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Killing of Boko Haram leader: Haram vs Haram

By Jide Ajani

WHereas the Boko Haram sect’s forceful evangelism was hinged on the banishment of western education, describing it as haram (an impurity), the alleged, manner in which the sect leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was killed in Police custody is also being insinuated as another act of impurity, an extra-judicial killing.  This report takes you through the contradictions in the story by the Police and the Army which effected Yusuf’s arrest.

AS it was with his crusade when he was alive, so it is even in death – an oddity. After as many as an estimated 300 lives were lost in a strange crusade by the Boko Haram sect, preaching the gospel of pure Islam and banishment of western education, circumstances surrounding the death of Mohammed Yusuf, the self-styled, Nigerian Taliban leader, remain strange and odd.

Consider the following: * The man was killed in police custody. *The man died in police custody. * The man was killed by the Police *The man died but not in the hands of the Police.

The common denominator in all of this, however, is that Yusuf is no more. Strangely, too, no statement, either coming from the military authorities who apprehended, arrested and interrogated Yusuf before handing him over to the Police, nor the Police authorities, has suggested that it was Yusuf’s body that was brought to the Police station in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.

However, the new bottom line:   allegation that the man died through the instrumentality of extra-judicial killing – and in the hands of the Police, is rife and almost believable. Three scenarios are emerging already. First is that, in the event that it is proved that Yusuf was killed by the Police, some very powerful sponsors of the Islamist whose mindset was already beginning to work upside down, may not want him to expose them and, therefore, may have caused the Police to take him out.

*Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf
*Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf

The second is that the police may have just decided to take him out on account of the casualities the Police suffered. Yet, a third scenario is that after the series of arrests of Yusuf who benefitted from the reigning regime of due process instituted by the President Umar Yar’Adua administration, it may have been decided by some individuals that he should be taken out as a last resort – having always got bail from the law courts.

Whichever scenario supports the reality of his death, President Yar’Adua has already ordered a probe into the matter. In fact, Yusuf is not alone.  His alleged financier, a certain Alhaji Alhaji Buji Foi, was also alleged to have been extra-judicially killed by the Police. But a recap may open an insight into why such a strange thing may have happened.

Burning matter

The Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting of Wednesday, July 29, 2009, was not particularly exhaustive. Not because Vice president Goodluck Jonathan presided, but because the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities, ASUU, had a meeting with Jonathan that afternoon.

Therefore, the only major issue for discussion was the burning matter of Boko Haram and the attendant violence which the group had inflicted on some cities in northern Nigeria. FEC was briefed by Dr. Ibrahim Lame, Police affairs minister.

Sources at the FEC meeting told Sunday Vanguard that by the time Lame finished his presentation, his colleagues were manifestly disturbed. Lame recounted how Yusuf had been in and out of the courts on many occasions.  He also briefed FEC members of the efforts of the police.

What Lame told FEC kept mouths of members wide open. But if they thought they had heard the worst, Demola Seriki, Internal affairs minister, too, gave his briefing and expressed concern why such an individual with high potentials to cause trouble should be granted bail many times over, when every evidence pointed to the fact that he was a danger to society.  They were both said to have assured the FEC that the crisis would be over, possibly, by weekend.

Therefore, when reports had it that Yusuf had been arrested by the Army, a concerned nation heaved a sigh of relief. But even reports of his Yusuf’s arrest were hazy. Foreign wire agencies came to the rescue. The police reported that Yusuf had died in custody.

But the BBC presented photo evidence of Yusuf being led away by the Police – ostensibly, after being handed over by the Army. In fact, Colonel Ben Ahonotu, commanded the operation in Borno, an operation which led to the crushing of Boko Haram, said: “I personally arrested him and handed him over to the Police after a short questioning the same day, only to be told that he died in a shootout; a senior military officer conducted the interrogation of Mohammed Yusuf”, he told AFP.  If indeed the crisis was thought to be over with the killing of Yusuf, the latter act merely begot another crisis of extra-judicial killing.

A recap: On Thursday, June 11, 2009, the government of Ali Modu Sheriff struck at the heart of the Boko Haram sect, killing 17 members. His administration was accused of high-handedness in its handling of the matter.  So, when all the tell tale signs of a possible insurgency kept staring the Borno State government in the face, it was caught in the dilemma either to act or not.

In Bauchi, Isa Yuguda struck fast in a pre-emptive move, crushing the sect. But after the violence wrought by Boko Haram, Sheriff, in utter helplessness, lamented:  “We know what his activities are. We charged him to court three times but he was discharged for lack of evidence so what do you expect us to do? The Yusuffiya sect, as Yusuf’s group is also known, has its headquarters in Maiduguri, behind the railway area, and it commenced operations in late 2000 – operations in 19 northern states with outlets in Niger, Chad and Sudan.

His residence at the Ibn Taimiyya Mosque, where Yusuf’s residence is located is posh by Nigerian standards. Yusuf’s taste presents a grand contradiction between his evangelical mission and his air-conditioned apartment, as well as his choice of vehicle: a Toyota.

Yusuf’s arrests dates back to 2005. Again, Yusuf was re-arrested on November 13, in the premises of an Abuja court on November 13 by operatives of the SSS.  He was subsequently handed over to the police, after thorough interrogation. News of his release by the court got to the SSS on Tuesday, January 20, 2009; and it was shocking. The question being asked is: Could he have been killed because the police feared a possible release? Could he have been killed to cover some of his major sponsors? Was he killed in vengeance to make up for his sect’s killing of security personnel? It is hoped that President Yar’Adua’s probe panel headed by General Serki Mukhtar, National Security Adviser, NSA, would unearth the truth.


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