By Emma Ujah, Emeka Mamah, Kingsley Omonobi, Chioma Obinna & Daniel Idonor
ABUJA â€” FOLLOWING allegations that Mohammed Yusuf, leader of the religious sect, Boko Haram, was hurriedly killed after he was earlier captured alive in order to shield his sponsors who are influential members of the society, President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua yesterday directed the National Security Adviser (NSA) to carry out a full scale investigation into the matter.
The President who described the killing â€œas a serious matterâ€ said as a government that insists on the rule of law, the case has to be fully investigated given the controversies surrounding Yusufâ€™s death.
Yarâ€™Adua who spoke yesterday at a joint media briefing with his Benin Republic counterpart, Boni Yayi, as part of his visitorâ€™s state visit to Nigeria, hinted that according to his directive to the NSA, the report of his investigation is to be turned in latest by weekend.
He declared that â€œthis is an incident that will be investigated, together with all the events that have happened. Yesterday, I directed the NSA to carry out a post-mortem with the security agencies as a first step so that we can have a full report of what happened during the crisis, including how the leader of Boko Haram was killed, the circumstances under which he was killed.
â€œNow it is after we get this report, which, I hope, before the end of the week the NSA will make available, that we will examine this report to determine what actions to take, whether we need to carry out further investigations into the entire matter because it is really a very serious issue.â€
Explaining that his government will not touch any suspected criminals until they are found guilty by the law court, he said â€œI have been emphasising since this administration came into power on our uncompromised stance on the rule of law and everybody in this country, and all the officials are aware clearly and unambiguously of the stance of this administration on the rule of law and indeed my personal commitment and firm belief that it is rule of law that will anchor good governance and progress in this country.
â€œNow, issues like this, when they happen, we do not rush into taking precipitate actions. We try to investigate to confirm and make sure that we get the facts as they happened. So, this is the action that I have taken when I came back from Brazil yesterday. I met with all the security agencies and we decided on this course of actionâ€.
Boko Haram planned full Jihad
Meanwhile, security sources have disclosed that the sect actually planned a jihad (a war in which non-Muslims are forced to accept Islam or are killed) in the country and that members of the sect were still in Kaduna, Kastina and Gombe states.
The group which was said to have had trainings in Afghanistan and Mauritania was sponsored by many bigwigs including a Kano businessman, (names withheld) and many political office holders.
According to the sources, the Mohammed Yusuf-led extremists initially considered two countries for training â€” Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia â€” but dropped Saudi Arabia after going through difficulties with the immigration.
It was learnt that the group was formed as far back as 1995 when it was led by one Abubakar Lawan who later left for the University of Medina, Saudi Arabia, for further studies.
Yusuf was said to have taken over the organisation about two years after Lawanâ€™s departure, having dislodged the sheiks that appointed him after accusing them of corruption and failure to preach pure Islam. Extremism reigned among members thereafter, it was learnt.
Sources said that Yusuf, thereafter, embarked on a massive recruitment exercise with followers cutting across the high and the low. The very wealthy members were encouraged to make generous donations to the cause with the funds used for the acquisition of weapons and the feeding of members.
Even those who were not rich were enjoined to be part of â€œthe divine assignmentâ€ by making token contributions, as well as surrendering themselves to fight in the army being raised in order to achieve the objectives of the group.
It was learnt that Yusuf had acquired a large farmland in Borno State which was used not only for farming activities but also as his training ground for the terrorists.
The land, sources said, was discovered by security authorities who advised the Borno State government to confiscate the land. The advise was ignored and the land remained a great resource for the sect until last week when it was invaded by government forces in the wake of the crisis.
Another group in Niger State
Sources revealed that another sect different from the Boko Haram group but with similar ideologies had been identified in Niger State and urged immediate action to nip in the bud, plots to perpetuate acts of terrorism against innocent Nigerians.
Col Umar condemns Yusufâ€™s killing
Condemning the hasty manner in which Boko Haram leader was killed former military governor of Kaduna state, Col. Abubakar Umar (rtd), said: â€œThe handling of the Boko Haram crisis has done nothing to reassure Nigerians that the government has the capacity to protect the lives and property of citizensâ€. Umar regretted in Kaduna yesterday.
Umar who is also chairman of the Movement for Unity and Progress, noted in a statement yesterday that â€œnothing in all that is alleged about the banditry of the Boko Haram sect can however excuse the appalling conduct of government in its attempt to eliminate them.
â€œThe inordinate heavy military force deployed to destroy the groupâ€™s enclave in Maiduguri was indiscriminate and did not allow any members who might have wished to surrender or give themselves up to be able to do so.
â€œIt seemed obvious that intelligence about the enclave did not exist or if it did, had not been used to design an operation of minimal casualties.
â€œAn operation to contain civil unrest cannot be designed as a scorched earth combat or one in which suspects are killed before questions are asked.
â€œOne needs not be a sympathiser of Muhammad Yusuf, leader of the sect who was killed while in police custody, to raise questions of his right to protection under the law. Nor is this a question for the human rights community to pursue.
â€œIf the police or any other agents of this government which pleads rule of law as its key moral and legal platform for legitimacy could today get away with the killing of Muhammad Yusuf without bothering to put him through proper trial, nothing stops them from doing the same to other Nigerians tomorrow. What goes around will surely come around.
â€œAs it is customary, efforts will surely be made in the days and weeks to come, to inquire into or determine what went wrong.
â€œNigerians cannot wait to learn why the security agencies proved powerless to prevent the Boko Haram religious group from conducting themselves and constituting a threat to the peace and security of their neighbours as well as to the wider public.
â€œThere are allegations that leaders of this religious sect had used unlawful methods to recruit followers, including abductions, kidnapping and other tactics that violate the rights of the people.
â€œThey were also alleged to induce or even hypnotise some women and their children to abandon their families to join them.
â€œHow these followers were treated and what tasks they were made to do can only be known through an early and comprehensive enquiry.â€
Onovo confirmed IG, summons AIG, others
In a related development, Mr. Ogbonna Okechukwu Onovo was yesterday confirmed as the 14th Indigenous Inspector-General of police by the Police Council made up of governors of the 36 states of the federation and chaired by President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua. His confirmation came barely ten days after his appointment as the Acting Inspector-General of Police, following the retirement of Mr. Mike Okiro as the IG on 24th July, 2009,Onovo’s confirmation as the Inspector-General, one of the fastest of such confirmation for any acting IG, is coming on the heels of a summons by the IG of the Assistant Inspector-General of Police in Charge Zone, 12, Moses Anegbode and the Commissioners of Police for Yobe, Zamfara, Borno, Sokoto, Kano, Kebbi, Katsina, Kaduna and Jigawa states as well as those of other states considered as flash points where the Boko Haram sect is believed to have large followership.
Vanguard gathered in Abuja that the decision of President Yarâ€™Adua to fast-track the confirmation of Onovo as IG followed continued lobbying for the position by various groups still angling for their candidates including some Deputy Inspectors-General and some Assistant Inspectors-General, to still have their candidates appointed to the exalted seat of IG since Acting IG did not mean 100% appointment.
Aside the lobby for candidates of their choice, President Yarâ€™Adua was said to be wary of the effect of Onovoâ€™s appointment not confirmed in good time as it may open the doors to backbiting and lack of 100% loyalty from members of his management team who rightly or wrongly would still count themselves in the race for the substantive appointment.
The current political and religious crises which are threatening peace and security of the nation is another angle that swayed the president to confirm the new IG as it was thought that for him to apply himself 100% to the job of policing the nation, he should be saved from any distractive tendency of where exactly his future lies.
On the summons of the AIG and the Commissioners to the Force Headquarters, sources told Vanguard that the senior officers held a three-hour meeting with the Deputy Inspector-General of Police in Charge of Operations, Mr. John Ahmadu during which proactive strategies were put in place to checkmate any probable backlash from the death of the Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf.
â€˜Boko Haram had rocket launchersâ€™
However, a Commissioner of Police from one of the states who spoke on condition of anonymity told Vanguard that contrary to what is reported by the media, what happened in the states of Yobe, Kano, Borno states was not sectarian violence as the nation is being meant to believe but an all out war against security agencies especially the Nigeria Police.
â€œLook, these people were armed with this surface-to-air rocket launchers, they had GPMGâ€™s, AK-47 rifles were like biscuits which you can get anywhere. They had all manner of explosives, bombs and grenades which they threw at our men when our men were overpowering them. Honestly, it is not as simple as many people are painting the battle it was serious warâ€.
He emphasised that â€œBoko Haram sect may have concluded a sinister plot to overrun the country going by the type and number of arms found on them as well as new discoveries of ammunition deposits being found everydayâ€, the Police Commissioner regretted also that â€œnobody is talking of the large number of Policemen killed in the battleâ€™ noting, â€˜these policemen are my brother, your brother from every part of this country who were doing their constitutional duties.â€