ago. He said the government cannot name the financiers publicly, that is like saying one thing and doing another.”
WILL PRESIDENT BUHARI NAME AND SHAME THE TERRORIST FINANCIERS?
The question that most Nigerians want answered is whether President Buhari will eventually name and shame the known financiers of terrorists.
A fortnight ago, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Malami disclosed the government has a purpose for not wanting to name the alleged financiers. Speaking to journalists recently in New York on the sidelines of the 76TH session of the United Nations General Assembly, UNGA, Malami said the Federal Government was pursuing the investigation of the sponsors of terrorism with diligence and would not name the sponsors so as not to jeopardise investigation.
According to a statement by his spokesperson, Umar Gwandu, “As far as terrorism funding and financing is concerned, we have succeeded in identifying those that are allegedly responsible for funding same and we are blocking the leakages associated with funding, while embarking on aggressive investigation that is, indeed, impacting positively in terms of the fight against terrorism.
“The truth of the matter is that the investigation is ongoing and advancing. For the purpose of investigation, I would not like to be pre-emptive in terms of making disclosures that will have the effect of undermining the successes we are recording.”
Yet the government was very categorical in its assertion that certain Nigeria were found acting as conduit of funds to terrorists in the country.
That was in March 2021, when Malam Shehu disclosed that the Federal Government had arrested 400 Bureau De Change operators for allegedly assisting the transfer of funds to Boko Haram terrorists in the country, saying the suspects were transferring money to the terrorists.
He had said, “Bureaus de changes are facilitating money to terrorists. We have already worked with the UAE.
“Convictions have been achieved of Nigerians who are transferring money to Boko Haram terrorists and this also happens domestically.”
There were reports that many suspects had been arrested by security agents in an ongoing nationwide crackdown on suspected financiers of Boko Haram. According to reports, the arrested suspects were being kept in military and DSS facilities in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, as well as other locations.
The public response to Shehu’s disclosure was instant. Senator Ali Ndume, Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Arewa Consultative Forum, Middle Belt Leaders Forum called on the Federal Government to expose all the 400 Bureau De Change operators and charge them to court for funding Boko Haram.
Rather than subside, government’s posture keeps generating criticisms whereupon the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, had during a round-table on U.S.-Nigeria military cooperation with journalists in Abuja, declared that her country was very eager to partner with Nigeria on identifying Boko Haram sponsors.
THEWILL can authoritatively say that the determination of the government to arraign the suspects is creating anxiety among political and business associates the 400 suspects. According to a security source, “the names of those involved at the deepest level of the crime have tried their best to forestall investigation but their end is near as the government is determined to solve this problem once and for all. You can see the hydra-headed problem insecurity has posed for the survival of the country today.”
“They should be exposed,” said Mr Yawe.
“Our Chairman had called on the President to expose everybody linked as financiers of Boko Haram. Boko Haram has been killing people for years and the government claims to know their sponsors. If you know a group with such a tract record, why hide them?”
Ezugwu, who is also the President and Coordinator of the South-East Revival Group (SERG) said the government should name the financiers and prosecute them.
“You can’t tell us you know a member of the National Assembly who is a sponsor of Igboho or Kanu, while telling us you will not name financiers of terrorists because you do not want to jeopardise investigation. After the UAE exposed the names of Nigerians involved in the issue, there should be nothing strange,” he said.
With the Federal Government assurances that it would soon prosecute the financiers of Boko Haram, journalists may well be on the alert in readiness to bring all the details to the public, according to Malam Garba.