ADELANI ADEPEGBA examines the Federal Government’s handling of Boko Haram financiers and its tough actions against the alleged #EndSARS sponsors and other agitators
On September 13, 2021, the United Arab Emirates, a strict Islamic nation, demonstrated its aversion to Islamic fundamentalism as it named 38 individuals and 15 entities supporting Boko Haram and other terrorist cause.
On the list were six Nigerians- Abdurrahaman Ado Musa, Salihu Yusuf Adamu, Bashir Ali Yusuf, Muhammed Ibrahim Isa, Ibrahim Ali Alhassan and Surajo Abubakar Muhammad, who had been tried and sentenced in UAE. The decision came one year after the men were convicted and jailed.
Others nationals were from UAE, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Russia, Britain and Jordan.
The UAE Cabinet Resolution No 83 of 2021 demands that regulatory authorities monitor and identify any individuals or entities associated with any financial, commercial or technical relationship with terrorist groups and take the necessary measures according to the laws in force in the country in less than 24 hours.
The UAE news agency, WAM, reports that the resolution underscored the country’s commitment towards targeting and dismantling networks that finance terrorism and its related activities.
In April 2019, the Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal sentenced Muhammad and Adamu to life imprisonment followed by deportation, while Alhassan, Musa, Yusuf and Muhammad Isa, were each sentenced to 10 years in prison, also followed by deportation.
The court found them guilty of setting up a Boko Haram cell in the UAE to raise funds and material assistance for the insurgents in Nigeria. The convicts were said to have transferred up to $800,000 in favour of Boko Haram between 2015 and 2016. In December 2019, a UAE Federal Supreme Court also turned down an appeal by the convicts.
While the UAE was confirming its avowed stance on global terrorism, the regime of retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari has been cutting deals with repentant insurgent commanders and hiding the identities of terror sponsors from the Nigerian people.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said Buhari was not interested in naming or shaming Boko Haram sponsors and other financiers of terrorism in the country. The presidential aide said rather, the current regime was interested in “bringing the malefactors to justice.”
A former Navy Commodore, Kunle Olawunmi, had said that Boko Haram terrorists mentioned names of governors, senators and Aso Rock officials as sponsors during interrogation but the President has demonstrated an unwillingness to go after the high-profile politicians for reasons best known to him. In September 2020, a former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, the late Obadiah Mailafia, also claimed that a serving northern governor was a Boko Haram leader and moneybag.
Rather than accelerate the process of bringing the suspects to justice, what is clear is that the Buhari regime has been granting amnesty to insurgents details of which were hidden from the public and even the National Assembly. The Sulhu amnesty programme being managed by the Department of State Services has reportedly rehabilitated scores of insurgents who otherwise should be repenting in jail.
The same government which was quick to demonise and punish the financiers of the #EndSARS protests after naming them, has been reticent about prosecuting the hundreds of suspected terrorists in custody. Since April, about 400 bureau de change operators accused of financing the Boko Haram insurgents have been living at government’s expenses at an undisclosed location.
Months after the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, disclosed that charges were being prepared against them.
In August, human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, demanded information on the charges against the 400 suspects in a Freedom of Information request to Malami.
He wrote, “In view of the terrorist attacks being unleashed on law-abiding citizens by groups of insurgents in several parts of the country, we strongly commend the move by the Federal Government to prosecute the suspects who were reported to have been arrested in a nationwide operation a few months ago.
“We, however, request that our law firm be furnished with information with respect to when criminal charges were filed against the suspects since the strike by JUSUN has since been called off.
“Kindly ensure that we are furnished with the requested information within 7 days of the receipt of this letter in accordance with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.”
But Malami said he had been working “vigorously and intensively” to prosecute Boko Haram financiers and the fight against terrorism. According to him, the Complex Case Group of the Department of Public Prosecution of the Federation in the Office of the Attorney- General of the Federation and Minister of Justice has reviewed over 1,000 case files out of which 285 had been filed before the Federal High Court based on prima facie cases of terrorism.
The AGF, who stated this recently on the sidelines of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, blamed the delay in prosecution of the suspects on the COVID-19 lockdown, the strike by the Judiciary Staff Union and court vacation. It is interesting but curious that the AGF was blaming the strike by the judicial workers which ended in June, for his failure to prosecute the terror suspects.
In a statement by his media aide, Umar Gwandu, titled, ‘Prosecution of Boko Haram sponsors: No stone will be left unturned – FG,’ Malami pushed back against calls for naming and shaming terrorists and their sponsors.
He said, “Naming and shaming of suspects is not embarked upon as a policy by the Federal Government out of sheer respect for the constitutional rights of Nigerians relating to presumption of innocence. It is a product of constitutionalism and the law.
“It is rooted in the law and the names of the suspects will accordingly be made public at the point of judicial arraignment while the shaming remains a consequence of judicial conviction. Trials are judicial process and not about media sensations.”
“Naming and shaming in the Nigerian context must be rooted in constitutionalism. We must strike a balance between constitutional presumption of innocence and evidential proof of reasonable ground for suspicion in making disclosures associated with terrorism funding and financing.
“Where reasonable grounds are established, suspects must be naturally taken to court at which point their identity must be disclosed and the naming become apparent. Shaming, on the other hand, is the product of conviction at which point the public are equally judicially put on notice,” the AGF further argued.
But the government launched an onslaught against the promoters of the #EndSARS protests without any court order. Last November, the Corporate Affairs Commission cancelled the registration of ‘Enough is Enough,’ a business organisation linked to one of the promoters of the protest, stating that the name is deceptive.
In a series of tweets on November 11, the CAC said: “Further to cancellation of the business name registration ‘Enough is Enough BN 2210728’, the Corporate Affairs Commission wishes to inform the public that the proprietors of the cancelled business name are Opayemi Adamolekun and Bisola Edun. Based on the provisions of section 579 (2) of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, the Corporate Affairs Commission has cancelled the registration of the Business name “Enough is Enough BN 2210728” with immediate effect.”
Equally worthy of note is the Federal Government’s tough handling of agitators including Nnamdi Kanu of indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu; and Sunday Adeyemo (Sunday Igboho), the Yoruba nation activist.
Weighing in on the issue, a lawyer and former Nigeria Immigration Service officer, Dr Daniel Makolo, noted that some terror suspects had been released, adding that the government’s refusal to name and shame Boko Haram sponsors should not surprise anyone. “The victims of insurgency are dying in the IDPs camps and Buhari has not visited any of the camps since he came to power. We are in a cycle but unfortunately, the cycle is not ending.’’
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had in his 61st Independence anniversary address said, “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.”
But groups including the Peoples Democratic Party, the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere and the Ohanaeze Ndigbo berated the President, saying his speech did not address insecurity in the country.