By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA — The Nigerian Army, yesterday, told a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja how the Boko Haram Islamic sect evolved in Borno State, saying its intelligence report indicated that the sect had only 4,000 converts as at the time its former leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was murdered in 2009.

Testifying against five police officers accused of complicity in the extra-judicial murder of the late Boko Haram leader, yesterday, commander of the military task force drafted into Borno State by the Federal Government in 2009, Col. Benjamin Ahanotu, insisted that his team apprehended Yusuf and his followers at their hideout in Maiduguri, and handed them over to Police authorities alive.

Ahanotu said his team swooped on leaders of the sect after it was uncovered that they had imported over 2,000 army uniforms with a view to using it to unleash mayhem in the state.

He saidprior to the military intervention, the sect had planned to launch systematic attacks on government establishments in Borno State beginning from an outskirts town, Damasak, and other strategic border communities.

Plans to abridge attack

Answering questions under cross-examination, the Army Colonel said Yusuf, his father-in-law, Baa Fugu and an alleged financier of the group, Buji Foi, were caught while they were perfecting plans to abridge the attack date to July 26, 2009.

He said: “My lord, as at that time, Yusuf had over 4,000 men in his command. I went to arrest him in company of eight other soldiers and our sole mission was to capture him alive, which we did.

“These 4,000 men were the ones disturbing the peace of Borno State and beyond. At that time, uprising was brewing in the state and from intelligence gathered, there was fear that it was going to be a serious one.

“The sect was not only planning to attack the state but had also imported all sorts of ammunition including AK-47 riffles and anti-tank weapons. They were to launch the attack earlier than the planned date, July 26, 2009, beginning from the border regions.

“However, there was no war or total breakdown of law and order in the state, it was a mere crisis that later turned out to be an uprising against the government over some policies the sect considered hostile.”

We arrested him thrice and brought to Abuja

Stressing that Yusuf was apprehended while he was planning an operation, Ahanotu, told the court that his team had on three previous occasions arrested and brought the deceased to Abuja, saying he was subsequently freed by the government on those occasions.

He said: “Though there was no total break down of law and order in Maiduguri in 2009, however, we swept into action when it became evident that the Police alone could not contain the crisis. Following the arrest of Yusuf and his top followers, attacks on government buildings, prisons and police posts subsided considering that the group were in disarray at that time.”

Those on trial

Meantime, those on trial are CSP J. B. Abang, ACP Akeera, CSP Mohammed Ahmadu, ACP Mada Buba and Sergeant Adamu Gado.

They are answering to a two-count criminal charge bothering on acts of terrorism and murder, an offence under section 315 of the Criminal Code.

Trial Justice Donatus Okorowo has adjourned further hearing on the case against them till today.

It would be recalled that Yusuf, his father-in-law, Baa Fugu and an alleged financier of the group, Buji Foi, were on July 30, 2009, murdered inside a police station in Maiduguri, shortly after they were captured alive and handed over to the police by a team of military personnel drafted into the state to quell a crisis that bedevilled the town two years ago.

Though the police authorities had in a bid to exculpate itself from blame, claimed that they died after an intense gun battle with officers on duty, however, video clips that later emerged, showed that they were executed in cold blood.

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