By Emeka Mamah, Kingsley Omonobi, Chris Ochayi,Â James Uwem
KADUNA â€” GOVER NORS of the 19 northern states rose from an emergency meeting yesterday in Kaduna, condemning the recent violent sectarian crisis in parts of the area perpetrated by Boko Haram, the Islamic sect opposed to western education.
The condemnation came just as the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) claimed it lost 14 pastors and over 20 churches to the crisis while accusing the Federal Government and Governor Ali Modu Sherif of Borno state of complicity in the crisis.
The governors said that the actions of the religious sect which sought to enthrone the Islamic Sharia code â€œconfirms the level of ignorance of religious knowledge among worshippers in our societyâ€.
Disciples of Boko Haram, (western education is a sin) engaged the armed forces and the police in Borno, Yobe, Bauchi and Kano States in violent confrontations which resulted in the death of about 700 persons, following their insistence that Islamic laws are superior to the Constitution and that the country must be an Islamic state.
The crisis had lasted five days before the leader of the group, Mohammed Yusuf, was captured and killed by the police.
However, chairman of the Northern Governorsâ€™ Forum (NGF), Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, who addressed the forum described the incident as most unacceptable in the 21st century, â€œwhen other nations are making scientific and technological breakthrough and societal progress.
â€œWe must condemn in totality, the recent sectarian activities of a sect called Boko haram which caused mayhem in the states of Borno, Bauchi, Yobe and Kano.
â€œAs governors who believe in the values and legacies of the late premier, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sarduana of Sokoto, we must condemn and reject such retrogressive incidents in our states.
â€œThis is the time for states to consolidate on the peaceful co-existence among the people. We must not shy away from our responsibilities to the people.
â€œWe commend the pro-active measures taken by the affected states so far. We need to be bold, courageous and decisive on matters that affect the security and protection of lives and property of the citizens,â€ Aliyu said.
Also in a communiquÃ© after the meeting, the governors said that they took stock of the evolution and operations of the Boko Haram sect using mosques as cover and how security agencies were invited to curb the insurgence.
The 12-point communiquÃ© read: â€œa special meeting of Northern Governorsâ€™ Forum (NGF) was summoned to principally deliberate on two issues â€” progress attained on the launching of Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation and confirmation of the date for the launching scheduled for August 15, 2009 and sectarian attacks by the Boko Haram group in some northern states.
â€œThe meeting took briefs from the governors of the various states on the evolution and operations of Boko Haram sect using mosques as cover and how security agencies were invited to curb the insurgence.
â€œThe forum condemned in totality the sectarian activities of a religious sect called Boko Haram which caused mayhem in the states of Borno, Bauchi, Yobe and Kano.
â€œThe forum vowed to empower relevant agencies and ensure effective monitoring of people residing in their areas of jurisdiction.
â€œIt impressed upon the mass media to understand the issue and assist the governments to report the situation of things properly.
â€œThe meeting appreciates the Federal Governmentâ€™s high powered delegation led by the Chief of Defence Staff to the affected states and calls for the implementation of the report of findings.
â€œIt will empower traditional institutions to enforce relevant laws that guide and regulate the establishment and activities of religious groups/ societies, places of worship and religious congregations and also direct them to compliment relevant institutions in the registration of births and deaths in their domains.
â€œIn respect of foreigners among the sect members, the forum called on the Immigration Department to brace up and be more vigilant.
â€œIt also resolved that all northern states must enact appropriate laws capable of curbing sectarian crisis.
â€œThe forum urged the states to take meetings of security councils at various levels very seriously as well as the implementation of all the decisions reached.
â€œIt also called on states to establish councils of Ulamas and the Imams/ pastors, especially those Imams of Jumaâ€™at mosques.
â€œThe meeting supported the call for more funding of security agencies in the country by the Federal Government.â€
CAN accuses FG, Sheriff of complicity
â€¢Alleges bombingÂ of 20 churches, killing ofÂ 14 pastors
However, the leadershipÂ ofÂ the Christian Association, (CAN) hasÂ accused theÂ Federal GovernmentÂ and Governor Modu SheriffÂ ofÂ BornoÂ Â stateÂ of complicityÂ in theÂ Boko HaramÂ crisis.
AddressingÂ a pressÂ conference inÂ Abuja yesterday, National Secretary ofÂ CAN,Â Elder Samuel Salifu, stated that the urgent manner in which the Boko Haram sect leader, MohammedÂ Yusuf was killed in custody was only anÂ indication that the Federal Government did not want him to expose his sponsorsÂ and backers.
â€œThe reported disclosure by security agencies especially the States Security Services (SSS) at the National Assembly last week which stated that as manyÂ as 21 security reports on Boko Haram had been submitted to the Federal Government without any reaction was an indication that the Yarâ€™AduaÂ Â Â Government and Governor Modu Sheriff knew more than what they wantedÂ NigeriansÂ to believeâ€, CAN insisted.
According to the association, â€œGovernment paid deaf ears to the 21 security threats and reports by the SSS for two years purely out of complicity, and sympathy for the fundamental objectives of the Boko Haram sect, but only reacted when government felt its own security was threatened.
Why was government preserving the Boko Haram sect? How did the sect acquire arms without the notice of government? Who are their sponsors? Why did Governor Sheriff refuse for more than two years to say a thing about the group even as their headquarters was in his state?
â€œFinally, how did his commissioner become secondâ€“in-command in the Boko Haram and yet the governor is just knowing about the group now?
â€œWhen Boko Haram was allowed to establish its headquarters in Maiduguri despite security reports, it raises logical questions of who are the people in government sheltering the Boko Haram sect from prosecutions. Why was the leader Mohammed Yusuf and his second-in-command, Alhaji Buji Fai an ex-commissioner in Sheriffâ€™s government reported to have been captured and taken to Government House and silenced so quickly? We sense a cover-upâ€, the CAN scribe said.
He added â€œChristians needed to be reassured that the Federal GovernmentÂ and the state governments of the states where the sect had taken roots were notÂ part of the Boko Haram scheme.â€
CAN in recounting losses on the part of Christians arising from the crises stated that â€œover 20 churches were bombed and 14 Pastors, including CAN leaders lost their livesâ€. The total number of Christians killed by the Boko Haram sect, theyÂ said, could not be ascertained as the CAN is still collating figures but stressedÂ that the sect, in Gombe alone, killed 12 people inside the church, majority of whom were women and children who took refuge in different churches
The union further maintained that if the crises persist, CAN may be forced to compel government to explain the terms of the co-existence of Christians andÂ Muslims in the country and if that does not yield result, the association will haveÂ no option than to tell Christians to rise to their defence.
â€œWhile CAN over the years preaches peace to its members in the face ofÂ Â wanton killings of innocent Christians in the north at different religious instigated crises by the Muslims, itÂ is worthyÂ to note that we Christians have gotten moreÂ than enough of these killings, and in the event of further attacks on the lives ofÂ Christians, CAN will ask Christians to defend themselves.â€ Salifu said
CNPP condemns Yusuâ€™s killing
The Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), on its part, also condemned the extra-judicial killing of the Boko Haram sect leader, Mohammed Yusuf, after his capture by the Nigeria Army, saying his death has denied Nigerians the opportunity to unravel his masterminds, financiers, foreign accomplices and network profile.
The CNPP, which made the remarks in a statement issued in Abuja by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, called for a thorough investigation to unknot the circumstances surrounding the death of the sect leader.
The umbrella of the opposition parties according to Okechukwu, rose from a meeting in Abuja, last weekend, â€œcondemning the sectarian violence that traumatised the country in the past daysâ€.
While consoling the families of the innocent victims of the mayhem and lamenting that the Boko Haram inferno is an unfortunate sign post to the dangerous slide of Nigeria to a failed state, the CNPP went further to ask, â€œdo we allow the prediction few years ago by US Intelligence that Nigeria will disintegrate to come to pass?â€
â€œWe call for thorough investigation of the entire Boko Haram inferno, origin, metamorphosis, extra-judicial killings and the Police shooting of the leader Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf after his capture by the Nigeria Army, because his shooting denied Nigerians the opportunity to unravel his masterminds, financiers, foreign contacts and his network profileâ€, he said.
CNPP emphasised that â€œthorough investigation is germane when reports show that the group has been around for over a decade, is in the SSS diary, been battling with the police, has successively defied our defective judiciary and been recruiting from all cadre of people including a commissioner in Borno State government.
â€œCNPP agrees with the State Security Service (SSS) Report that abject poverty, gross unemployment and total hopelessness of the citizenry, consequent upon monopoly of legitimate access to power, misrule and monumental corruption led to the Boko Haram inferno.â€
How SSS officer failed to testify against Yusuf in court
The late leader of the â€˜Boko Haramâ€™ Islamic sect, Mohammed Yusuf, was in detention at the Kuje Prisons until April this year, when Chief Magistrate (Mrs.) O. O. Oyewunmi of Court 1, Wuse, Abuja discharged and acquitted him over refusal of the State Security Services to testify against him on three occasions that the case against him was adjourned.
It was gathered that in the case with Charge Sheet number CR/01/2009 entitled Commissioner of Police vs Mohammed Yusuf of February 2009, the Chief Magistrate in the case adjourned till 12th March 2009 for definite hearing, during which an official of the SSS, A. A. Kalil was to give testimony, but he failed to appear.
His failure to appear in court on that day led to another adjournment till 2nd and also 3rd of April 2009, for Mr. Kalil who signed the SSS investigation report on behalf of the DG SSS, on the activities of Mohammed Yusuf to appear for continuation of hearing and testify, but he again refused to appear.
Again, the Magistrate court adjourned hearing on the case to 15th April 2009 with A. A. Kalil invited to come and testify and he personally signed the witness summons yet he refused to appear before the court.
Consequently, the Chief Magistrate had no choice but to discharge and acquit Mohammed Yusuf based on the fact that Mr. A. A. Kalil of the SSS who is a vital witness failed to report to the court and substantiate the investigation report against the Boko Haram leader.
On how he was arrested, Vanguard gathered that the SSS arrested the Boko Haram leader following intelligence reports of his fundamentalistâ€™s activities which were threatening the peace in the country.
He was subsequently charged to a Federal High Court in Abuja but they (SSS) ran into problems with the case for incompetent prosecution because his lawyers made a no-case submission.
Not satisfied with the outcome of the case, the office of the National Security Adviser, directed the Police to take over the prosecution without further investigations, against wise counsel.
Vanguard investigation showed that the area the police would have investigated further were the aspect where SSS investigation showed that Mohammed Yusuf had his backers and sponsors from Niger Republic, top government functionaries in Nigeria, politicians, and why he also made his statement in Arabic. He was to also infiltrate security agencies in the federal capital territory.
It was furthered gathered that Yusufâ€™s followers put at 1.5million nationwide, paid N100 daily to their leader making his purse swell by over N500,000 daily. Members of his sect, it was gathered, were the group that attacked the convoy of the Emir of Zaria early this year. Further revelation showed that Mohammed Yusuf did not believe in the Nigerian constitution, and did not believe in the Nigerian flag.
IG disowns text message
Meanwhile, Acting Inspector General of Police, Ogbonna Onovo has denied being the author of a text message being sent to the personal phones in the North, notably to key traditional rulers, political fathers and opinion leaders, that the care-free attitude of Northern elite, was responsible for the spate of political and civil disturbances in the region.
â€œFor the avoidance of doubt, the Acting IGP did not author that message; neither did he ask anybody to do so on his behalf. To further worsen the disjointed message, the author signed off as Ogbonnaya Onovo, which is not the name of the Acting IGP. For the records, the name of the Acting IGP is Ogbonna Okechukwu Onovoâ€, he said.