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How Modu Sheriff Sponsored Boko Haram By Femi Falana (SAN)

September 4, 2014

Yesterday, a former governor of Borno state, Mr. Modu Ali Sheriff, addressed a press conference at Abuja where he attempted to play on the collective intelligence of Nigerians by denying any link with the dreaded Boko Haram sect. He was apparently reacting to his indictment by Rev .Stephen Davies, the international negotiator engaged by the federal government to dialogue with the Boko Haram sect with a view to to securing the release of the abducted Chibok girls.

In his press conference Mr. Sheriff claimed that he only met the late Mohammed Yussuf, the leader of the Boko Haram sect after he had been arrested by the army in 2009. As the Chief Security Officer in Borno State at the material time the ex-governor should throw some light on the bizzaire circumstances surrounding of the extra judicial killing of Muhammed Yusuff and his father-in-law, Alhaji Baba Fugu Mohammed. In a judgment delivered on April 13, 2010 the Borno State High Court ordered the Federal and the Borno State governments to pay N100 million damages for the illegal killing of Alhaji Baba Fugu Mohammed and exhume the corpse and release him to the family for a decent burial.


More importantly, Mr. Sheriff should explain to Nigerians the basis of the appointment of Alhaji Buji Foi, a boko haram leader as the Commissioner for Religious Affairs by his government. Alhaji Foi was made a cabinet member as a compensation to the boko haram sect for supporting the governor’s re-election in 2003. He later resigned from the Sheriff government. He too was extra-judicially killed after his arrest by the soldiers.

Before the revelation of Rev. Davies the Goodluck Jonathan Administration had set up the Ambassador Usman Galtimari Panel to investigate the genesis of the insurgency in the North East region. After a detailed investigation the Presidential Panel found inter alia:


The Report traced the origin of private militias in Borno State in particular, of which Boko Haram is an offshoot, to politicians who set them up in the run-up to the 2003 general elections. The militias were allegedly armed and used extensively as political thugs. After the elections and having achieved their primary purpose, the politicians left the militias to their fate since they could not continue funding and keeping them employed. With no visible means of sustenance, some of the militias gravitated towards religious extremism, the type offered by Mohammed Yusuf.


It recommended that the Federal Government should direct the security agencies to beam their light on some politicians who sponsored, funded and used the militia groups that later metamorphosed into Boko Haram and bring them to justice.


Government accepts this recommendation and directs the National Security Adviser to coordinate the investigation of the kingpins and sponsors to unravel the individuals and groups that are involved.”

Furthermore, the ECOMOG militia group set up and funded by Governor Sheriff along with similar bodies were said to have constituted the roots of terrorism in the North East region. According to the Presidential Panel:


(a)  It was reported that members of the sect have transformed themselves into dreaded criminal groups recently and were now known by various pious sounding Islamic names.

The groups, which had hitherto employed the use of crude and locally made arms with few automatic weapons, are now linked to highly sophisticated weaponry and explosives imported or smuggled into the country. Equally, their modus operandi had drastically changed from mere confrontation with security agents to modern day terrorism with a high precision rate.

(b) Politicians in the country have employed the services of thugs and other groups and associations with large youth membership to intimidate their political opponents during electioneering activities. The roots of terrorism, especially in Borno, Gombe, Yobe and Bauchi States, could be traced to groups or associations such as ‘ECOMOG’, ‘Yan Kalare’ and ‘Sara Suka’ which have links to prominent politicians in these States. However, similar to the militant groups in the Niger Delta area, the groups usually grow out of control and become a threat to the politicians that supported and financed them


States where sect members thrive should exercise the necessary political will to deal with this problem, notwithstanding the perceived implications to their sponsors.


Government accepts this recommendation and directs the Security Agents to work with the State Government to deal with this matter.”

Owing to the connection of Alhaji Sheriff and other sponsors of the boko haram sect with the Presidency the security agencies have failed to implement the directives of the Federal Government which were handed down since May 2012. Rev. Davies’ revelations have merely confirmed the findings of Galtimari Presidential Panel. The purported denial of Alhaji Sheriff’s links with the boko haram sect should not be taken seriously by Nigerians.

It would be recalled that Governor Sheriff had told the whole world in a press conference sometime in 2006, that he was not bothered by criticisms of his administration for non-performance because less than 5 percent of the people of Borno State were literate. It has since been confirmed that majority of the youths who “gravitated towards religious extremism” come from the over a million children who were denied basic education by the Borno State government under Governor Sheriff.

In the light of the foregoing, the security forces should, without any further delay carry out the directives of the Federal Government by investigating and prosecuting all the indicted sponsors of the boko haram sect. If the directives are not carried out forthwith I shall apply to the Federal High Court for a Writ of MANDAMUS to compel the security agencies to discharge their duties in the public interest.