Nigeria’s Attorney-General, Abubakar Malami SAN, on the sidelines of the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the United States told journalists that the Buhari government has succeeded in identifying persons responsible for funding terrorism in the country.
Malami however stated that “Naming and shaming of suspects is not embarked upon as a policy by the federal government out of sheer respect to the constitutional rights of Nigerians relating to presumption of innocence”.
This aligns with an earlier remark by President Buhari’s special adviser on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, that the Federal Government is not interested in exposing sponsors of terrorism but will rather focus on prosecuting the suspects. We make haste to ask: if the prosecution of terrorist sponsors is this important to the government, why aren’t the courts already busy with their trials?
How convenient is it for Malami and Adesina to speak in this wise now? What happened to the respect for the principle of presumption of innocence until proven guilty when the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed called a world press conference in 2018 to name suspected looters of the nation’s patrimony? Whither this principle of law when the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele exposed so-called sponsors of the EndSARS protest and froze their accounts? Is the AGF invariably saying that Emefiele and Mohammed, both officials of the same federal government contravened the rights of those Nigerians they named?
How about the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that always parades and releases the names of suspected internet fraudsters? Shouldn’t the government be more provoked to treat sponsors of terrorism worse than its operatives treated suspected looters of the treasury or sponsors of the EndSARS protest? The attorney-general also needs to be reminded that Senator Ali Ndume was openly tried for sponsoring Boko Haram and eventually acquitted. So, naming these suspected sponsors of Boko Haram or trying them openly in Court won’t be new to Nigerians.
Only recently, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) named six Nigerians as being among sponsors of terrorism. That’s a serious-minded nation whose nationals are not anywhere close to what the Nigerians have suffered and still suffering as a result of terrorism. Recall that the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Leonard, had expressed her country’s willingness to help Nigeria identify the sponsors of terrorism. “I have had at least conversations in the last two months on this subject,” the envoy had disclosed.
Given how Boko Haram terrorists have blighted Nigeria and Nigerians, a government that is alive to its responsibilities and cared about its citizens would have run with this offer instead of leaving things at the level of discussions. With Malami’s latest comments, the disposition of government towards these harbingers of the Hobbesian state of nature upon Nigeria and Nigerians has now become all too clear.
Nigerians are still in the dark regarding the fate of the 400 alleged sponsors and financiers of terrorism of whom the Federal Government concluded plans for their prosecution as of May 4, 2021. The Attorney-General, who doubles as the Minister of Justice, had assured citizens that the suspects would be arraigned immediately after the industrial action embarked upon then by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria.
The said September 17 date for the arraignment of the alleged sponsors of terrorism has passed without any report of the highly anticipated arraignment. Accredited journalists who attempted to have unfettered access to the records of the indicted persons were reportedly blocked from doing so. This can only mean that the Federal Government has disappointingly adopted the secret trial process for these suspects who the people should know as a matter of necessity.
Malami is now telling the world that “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 an aggressive investigation that is indeed impacting positively in terms of the fight against terrorism”. That Malami could make this statement in New York further makes Nigeria a laughing stock before the international community because it does not reflect the seriousness and urgency with which terrorism-related matters are dispensed with in saner climes like America where he made the statement.
Nigerians never knew of the baggage around Super Cop, Abba Kyari, until his name notoriously featured in court papers filed against internet scam suspect, Ramon Abbas, aka Hushpuppi, and four others in the United States. The police officer’s alleged role in a $1m scam made the United States Attorney’s Office at the Central District of California order the Federal Bureau of Investigation to arrest Kyari, who is a Deputy Commissioner of Police in Nigeria. The identity of these terrorism sponsors can also become public knowledge if the Federal Government can show a little righteous anger towards the atrocities of terrorism financiers.
Naija News, therefore, demands the immediate prosecution of terrorists and terrorism sponsors in the open court of Law. While we do not support media trials, journalists and citizens should be allowed access to the charge sheets of these indicted persons. A case filed in court should be a public document that can be accessed using the official procedure for filing requests for information.
In this apparent sympathy for Boko Haram terrorists and their sponsors, the government should spare a thought for victims of terrorism. Many Nigerians have had their lives cut short, lost dear ones, been displaced from their homes, and subjected to all manner of harrowing experiences by these Boko Haram terrorists and their backers. In the obvious pampering of terrorists, Naija News would also warn the Nigerian government to be careful not to demoralize troops who are paying all sorts of prices including the supreme price at the battlefront.
If the government cannot release the names of those sponsoring terrorism, let it at least make their prosecution public. Doing so will be a big disincentive for would-be terrorism sponsors and their foot soldiers. The military usually warns Nigerians when terrorists are carrying out recruitments. Naija News believes that naming terrorists and their sponsors or prosecuting them publicly will make their prospects wary of further association with such malevolent characters. Indeed, Nigeria will be better for it if the government does more to erase the growing perception that it has a soft spot for terrorists.