The recent naming of six Nigerians among 32 other nationals and 15 entities as alleged financiers of terrorism and other criminal activities will not shock any discerning Nigerian. The revelation by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a country known for its zero tolerance for crime, is more like a confirmation of widespread allegations about the existence of fifth columnists and Boko Haram sponsors within and outside government circles in Nigeria.
The six Nigerians named are Abdurrahaman Ado Musa, Salihu Yusuf Adamu, Bashir Ali Yusuf, Muhammed Ibrahim Isa, Ibrahim Ali Alhassan and Surajo Abubakar Muhammad. The name of a Nigerian government official reportedly involved in sponsoring the terror group has not been publicly declared.
The UAE had previously tried and sentenced these six persons. In April 2019, the Abu Dhabi federal court of appeal reportedly sentenced Surajo Abubakar Muhammad and Salihu Yusuf Adamu to life imprisonment. They were later deported. Also deported, after each being sentenced to 10 years in prison, were Ibrahim Ali Alhassan, Abdurrahaman Ado Musa, Bashir Ali Yusuf and Muhammad Ibrahim Isa. These Nigerians were found guilty of setting up a Boko Haram cell in the UAE to raise funds and material assistance for the insurgents in Nigeria and had actually transferred up to $800,000 to Boko Haram between 2015 and 2016. It is worthy to note that the UAE federal Supreme Court upheld the ruling of the country’s appeal court in December 2019.
The release of the identities of these alleged terrorists will enable the affected countries, including Nigeria, to conduct necessary investigations. The Nigerian government has long been searching for sponsors of terrorism, including the Boko Haram insurgency. Now that it has seen the list of some nationals said to be involved, it should take the lead and apprehend the alleged sponsors and thoroughly investigate the matter to ascertain their level of involvement in the terror war.
Boko Haram is one of the deadliest terrorist groups in the world. Since its murderous campaign started in 2009, the insurgents have killed over 100,000 people and displaced over two million others in northern Nigeria. The disturbing fact is that the Nigerian government appears not too willing to deal decisively with this insurgency. A retired Nigerian Navy Commodore, Kunle Olawunmi, recently accused Nigerian government officials of knowing the sponsors of Boko Haram. So far, no serious action has been taken to investigate this allegation.
Government has also failed to take action against the suspected 400 financiers of Boko Haram arrested earlier in the year. It is still uncertain why it has not prosecuted these people.
Nigerian authorities should enlist the collaboration of UAE and other countries to get at the root of the matter. Incidentally, the United States had pledged to help the country identify sponsors of terrorism. Last August, the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, noted that discussion on the matter was ongoing. According to her, the US was very eager to partner Nigeria on this issue and that she had had at least three conversations on the subject in the last two months with the authorities of Africa’s most populous country.
Nevertheless, we must warn that this should not end up like what happened in 2014 when the US Africa Command stopped sharing intelligence with the Nigerian security agencies. The US security forces had alleged sabotage of their efforts such that Boko Haram would get information about their plans within hours of sharing them with their Nigerian counterparts.
We appreciate and commend the UAE and the US governments for their efforts towards combating terrorism in the world. The United States Department of State, for instance, currently designates four countries as sponsors of terrorism. These countries are Cuba, North Korea, Iran and Syria. As a form of sanctions, the US restricts its finance and other foreign assistance to these countries. It also bans defence exports and sales, among other restrictions.
The Nigerian government should get more serious in its fight against terrorism. Beyond the physical combat by our soldiers, the government must aim at blocking the sources of funding of these terrorists. In Nigeria, these sources of funding are not hidden. They include taxes paid by local communities, extortion, protection fees allegedly paid by some northern politicians, kidnapping for ransom, bank robberies, donations from sympathizers, etc.
Henceforth, there should be no room for cover-ups anymore. Sponsors of terrorism, wherever they are, must be identified, arrested and prosecuted. The Federal Government should invoke the provisions of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011 (as amended), which prohibits funding of terrorism, to deal with financiers of the Boko Haram insurgency. Anything short of this amounts to an exercise in shadow chasing.