IT was made known on Saturday that a large chunk of the funds used by the terrorist group, Boko Haram passes through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), unknown to many officials.
According to latest reports, this disclosure was made by an Australian, Dr Stephen Davis, who had close links with the terrorist group and had worked as a go-between for government during negotiation.
Davis, who said he was disclosing all he knew about the Islamist group because he could no longer bear what the kidnapped Chibok girls were going through, affirmed that Boko Haram commanders told him that a senior CBN official (names withheld) was fully involved in the funding of the insurgency.
Davis, in an interview with an online publication, TheCable, said Western countries could not trace the majority of the source of funding to Boko Haram because “it is done through a legal channel; through the gatekeeper; the CBN, and that makes it very easy to cover up.
“One of the biggest of suppliers of arms and military uniforms to the JAS (Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad), better known as Boko Haram, currently lives in Cairo, Egypt. He is the recipient of money sent by political sponsors from Nigeria. The funds go through the CBN’s financial system and appear to be legal transaction.”
Nyanya bombing suspects’ relative involved
Dr Davis spoke further that three of the suspected masterminds of the recent bombings in Nyanya area of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, were relatives of the said CBN insider who facilitated movement of funds for the terrorists.
“Meanwhile, the CBN official who handles the funding is an uncle to three of those arrested in connection with the Nyanya bombings. The three boys lived with him. They were arrested by the Department of State Security (DSS) after the bombings, but they do not seem to have been interrogated about their uncle in CBN. Or if they have given up information about their uncle, then, the SSS has not moved against him.
“Also, a senior official of CBN, who recently left the bank, was very close to Sodiq Aminu Ogwuche, the mastermind of the Nyanya bombings who also schooled in Sudan. Boko Haram commanders said Ogwuche’s wife used to visit this top official in his office at the headquarters of the bank in Abuja before the Nyanya bombings. They were very close,” he said.
Why he opened up
Davis said he decided to come out to speak now because the Nigerian authorities were not acting fast and that he was heart-broken by the evils being done to the Chibok girls.
“I have three daughters. I just cannot stand the thought of what those girls are passing through. I have spoken to an escapee who described how she was being raped for 40 days by militants. I can’t stand it. It is heart-breaking.
“Nigerian authorities must act decisively now,” he said.
B/Haram also uses Chibok girls to get money
Davies also opened up on how members of the group may have been using the abducted girls in their captive as bargaining chips to extort money from government.
He said the terrorists were now in groups and each of the groups had some of the girls, who had also been divided into groups, in its custody.
According to another report by Daily Mail, the Australian expert disclosed that but for the money politics among the groups within Boko Haram, he would have helped the Nigerian government to secure release of about 60 of the girls.
Davies said he was within 15 minutes of achieving this when a rival group of Boko Haram members got wind of the huge money involved and moved the group of girls away from where it was supposed to be met.
The foreign media added that “the 63-year-old former Canon Emeritus at Coventry Cathedral in the United Kingdom (UK), who has extensive contacts with African terrorist groups, had been negotiating with Boko Haram commanders for some time before they agreed to release the girls.
“Mr Davis was asked to come to Nigeria by the country’s president for his hostage negotiation expertise, after previously brokering a truce between violent rebels and the government in the Niger Delta in 2004, when he was working for the oil company, Shell.”
According to the report, which also quoted ABC’s Radio National, Davies himself explained that “I made a few phone calls to the Boko Haram commanders and they confirmed they were in possession of the girls.
“They told me they’d be prepared to release some as a goodwill gesture towards a peace deal with the government. So, I went to Nigeria on the basis of being able to secure their release.
“This is a long process of building trust on both sides. There are several groups to deal with as the girls are held in several camps. This makes any thought of a rescue highly improbable. To attempt to rescue one group would only endanger the others.
“Every day, there was the possibility of the release of the girls.”
He added that upon negotiating strict conditions for the girls’ release, the rescue mission was sabotaged by “another group who hoped to cash in on the monetary reward being offered by Nigerian police for their retrieval.
“We travelled for four-and-a-half hours to reach them, but 15 minutes before we arrived, they were kidnapped again by another group who wanted to cash in on the reward.”
Obsolete arms militating against forces –Report
Meanwhile, insiders in military circles have proffered reasons for a slow start of full Nigerian military operations against the dreaded Islamic sect.
Details contained in a report submitted to the Nigerian authorities and which was examined at a recent top security meeting indicated that the Nigerian military was left with no new arms procurement since 1982 after the Shehu Shagari-led administration embarked upon the last massive arms procurement.
A source further told Sunday Tribune that “the military had not been empowered since the Shagari administration; every other regime after Shagari was involved in regime protection. This is the first time since after Shagari when the military is being fully equipped.”
Role of opposition
Another source also stated that internal opposition elements had also informed the slow operations of the military, as some of the politicians introduced ethnic and religious insinuations to the initial operations in the North-East.
Another reason for the slow start, according to the report, was the fact that the Nigerian military has largely not seen war in the last 20 years or so. It was also gathered that a good number of the men and officers who participated in Sierra Leone and Liberian wars had retired.
It was also indicated that terrorism, a global trend in recent years, is new to the Nigerian military and that the architecture to fight insurgency is not the same as for traditional warfare.
“Nigerians are not aware of the challenges the military is facing. The infrastructure that need restructuring are massive. Right now, the military is being repositioned and I am sure that when it is ready, it won’t take a long time for it to rout the insurgents,” another source stated.
Effect of coups
Besides, the technical analysis of the situation indicated that the military was practically demobilised as a result of two coups in the past. It was gathered that the Mamman Vatsa coup of 1987 saw to the demobilisation of the Air Force because reports had indicated that officers of the Force were to be massively deployed to bomb strategic places during the coup.
The Gideon Orkar coup of April 1990 was also said to have brought another albatross on the military as the Armoured Brigade was said to have been largely demobilised after the aborted coup.
Sources said since the two major aborted coups, the regimes continued with the implementation of regime protection policy.
“You don’t lay the blame for security lapses on the administration of President Jonathan. He is the one who is now empowering the military and ensuring that it maintains the rules of engagement and respect human rights at all times. We are assured that a more professional military will emerge out of the ongoing reforms. There would certainly be some dare devil squads which will deal decisively with anyone who plans to threaten the territorial integrity of Nigeria,” the source stated.
Excerpts from the interview
Can you share with us your experience with Boko Haram leaders?
Let me take you back a bit. I specialise in negotiation. It may interest you to know that I have been involved in peace negotiations in Nigeria since 2004 when President Olusegun Obasanjo invited me to intervene in the Niger Delta crisis. With a local Nigerian colleague, I spoke with Asari Dokubo and took him to Obasanjo at the Presidential Villa in Abuja. Because Asari is a Muslim, the Muslim boys in the north heard about me and warmed up to me. I did a report in 2005 on the threat of extremism among young northern Muslims. Obasanjo’s security chiefs dismissed the report with a wave of the hand. They said no such thing existed. In 2007, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who desired to end militancy in the Niger Delta invited me and made me presidential envoy. I toured all the northern states. I went to the country’s borders. I came back with a report that there were some budding sects in the north. The national security adviser (NSA) at the time, Gen. Sarki Mukhtar, dismissed the report. He said they didn’t exist. A succession of NSAs dismissed all these reports and allowed the groups to flourish.
In all your discussions, did they name their sponsors?
They named the man who lives in Cairo. He is of the Kanuri tribe. He passes arms, ammunition and uniforms to them. The CBN official who handles the funding (name withheld by TheCable for legal reasons) is an uncle to three of those arrested in connection with the Nyanya bombings. The three boys lived with him.
They were arrested by the SSS (Department of State Security) after the bombings but they are yet to be interrogated about their uncle. The official still works with the CBN. He is still there. He works in currency operations. He knows how to handle the transaction in a way that it can never be traced. Western countries are frustrated that they cannot trace the funding.
How can they when it is passed on legally, through the gatekeeper, through the CBN? Also, a senior official of CBN, who recently left the bank, was very close to Sodiq Aminu Ogwuche, the mastermind of the Nyanya bombings who also schooled in Sudan. Ogwuche’s wife used to visit this official in his office at the headquarters in Abuja before the bombings.
They were very close. Don’t forget that the CBN official who handles the transactions also used to report to his superior, the official who recently left the bank. Also, there is a politician who was supplying operational vehicles for the suicide bombers.
How did you become involved in the negotiation for the release of the Chibok schoolgirls?
Because I had built trust among the militants, I made calls to them when I heard about the abductions. They confirmed to me that the girls were with them. I came to Nigeria in late April (the girls were abducted on April 14). I told the president I would try to intervene and help get the girls out. He said he would give me the needed support if I wanted. However, what I discovered was that thrice we tried to get the girls released, and thrice my efforts were sabotaged. That was when I now realised that some politicians were also involved in the insurgency. There were remnants of those involved in the former peace deal as well as a political arm and what I call the ritual arm which specialises in butchering human beings.
While I was making efforts to get the girls released, the political backers of the group threatened that if I got 30 or 40 girls out, the militants would kidnap another 60 to replace them. I became very frustrated. They threatened that any commander of the group who agreed to participate in any dialogue would be slaughtered by other commanders. The political sponsors are very powerful because they supply the finances and the arms. Until they are cut off from the group, those girls will not be released. We are talking about 200 Chibok schoolgirls, but there are over 300 other girls that have been kidnapped. There are many young men that they also kidnapped and turned them against their families. They asked them to go and slaughter their family members and they are doing it. Nobody is talking about those ones. They are the new child soldiers.
What deal were you seeking under Jonathan’s mandate?
The president wanted peace. He asked me to discuss with them so that we could arrive at the terms of peace. They came up with some terms that were acceptable and others that were not acceptable.
What were those terms?
They wanted training for the widows of their deceased fighters. They asked the government to give these women cottage training. They, ironically, wanted education for the children of their deceased members. That is why I don’t call them Boko Haram (“Western education is a taboo”). They asked that the children be sent to school. They also wanted the government to rebuild villages that were destroyed by the security agencies. They asked for amnesty as well.
What terms were unacceptable?
The president said he would not grant amnesty in the sense that they meant it. He said those who surrendered their arms would not be prosecuted, but those who continued to commit more crimes would face the law and would be charged with treason. They also wanted women and children who were being held in custody to be released. Their leaders that I spoke with were ready to accept the conditions. But the NSA then, Gen. Owoye Azazi, went vehemently against it. He said there should be no negotiation with terrorists. He completely turned the military against the peace deal I was working on, even though we were very close to bringing an end to the insurgency the same way we did it in the Niger Delta. The military then refused to back the deal. They succeeded in convincing the president not to accept it. I could understand where they were coming from: the security budget was like $6 billion and any peace deal would seriously reduce their budget.
How can we get these girls released?
The first thing is to stop the bagman who supplies weapons and military uniforms. We know his name, location and associates. If the man is stopped, the slaughterers, the ritual arm of the group, would be demobilised. The girls can be released afterwards. This man controls these ritualists.
Was there really any deal to release the girls?
Yes, there was. Some commanders of the group told me that they would first release 100 of the girls and that would be the first step towards dialogue. They needed a guarantee from President Jonathan that they would not be arrested or prosecuted if they showed up for dialogue. They agreed with me that if they did that and no one was arrested, then they would return to the camps to release the rest of the girls.