In what appears to be a move to appease the Islamic sect, Boko Haram, that has unleashed a reign of terror in some northern states, the Federal Government, yesterday in Abuja arraigned seven police officers and charged them with extra-judicial murder of the sect leader, Mallam Mohammed Yusuf, in 2009. Members of the Islamic sect had consistently demanded justice in the murder of their leader in police custody as one of the conditions to lay down their arms.
Meanwhile, former Borno State governor, Mallam Modu Sheriff has denied allegation levelled against him by chairman of Arewa Consultative Forum, Lt General Jeremiah Useni, (retired) accusing him of sponsoring thugs that later converted to the Islamic sect, Boko Haram. This came just as France has promised to partner Nigeria on security.
The 7 Police officers
The seven police officers who were charged to court yesterday are CSP J. B Abang, ACP Akeera, CSP Mohammed Ahmadu, ACP Mada Buba, Sgt Adamu Gado, PC Anthony Samuel and PC Linus Luka. They were dragged before a Federal High Court in Abuja, accused of alleged complicity in the extra-judicial execution of the leader of the dreaded Boko Haram sect, Mallam Mohammed Yusuf, in 2009. They are also facing trial over allegations of terrorism and murder.
The federal government which initiated their prosecution yesterday, alleged that they unlawfully killed the apprehended leader of the Boko Haram sect, Yusuf, and some of his followers in cold blood, stressing that their action amounted to an offence under section 315 of the Criminal Code.
Though the Federal Ministry of Justice which is prosecuting the case, declined to furnish journalists with copies of the processes that were filed before the high court, Vanguard, however, was able to secure the charge sheet.
According to a 2-count charge that was entered in court, the accused persons were alleged to have “conspired with one another to commit an offence to wit; a terrorist act and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 516 of the Criminal Code and punishable under Section 15 (1) (2) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act, 2004.”
It will be recalled that Yusuf, his father-in-law Baa Fugu and an alleged financier of the group, Buji Foi, were on July 30, 2009, murdered inside a police station in Maiduguri, shortly after they were captured alive and handed over to the police command by a team of military personnel who were drafted to the state to quell a crisis that bedeviled the town two years ago.
Though the police authorities in a bid to exculpate itself from blame, claimed that they died after an intense gun battle. However, video clips that later emerged, showed that they were executed in cold blood.
Meanwhile, only five of the accused persons were brought to court yesterday by heavily armed security operatives who equally manned guard at various strategic points within the high court vicinity.
Vanguard investigations further revealed that the other two junior officers, PC Samuel and PC Luka, who were initially listed on the charge sheet as the 6th and 7th accused persons respectively, have agreed to testify in the matter as prosecution witnesses.
This indication emerged on a day the prosecuting counsel, Mr R.M Ojiabo, told the trial high court that almost all the persons earlier scheduled to testify in the matter, had fled.
“My lord, the constraints we are having at the moment is that some of our witnesses ran away and the available ones are afraid to come to court to testify”, he lamented.
His assertion drew the irk of counsel to the accused persons, Chief Paul Erokoro, SAN, who bellowed, “my lord, whether my learned friend likes it or not, those witnesses must come to this court. They must come and prove the case against the accused persons”, he insisted.
In a bid to calm the tensed atmosphere, the trial judge, Justice Donatus Okorowo, stood down the matter for 20 minutes, just as he summoned the two counsel to his chamber.
At the resumed sitting, the prosecuting counsel informed the court of his decision to amend the charge against the accused persons.
“My lord there are two sets of charges before this court, while one was filed only against four accused persons, the other was filed against only one person. However, since the two set of charges arose from the same set of facts and circumstances, and both cases equally have the same set of witnesses and evidence, we are therefore seeking the leave of this court to consolidate both charges and file an amended charge against the accused persons.”
The defence team had no objection to the application while Justice Okorowo, accordingly adjourned the case till July 19, to take plea of the accused persons on the basis of the amended charge.
Modu Sheriff denies link with terror group
Meantime, Former Governor of Borno State, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff yesterday reacted to allegation leveled against him by the chairman of Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, Lt General Jeremiah Useni (rtd), accusing him of creating the deadly Islamic sect, Boko Haram. The ex-governor said he never set up any group that gave birth to the Islamic sect. Modu Sheriff’s denial came even as the National Security Adviser, General Patrick Azazi said the withdrawal of soldiers from the streets of Borno was not a solution to the acts of terrorism in the state.
The former governor also denied being arrested by the State Security Service, SSS, recently, despite widespread reports that he was quizzed. He told State House Correspondents, in Aso Rock, after a meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan, that he visited the SSS headquarters at his own instance, saying that he had called the Director of the SSS that he wanted to see him, and the SSS boss obliged him. He said: “No, it was not true that I was quizzed by the SSS. In fact, I went there on my own”.
According to Sheriff, it was unfortunate for a senior citizen such as Gen. JT Useni who many people respect to make a public statement on what he knows little or nothing about.
“Boko Haram has been in existence before I became a governor. The so called leader of Boko Haram was arrested and was executed in Abuja before I even thought of becoming the governor of Borno State. So, people make comments on what they know nothing of and in life, you don’t speak on matters that you are not very competent to speak about. Whoever said it that I am a mentor of Boko Haram is most unfortunate and there is no truth in the statement”, he said.
According to him, “these reports are not correct. I saw it on the pages of newspapers today (yesterday). But since I didn’t speak to General Useni, I gave him the benefit of doubt; but now that you (journalists) said that he came here and he told you, then the story is not correct. He said that he saw people selling petrol on major streets of Maiduguri. NNPC depot in Maiduguri did not receive petrol from Kaduna refinery for over 15 years and marketers go to Kaduna and Lagos to get petrol and people buy it and sell. So, innocent people cannot be Boko Haram members. Boko Haram and these boys selling petrol are two different things”.
He added that “in any case, I did not even introduce the selling of petrol in jerry cans to Borno State, it has been in existence before I came. If all the past military and civilian governors in Borno State did not ban the selling of petrol outside petroleum stations, why should I come and ban people who are legitimately earning a living? And there is no responsible government in Borno State or Nigeria that will allow a young man carrying arms on the street and be allowed to sell on the street”.
“So, that report is most unfortunate and I am surprised that somebody like General Useni will make a public statement like this because of his age. I respect him and I also believe that he should always be cautious when speaking in public”, he stressed.
Asked if he had any relationship with late leader of Boko Haram, he swore that until the very day the sect leader was arrested and taken to the military barrack, he never met him before, saying that how could he have entered into a relationship with a man he never met before the day of his death.
“No, I want to make this very clear. Boji Foi was a politician, he was a chairman of his own local government before I became the governor. And he was out of my cabinet two years before the Boko Haram crisis started and if everybody that served in my cabinet will do something and I will be responsible for it, then nobody can govern any state in Nigeria. Boji Foi was a politician before I became a governor, he was a chairman of his local government, and like any other person, they brought his name from his local government as a nominee and we appointed him commissioner and at a stage, we found that he was not doing what we wanted and we did not reappoint him. Before the incident of Boko Haram, he was not in the government for two years. So, we couldn’t have taken responsibility and most importantly, I didn’t know when Boji was arrested or when he was killed and who arrested him and who killed him”.
He further denied ever apologising to the dreaded group, as demanded by the group, stressing that he only apologised to the people of Borno State, essentially those he may have offended after his eight year reign as a Governor; but added that Boko Haram members may have been included if they are citizens of the State.
He said: “I didn’t apologise to Boko Haram. I apologised to every citizen of Borno State when I was leaving office in my May 29 speech. You can see that the Boko Haram said that they will stop what they were doing if the governors of Gombe, Bauchi and Borno apologise to them publicly. The two governors have done so publicly, I only lifted from my May 29 speech on what I have done in the last eight years. I said I have served them for eight years, I must have in one way or another offended somepeople. I asked everybody that I have offended including Boko Haram to forgive me”.
Asked if he feels military action against Boko Haram was the best option, he said the activities of the army became very necessary because nobody carries arms against the State and expect that the security forces would sit down and watch terrorists attack and kill innocent people.
“I left Maiduguri when the JTF went to Maiduguri. But as we know, when there is a problem, people want a solution to the problem that they found themselves in. There are many ways of solving a problem. But when people are carrying bombs and guns, it is a serious problem that will need a solution, that also needs every possible intervention to control the situation. Since I left government , I have not gone to Maiduguri and therefore, I don’t know what they said the JTF has done. So, at my level, I will never make a comment on what I don’t know”, he said.
On a possible solution to the menace of Boko Haram, he said, “the solution is that every citizen of Borno State can help to bring solution to this. I am now an ex-governor and ordinary citizen of the state, so whatever I will do to bring an end to the crisis when I was the governor has been done”.
Calls for removal of soldiers from Borno, not a solution – National Security Adviser
In a related development, Retired Gen. Patrick Azazi, National Security Adviser, said in Abuja yesterday that the withdrawal of troops deployed in Borno was not a solution to the terrorism crisis in the state.
The Federal Government deployed troops of the Joint Task Force in Borno State in the wake of incessant bombings and attacks on security agents by a group known as Boko Haram.
Leaders in the state have, however, accused members of the Task Force of killing and harassing innocent persons and inflicting untold hardship on the people, leading to their mass exodus from Maiduguri.
Operating under the aegis of Borno Elders Forum, prominent citizens of the state rose from a Tuesday meeting in Maiduguri and called on President Goodluck Jonathan to order immediate withdrawal of the troops.
They claimed that peace had remained a mirage following the intervention of the military in curbing the activities of the Boko Haram members.
The task force has since denied any involvement in charges leveled against it by the Borno elders.
Azazi told select media that while some residents might not be comfortable with the presence of the troops, their withdrawal was not a solution to the problem of terrorism in the state or in any part of Nigeria.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) quotes Azazi as saying: “The soldiers are barely one month old in Borno. Soldiers deployed in any part of Nigeria must behave responsibly at all times.
“Unfortunately when you are the target of a bomb attack, there is the possibility that you react in a manner not approved by the people.
“There is need for cooperation from all sides; the military, the people and everybody.
“Terrorism is a new phenomenon in Nigeria. It is a new threat and there are new initiatives to deal with the situation.
“The security issues in the country today are keeping the security agencies on their toes, but they need the cooperation of all Nigerians to put an end to the crises.”
The National Security Adviser said his office was already putting in place new measures to address the security challenges in the country.
“First is public enlightenment to let people know what to do to enhance their own security and safety.
“We have also created a counter-terrorism department to collate and analyse strategic intelligence on terrorism.
“Terrorism is a global phenomenon, but our objective in Nigeria is to focus on the country while cooperating with development partners and our neighbours to ensure that we check terrorism.
Gen. Azazi also told newsmen that a committee had been set up on the protection of critical national infrastructure to ensure that they were kept safe, NAN also reports.
“Public places, including banks and other critical infrastructure, must be protected in the new security arrangements being put in place,” he said.
He added that there was the need to train and retrain security personnel and provide them with modern-day equipment to enable them to discharge their functions effectively.
The NSA expressed regret that security and safety had not been getting adequate attention in planning done in the past and stressed that it was time the country focused squarely on security and safety of lives and property.
Arewa Youths warn against negotiating with Boko Haram
Also, the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum AYCF has warned the Federal Government against negotiating with the Boko Haram sect.
Speaking during an interview with Vanguard in Lagos, The National President of the organization Alhaji Yerima Shettima, warned the government not to go into any type of negotiation with the group. According to Yerima: “The government should not go into negotiation with the Boko haram because their actions and demands do not conform with the values and beliefs of the people of the Northern Nigeria, especially the demand for an Islamic State which has never been the agenda of people of the country and those of the Northern Nigeria. The group does not have the support of the Northern Nigeria and they are not working for Arewa agenda”
He disagreed with the suggestion that the Northern elders are sponsoring the sect saying, “I don’t agree with that and I don’t even want to think towards the direction that somebody or any responsible Northern elder is behind these bombings. So many people in the Northern part of the country are not comfortable with the whole situation.
“A lot of them are having sleepless nights because of it. I am telling Nigerians with confidence that no responsible northern elder will be comfortable with what is happening over there in the north, because that act is giving them a lot of concern and problems.”
France to partner Nigeria on security
France Ambassador to Nigeria Mr. Jean Michel Dumond has expressed the readiness of the government of France to help Nigeria deal with the many insecurity situations threatening the stability of the country.
Mr. Dumond who met with Senate President, David Mark yesterday in his office in Abuja noted that France was concerned about the insecurity in Nigeria, and assured that his country will partner Nigeria in the area of peace keeping, security and stability of the West African sub-region.
He said: “The French Government is worried about the recent unrest in Nigeria and would therefore join forces to contribute her quota towards arresting the menace.”
Senator Mark in his response thanked the government of France for their concern in Nigeria affairs and the willingness to help in dealing with unrest in the country.
Mark noted that support and cooperation is more than ever before needed to tackle the security challenges facing the nation.
Corps members relocated from Borno
Director-General of National Youths Service Corps, NYSC, Brig-Gen Muharazu Ismaila Tsiga, yesterday ordered the relocation of 1,753 Batch ‘B’ corps members from Borno to states other than their places of origin due to lack of security of lives and property in the state.
Tsiga also said that the new N18,900 allowance for corps members took retrospective effect from March 1, 2011 even as he warned against the collection of N1, 500 deposit from corps members on 2010 batch B.