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Terrorism financing: Name, prosecute suspects, Nigerians tell Buhari

By Lawrence Njoku (Enugu), Seye Olumide (Ibadan), Saxone Akhaine (Kaduna), Matthew Ogune (Abuja) and Chijioke Iremeka (Lagos)
05 February 2022   |   4:31 am
The Federal Government is under fresh pressure to immediately name and prosecute financiers of terrorism in the country and their collaborators as a proof of its sincerity in the war against those who have taken up arms against Nigeria.

• ACF, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere Accuse Govt Of Deceit
• We Are Tired Of Diversionary Claims, Says CAN
• Prove Us Wrong Now —Okorie, Ibegbu, Others
• Ethnic Nationalities Demand Proactive Approach To Tame Insurgency

The Federal Government is under fresh pressure to immediately name and prosecute financiers of terrorism in the country and their collaborators as proof of its sincerity in the war against those who have taken up arms against Nigeria.

This fresh demand followed last Thursday’s disclosure by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, that the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) has uncovered 96 financiers of terrorism as well as the 424 associates and supporters of the financiers.

Mohammed, who addressed a press conference in Abuja, also said the fraud unit uncovered 123 companies and 33 bureau de change operators linked with terrorism in the country from 2020 to 2021.

“For its part, the analysis by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, in 2020-2021, revealed 96 financiers of terrorism in Nigeria, 424 associates/supporters of the financiers, involvement of about 123 companies and 33 bureaux de change, in addition to identifying 26 suspected bandits/kidnappers and seven co-conspirators. The analysis has resulted in the arrest of 45 suspects who will soon face prosecution and seizure of assets,” Mohammed said.

However, the disclosure didn’t go down well with many Nigerians who were quick to refer to such claims by the government in the past that nothing was heard of afterwards.

It could be recalled that on May 4, 2021, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), told journalists at the Presidential Villa that the Federal Government had begun profiling well-placed Nigerians suspected of financing terrorism in the country for prosecution.

In fact, the AGF had disclosed that arrests had been made and that the suspects would be charged immediately the industrial action embarked upon by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) was suspended.

According to Malami, the arrest of the suspects “followed recent convictions of some Nigerians on terrorism financing in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). “Investigation has been ongoing and it has reached advanced stage. Government is initiating processes of prosecuting,” Malami stated then.

With a similar claim coming from the Minister of Information barely 10 months after, northern leaders and other groups in the region, yesterday, pointedly accused the Federal Government of providing cover for those behind insecurity in Nigeria.

The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and other stakeholders in the region, while reacting to the government’s claim, urged it to name and prosecute all the accomplices for committing treason against the nation.

ACF spokesman, Emmanuel Yawe, said: “There was a time the Governor of Zamfara said he knows the sponsors of terrorism in Nigeria and our Chairman asked him to expose them and let the heaven fall. Our position has not changed; the Federal Government should be bold to expose the sponsors and let the heaven fall.

“If the government has discovered those who have caused the country pains, deaths, agony and the distabilisation of the economy, why are they still hiding them? The government should name them, prosecute them and let the law of the land take its course. Why are they keeping the sponsors secret? They should release their names and prosecute the criminals.

“We are surprised that government is always saying that it has discovered the sponsors of insecurity in the country. Why don’t they prosecute them? Why are they protecting criminals?”

Speaking in the same vein, SOKAPU President, Jonathan Asake, noted that, “what is happening today in southern part of Kaduna State is purely ethnic cleansing, and if the government knows it is concerned about the killings, let them expose the names of those behind the killings and prosecute them.”

He added that, “the government has not really told Nigerians the truth about those responsible for the killings, kidnappings and those taking the ancestral land of Southern Kaduna people.”

The northern states Vice Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the Rev. Joseph John Hayab, also faulted the government’s claims of discovering the sponsors of insecurity in Nigeria, saying that it was diversionary.

Hayab said: “Let them expose the sponsors of the insecurity in Nigeria that has caused the people so much pains. How many times will this government say it has uncovered those behind insecurity? You see, they are using the issue of uncovering the sponsors of insecurity to delay the suffering Nigerians are going through. If you have discovered those causing harm in Nigeria, present them before the court and let them be prosecuted and dealt with according to the law of the land.

Nigerians are tired of blackmailing people into succumbing to failure. No, we are tired of that. There is failure, totally on the part of this government. They cannot tell us the same story again and again. There was a time they told us they will release the names of sponsors of Boko Haram, but have they done that?”

Former secretary general of ACF, Elder Anthony Sani, also told The Guardian that he could not tell why the government was yet to publish the names of Boko Haram and ISWAP sponsors.

“It may well be that they have not completed the tasks of collecting the needed information or for some strategic reasons unknown to the public,” Sani said.

The elder statesman, who applauded the Federal Government’s efforts to identify and block the sources of funds to the terrorists to weaken their activities, however, stated that, “I am not sure identifying and blocking sources of funding is that easy.”

He added: “Were it that easy, America would have been able to identify and block sources of funding of terrorists across the world considering terrorism transcends national boundaries. But there is no harm in positive efforts directed at ending insecurity across the country.

“The government should publish and prosecute those sponsors who have been identified. But we must be realistic enough to understand that since ISWAP is now an affiliate of ISIS, which sources of funding have not been identified by America and its allies, it is unlikely that the sponsors identified by the Federal Government include those who sponsor ISIS that in turn sponsors ISWAP that now holds sway in Sahel region of West Africa and pulls the short in North East and Chad basin of Nigeria.

“The government should use the newly acquired Tucano jets and take the fights to the insurgents in the forests while efforts are being made to recruit, train, equip and motivate more security personnel to secure the nation.

“As long as the government is able to sustain the tempo of the campaigns against insecurity, it will end some day. Already, there are signs by way of some insurgents and bandits surrendering and asking for peaceful coexistence.

“As regards addressing the underlying causes of insurgency, banditry, kidnappers, militant activism, ritual killings and cultism, the government should step up its efforts at diversifying the economy away from oil wealth that is not result of hard work for the express purpose of reducing unemployment.”

Also, apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, accused the Federal Government of pampering the alleged sponsors of terror in the country at the detriment of the lives and property of Nigerians.

Alleging that the government knew those behind the activities of Boko Haram and the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP), Ohanaeze Ndigbo stated that Nigerians were tired of hearing about uncovering sponsors of terrorism in the country without concomitant arrests and prosecution amid increasing terror attacks.

National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Alex Ogbonnia said: “It is unfortunate that they are just uncovering those financing these activities. We have heard this uncovering for a long time and the more we uncover, the more severe their attacks on Nigerians. We are tired of hearing this uncover. We want results.

“The result Nigerians want is complete defeat of the Boko Haram. Nigeria has come to a point where we want total defeat of those people. How can a small group of people hold us hostage and take control of some local councils in the country in spite of the money budgeted for the Armed Forces? It is very unfortunate. Nobody is interested in this story anymore.

“These people should be prosecuted. The ones they uncovered in the past, what did they do with it? The financiers have been known a long time and they have kept treating them with kid gloves?”

Also speaking, former National Chairman of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, stated that the way the Federal government had continuously made disclosures on alleged financiers of terror without action amounted to an insult on the sensibility of Nigerians.

Okorie added: “It would have excited Nigerians to say that a great intelligence work had been done to uncover 96 sponsors of terror in Nigeria. But I can tell you that Nigerians, including myself, are not impressed in such regular grandstanding and what I will call public show that is never backed by any concrete action. It is so sad that repeatedly government come out to make this type of claim.

“Nothing had been done about it. All we hear is that this number of people has been uncovered and terrorism is not abetting at all. The sponsorship is there. If it were not there, they would have stopped. I would rather advise government to stop insulting and assaulting the sensibility of Nigerians. If they have nothing better to say, it is more honourable to keep quiet. Nobody is applauding them for this kind of disclosure that has no substance. If they can use this opportunity to prove us wrong, everybody will be excited.”

On his part, Chairman of the Board of Trustee, Nzuko Ndi-Igbo, Mazi Chuks Ibegbu, said: “They should name those people behind terror if they are sincere and honest to themselves about the fight against terrorism. We are tired of all the cork and bull stories of uncovering here and there when lives are being lost daily. They should be able to tell Nigerians who the people are because this is a matter of life and death. They should unveil the identities of the people behind Boko Haram whether they are in government or outside the government. The Federal Government should tell us those sponsoring these bandits in the interest of the security of lives and property. They can’t keep hiding them when people are dying daily. When you name them, you go ahead and use legal means to bring them to justice. That is the way to go about it. But when they keep telling us they have uncovered, it means they are not sincere with the fight against terrorism.”

For Emeritus President, Aka Ikenga, Goddy Uwazuruike, the Nigerian government displayed crass and unmistakable propaganda in the press conference addressed by the Minister of Information.

He added: “Lai has carved a niche for himself in saying a lot and saying nothing new. It’s just all smoke and no substance. About two years ago, an Arab country jailed a man for financial ties to ISWAP and Boko Haram. This Arab country duly notified the government of Nigeria of the development and made available the names, financial records and email addresses of the Nigerian collaborators. The government did nothing until the Arab country made it news. That was a year later.

“Nigeria announced that it had uncovered the main collaborators who number about 400. It promised to prosecute them. Enter 2022; the government through the Minister of Information announced with glee that the suspects have been discovered. Naturally, the identity of anyone or company was not disclosed.

“The government of Nigeria has messed up because this is an international crime ring that has been investigated and a conviction made abroad. But the crime ring investigation has not just been protected in Nigeria but also ridiculed by the press conference of last Thursday. The impression given is that the financial crimes circle is full of the untouchables.”

President, International Solidarity for Peace and Human Rights Initiative and Convener of Coalition of Civil Society, Workers and Human rights Defenders, Comrade Osmond Ugwu, also said he does not believe in the Federal Government’s, adding:

“I see such claims as diversionary, just to make people shift emphasis and interest on non-seriousness and failure of the government in fighting terrorism and banditry in Nigeria. 

“For the people to take them serious, Buhari regime and the operators of the system have to go beyond rhetoric to practicality and reality. They have been flying this claim over the years till date without anybody reading or hearing the names of the so-called financiers in any press or media. We want to hear and see the names and the owners of the names of the so called financiers.”

Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, also chided the Federal Government for making several announcements regarding the sponsorship of terrorism in the country but lacking the will to implement them.

Speaking with The Guardian yesterday, spokesman of the group, Mr. Jare Ajayi, said the recent announcement on the discovery of Boko Haram and ISWAP sponsors was not different from many announcements the government had made on the same issue in the past.   

“This government talks too much but lacks action. It has been in power for more than seven years and has said many things that don’t end up being true. Not long ago, the government of UAE announced that it discovered 20 financiers of terrorism; the UAE matched its announcement with action but our own government didn’t do anything. President Bubari should go beyond identifying the criminals and prosecute them. There seems to be a problem somewhere which the government is not disclosing,” Ajayi said.

President Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum, Mr. Akin Malaolu also chided the President Muhammadu Buhari administration for lacking the political will to prosecute the sponsors of Boko Haram and ISWAP, urging it to stop playing the prank of telling Nigerians it has uncovered what it could not address or resolve.

“This government is simply playing pranks with Nigerians especially those of us in the southern part of the country. President Buhari and the northern cabal in power are not sincere with Nigerians and the world over what is actually going on in the North with regards to terrorism.

“If Mr. President could tell the entire world in a broadcast about Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu, who are southerners, that they are terrorists, what stops the same President from disclosing to the world and Nigerians the backers of those bandits operating in the deserts in Zamfara and Katsina states

“Some prominent northerners like Sheik Gumi has met with some of these bandits in the desert and yet this same government led by Buhari kept quiet over it. We had also been told that some top place government officials were culpable in the issue of banditry but this same administration did nothing over it. A top government functionary in this administration was sometime ago accused of being one of the sponsors of Boko Haram but nothing was done about it. So, what’s the essence of coming to tell us they uncovered 96 sponsors of Boko Haram and ISWAP,” Malaolu said.

The Chairman, Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), Mr. Wale Oshun, also dismissed the announcement with a wave of the hand, saying: “This government should please spare Nigerians the agony of announcement without action or determination to prosecute. We have been hearing this since 2015 when President Buhari came into office.

“This government is an almighty to itself and it doesn’t deem it fit to render account to anybody not even the citizens that gave it the mandate to rule over them. They have been uncovering and discovering since 2015 but yet nobody has been brought to book. They should spare us the agony of this repetition.”

On his part, the General Secretary, Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr. Kunle Olajide, appealed to President Bubari to match his announcement with action by prosecuting those found culpable.

He said it was understandable that some names could not be disclosed before arrest, adding: “One would have expected the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation to prosecute some people especially after Sheik Gumi went to the desert to meet with some terrorists. But up till now nothing has happened.

“It is unfair to play politics with insecurity and that appears to be exactly what this administration is doing. The media should help us hammer on this for President Buhari.”

A lawyer and President of pan-Igbo Organisation, Igboekulie, Ben Onuora, also told The Guardian in an interview yesterday that he was worried about the dimension terrorism has taken in the country.

Onuora said: “I am worried because we have laws in this country duly signed to tackle terrorism in all forms. I’m referring to Terrorism Prevention Act 2011 as amended as Terrorism Prevention Amended Act 2013, which spells out who the terrorists are and what punishment is meant for them. There are a lot of laws to deal with terrorism; we are not here for press conference.

“We had pockets of terrorism in the country when this administration came in. But now, terrorism has spread across all the country. This development is a matter of critical emergency. It’s not enough to tell us that you know the companies. What are you doing with the list?

“This means that it’s a business for them, an illegal one for that matter. What I want to see is for the government to do their investigations and publish the names of the companies and those behind the companies. If any company feels otherwise, let it sue the government and come to court and prove their case.

“I want to see these companies sanctioned and those behind them prosecuted. I want to see them jailed and with that other people will retreat. With this, we begin to see the government as working towards eradication of terrorisms in the country.”

In a related development, the National Executive Council of the Nigeria Ethnic Nationalities Youth Leaders Council (NENYLC) has urged the Federal Government to be more proactive in dealing with the growing spate of insecurity in the country.

President General of NENYLC, Terry Obieh, who addressed a press conference in Abuja, yesterday, said Nigerian youths could not continue to witness mindless killing of Nigerians in their numbers on a daily basis.

According to Obieh, the level of insecurity in the country was at a very alarming level, adding that the council has reached far-reaching decisions on the development.

His said: “Our stand is that the Federal Government needs to be more proactive in dealing with the growing spate of insecurity in the country as we cannot continue to witness such mindless killing of Nigerians in their numbers on a daily basis.

“The main essence and purpose of government is the protection of lives and properties but this appears to have been defeated in Nigeria. On a daily basis, Nigerians are being mowed down and roasted like chickens for no fault of theirs, except the fact that they are Nigerians.

“We say today that enough is enough and urge the security agencies to sit up. We have heard so many words without action from the government; we have had enough rehearsed condolence messages from the government. What we demand now is an end to the massacre of Nigerians under whatever guise.”

Meanwhile, against the backdrop of the current pressure on the government to name those behind terrorism in the country, spokesman of the AGF, Dr. Umar Gwandu, said the identities of the suspects would only be revealed in court.

Gwandu, who spoke with a national daily last Thursday, said: “One of the steps associated with the process of prosecution is the arraignment of suspects in court. It is, therefore, logical that identities of such suspects will naturally be made known when their pleas are taken in court. Their identities will be made known at that point.”