In May 2021, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) told Nigerians that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has succeeded in arresting 400 alleged sponsors of Boko Haram insurgency.
The AGF also disclosed that the suspects were bureau de change operators who were nabbed during an operation coordinated by the Defence Intelligence Agency, the Department of State Services, NFIU and the Central Bank of Nigeria, and that they were arrested in Kano, Borno, Abuja, Lagos, Sokoto, Adamawa, Kaduna, and Zamfara.
Sounding confident and somewhat elated by the success of the operation, Malami said the suspects will be prosecuted once the strike embarked upon by court worker in the country was called.
Several months after the purported arrests, promise of prosecution and several calls by Nigerians that the sponsors of terrorism be named and shamed, the federal government, true to character, has refused to do anything, including the much promised prosecution.
It would also be recalled that the Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma, had put Imolites and indeed every Nigerian on notice, and in a state of palpable anxiety, when he vowed to reveal the identities of those behind the deteriorating insecurity in the state.
“All the people that were hired to kill our people, we have started picking all of them. As of now, we’ve picked 18 suspects. Some of them have confessed those who are paying them.
“We have gotten the bank account from where they have been transferring money to them and we have the evidence. When I will address Imo stakeholders on January 3, I will call their names one by one,” Uzodinma had said.
He also gave the reason for the decision to name and shame sponsors of killings and kidnapping in the state to include his administration’s efforts at fighting all forms of criminality in the state and safeguard the lives and property of all citizens.
Despite the initial bragging by Uzodinma, when the moment of truth came, the Imo governor chickened out, electing to allow the security agencies do their work, just as he left millions of Nigerians who had looked forward for that all important information in the cold.
For Zamfara State, Governor Bello Mattawale had always touted some unnamed influential people in the state to be behind the crushing banditry-terrorism scourge in the North-West state.
Governor Matawalle, while speaking to State House correspondents recently after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, branded the alleged sponsors of the insecurity in the state as Political Bandits. He, like Federal Government’s Malami and Hope Uzodimma, also kept mum and refusing to name who these mysterious sponsors or financiers are, despite claiming to know their identities.
The question Nigerians are asking is why is the Federal Government reluctant in revealing the identities of these alleged sponsors.
It will be recalled that on September 23, 2021, AGF Malami, offered an explanation on why government could not yet name and shame these alleged sponsors, claiming that investigation was still ongoing.
Malami, in a statement signed by his media aide Dr. Umar Gwandu, was qouted as telling journalists in New York that the time was not ripe for holistic disclosures, so as not to pre-empt the investigation process.
He said FG would take all steps to ensure a peaceful and prosperous Nigeria, adding that the public “would be properly and adequately informed about the investigation and prosecution process at the appropriate milestones as they unfold.
“The position, as it stands, is that investigation has reached advanced stage and the Government will make statement in that direction in due course.
“Time is not ripe for holistic disclosures so as not to pre-empt the investigation process. The prime object remains the attainment of peace and security of our dear nation.
“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 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 effect of undermining the successes we are recording.
“Naming and shaming of suspects is not embarked upon as a policy by the federal Government out of sheer respect 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.’’
Also on December 2, 2021, the AGF again blamed ongoing investigation for the failure of the federal government to name these ‘arrested’ alleged sponsors of terrorism in the country.
The minister, during an interview on Channels Television, said the government was not reluctant in naming the sponsors of terrorism but was only taking its time.
Malami said: “One thing that I think you need to take into consideration is that investigation is still ongoing and the fact that a lot of arrests were made.
“With the fact that judicial orders for the detention of those that have been arrested have been obtained, it is indeed out of place to conclude that nothing is being heard on the matter.
“Work is in progress. It will continue to be in progress and certainly we will do the needful at the right time.
“The fact remains that we have ever been working. There is no dull moment as far as the process is concerned. So, what I am saying in essence is that it is work in progress. Arrests were made, judicial orders were obtained and, indeed, we will do the needful.”
Despite the above statements from Malami claiming that work is in progress and that government will do the needful at the right time, it may be safe to conclude that the work the Buhari government is doing, in either naming and shaming or properly charging these individuals to court may take eternity!
If the suspects were arrested since around April or May 2021, and more than six months later, work is still ongoing, it will be better for Malami to tell the nation the truth and stop hiding behind one finger, which unfortunately is not enough to convince Nigerians that nothing is amiss.
It will be recalled that an online newspaper (not NaijaNewsNow), had alleged that the AGF already connived to free most of the big guns among the 400 arrested suspect after some underhand dealings. Though NaijaNewsNow cannot confirm the veracity of this claim, the onus belongs to AGF Malami and the federal government to come out clean and prove naysayers wrong. And this can only be done if these suspects, all of them (400 in total according to Malami) are publicly arraigned in court and made to prove that innocence.
Anything short of the above will continue to bring up the question, what in the world is the federal government afraid of?
And Lai Mohammed Adds to the Drama
As if Nigerians have not had enough drama and anxious waiting, the Minister of Information and Culture, like a man who newly won an expensively priced medal, told Nigerians, on Thursday, February 3, 2022, that 96 sponsors of terrorism have been identified.
According to Mohammed, 424 associates/supporters of the financiers were also identified, with 123 companies and 33 bureaux de change involved.
He said: “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.”
For those who have closely monitored the terrorism funding drama of the federal government, Mohammed has only repeated what Malami had said since May 2021, making the entire thing look untidy and rehearsed.
It also curiously agree with the allegations of the online newspapers that fingered Malami in the alleged release of some of big fish suspects, as the newspaper had alleged that only 45 insignificant foot soldiers were left at a military detention facility in Abuja, for whom a detention order for 90 days was procured.
Is it mere coincidence that the number of suspects Mohammed said are in detention awaiting prosecution stubbornly agrees with the number the online newspaper had reported? What happened to the remaining 355 suspects of the initial 400 said to have been arrested?
There is no doubt that Malami, Mohammed and President Muhammadu Buhari has questions to answer to make things clear to Nigerians and also tell us what they are afraid of!