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Terrorism investigation: All motion, no movement

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The claim by the Federal Government that it is doing much to investigate, find, and ostensibly prosecute financiers of  Boko Haram terrorists (and hopefully similar groups) rings hollow in the face of the daily reality that confronts  Nigerians. If indeed such effort is being exerted, it appears so far as motion without movement. Not only are terrorists on the rampage every single day, they are getting so brazen as indicated by their activities in the country’s capital of Abuja, and even threats to kidnap occupants of high offices in the land.

The first point to make is that this is at least, the third time that its high officials would assert government effort to bring such persons to book. And as Nigerians wait to hear who, where and how of terror financing, the story, sooner than later, fizzles out.

Director of Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, NFIU, Mr. Mohammed Jiya, speaking recently at the Compliance Summit organised by the Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) reportedly said that intelligence gathering on terrorism financing has been expanded to include 11 neighbouring countries with the assurance that ‘‘this new synergy is good for both experience sharing and operational success of security agencies.”  He is not the first to say the right things on this rather troublous matter.

In late September 2021, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF), Abubakar Malami told the Press in faraway New York ‘‘we have succeeded in identifying those that are responsible for funding terrorists and…have also blocked the leakages associated with funding and then embarking on aggressive investigation that is indeed impacting positively in term of the fight against terrorism.’’ Not only these, he maintained that  government has ‘‘indeed obtained a legitimate court order taking into consideration what we have presented before the court; the court eventually exercised its discretion in terms of granting orders that we can have them in custody.’’

Furthermore, Malami asserted  that ‘‘one thing I can say for sure is, arising from such arrests, the terrorist funding and financing has indeed been crippled substantially and that eventually translated to some major improvements being recorded as far as crippling the strength of terrorists is concerned within the nation.’’

In February this year, Minister of Information Lai Mohammed said at a press conference that in the 2020-2021 period, ‘‘analysis by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), in 2020-2021, revealed 96 financiers of terrorism in Nigeria, 424 associates/supporters of the financiers, involvement of about 123 companies and 33 bureau de change, in addition to identifying 26 suspected bandits/kidnappers and 7 co-conspirators.’’

These are, on the face of it, worthy results that should be reasonably expected to translate without much ado, to every suspect having his day in court. Not so.  So far, government officials make claims that seem all sound and fury, lacking substance of names, faces, addresses or other specific and independently verifiable information. Meanwhile, Nigerian and even foreign publics willing and eager to know and assist government efforts, as well as ostracize and treat such persons with condign opprobrium are kept in suspense. Citizens have a right to know what their elected government is doing. It is a right, not a privilege.

There is something called ‘‘name and shame’’ which means simply, naming anti-social elements in order to attract upon then the deserved public shame.  It is strange indeed just why the government continues to offer all sorts of obfuscating excuses (they do not deserve to be termed reasons) to hide the conflict entrepreneurs and the merchants of death funding terrorism.

Malami said then: ‘‘Investigation is ongoing, is advancing and for the purpose of investigation, I wouldn’t like to be pre-emptive in terms of making disclosures that would have the effect of undermining the successes we are recording as far as investigation is concerned.’’ He added that ‘‘pending the conclusion of investigation, which investigation in essence is indeed deeply taking place and we are making a lot of successes and recording a lot of progress in the direction of investigation.’’ His spokesperson reportedly even insisted that the identities of alleged financiers will only be revealed in court. Pray, when will ‘investigation’ lead to concrete arraignment and diligent prosecution, when?

Nigerians are beginning to not take government official narratives seriously.  It is a pity – and it is dangerous – that the citizens are disdainful of the official account from constituted authority, their government. How many times will this government say it has uncovered those behind insecurity?  The Vice Chairman (North) of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Joseph John Hayab, said in understandable exasperation, ‘‘how many times will this government say it has uncovered those behind insecurity?… they are using the issue of uncovering the sponsors of insecurity to prolong the suffering Nigerians are going through. If you have discovered those causing harm in Nigeria, present them before the court and let them be prosecuted and dealt with according to the law of the land.’’

He added, ‘‘Nigerians are tired of blackmailing people into succumbing to failure.’’ Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) spokesman, Emmanuel Yawe said ‘‘if the government has discovered those who have caused the country pains, deaths, agony and the destabilisation of the economy, why are they still hiding them?…adding we are surprised that government is always saying that it has discovered the sponsors of insecurity in the country. Why don’t they prosecute them? Why are they protecting criminals?”

On his part, the National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Alex Ogbonnia said, with an apparent hint of irritation: ‘‘we have heard this uncovering for a long time and the more we uncover, the more severe their attacks on Nigerians. We are tired of hearing this uncover. We want results.’’ Former National Chairman of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie was even more scathing in his comment: ‘‘Nigerians, including myself, are not impressed in such regular grandstanding and what I will call public show that is never backed by any concrete action.’’ He concluded: ‘‘I would rather advise government to stop insulting and assaulting the sensibility of Nigerians. If they have nothing better to say, it is more honourable to keep quiet. Nobody is applauding them for this kind of disclosure that has no substance.’’

It bears repeating: Nigerians have a right to know what their government is doing to protect them as specifically required in the constitution. Therefore, this government of the All Progressives Congress party must live up to the constitutional demands of its office.  The point must also not be lost that when this party was campaigning to be elected into office, it promised the people to ‘‘establish a well-trained, adequately  equipped  and goals-driven Serious  Crime  Squad to combat terrorism, kidnapping, armed robbery, militants, ethno-religious and communal clashes nationwide’’ and to begin widespread consultations to amend the constitution to enable states and local governments to employ state  and community police to address the peculiar needs of each community. One year to the end of two terms, these are promises yet to be kept. This is a pity.

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