A federal government White Paper on Boko Haram- the government’s first official report on the sect since it began a deadly uprising in 2009- has indicted “prominent” Borno state politicians as the group’s founders, with a directive they be brought to justice-a decision left unimplemented nearly two years after.
The report, published in government’s official gazette since 2011, says Boko Haram evolved from private militias run by key politicians from the northeast state, who sought to outflank opponents ahead of 2003 elections.
For several months or maybe years ahead of the polls, the groups, under titles as ECOMOG, Yan Kalare in Gombe, and Sara Suka in Bauchi, amassed huge cache of weapons made available by the political leaders in a broad effort that stretched to adjoining Yobe, Gombe and Bauchi states, the report states.
After the elections, the youth, still armed, but discarded by their sponsors-a well-known electioneering habit for most Nigerian politicians- became easy preys for a radical brand of Islam preached at the time by Mohammed Yusuf, the sect’s leader.
The findings fairly agreed with popular version of how the deadly sect, responsible for thousands of deaths, rose to a notorious prominence.
As government’s official position, delivered between August and September 2011, the investigative panel headed by Usman Galtimari, a former ambassador, proposed that security agencies be mandated to “beam their search light on some politicians who sponsored, funded and used the militia groups that later metamorphosed into Boko Haram and bring them to justice.”
The recommendation was approved by the government as stated in the White Paper exclusively obtained by reporters.
The White Paper committee was chaired by the Interior minister, Abba Moro.
“Government accepts this recommendation, and directs the National Security Adviser to coordinate the investigation of the kingpins and sponsors to unravel the individuals and groups that are involved,” the report says.
But nearly two years on, amid escalating violence waged by the sect, no political leader from the state has faced sanctions as recommended.
Despite its vague reference to “prominent politicians” as the sponsors and originators in the state as of 2003, security officials say the recommended “searchlight” stated in the White Paper, would have been on the state’s former governor, Ali Modu Sherriff, as well as state and federal lawmakers, if the government had chosen to act.
The arrest and prosecution of Mr. Sheriff, now a Senator, alleged by Borno residents and officials as the founder and sponsor of ECOMOG for his 2003 gubernatorial election, has also been a major demand of the Boko Haram in earlier statements when the group still seemed willing for an amnesty.
What would seem a partial effort at executing the decision is the court charge against Mohammed Ali Ndume, a House of Representative member in 2003 and now a senator. Mr. Ndume is accused of having operational links with members of the sect, allegedly established through telephone contacts.
Mr. Ndume, himself a member of the government committee that investigated the insurgency, has denied the charge, in a running legal battle that has already spanned more than a year.
Similar decisions adopted in the report, including a commitment to authorize military investigation into alleged atrocities committed by government troops in Borno state, have also yet to be implemented, security sources informed about the progress, say.
While the government adopted nearly all of 109 recommendations outlined in the report, it flatly rejected proposals to compensate victims of Boko Haram attacks, offering instead to “assist” them.
It also turned down a suggestion to have the sect’s detainees transferred from Abuja cells to Borno state as a prelude to possible talks in 2011. The government said while it agreed to possible dialogue with the group, its approach would be from “a position of strength” whereby security forces will continue to take charge, trying to root out elements of the sect.
How Boko Haram grew
But despite the government’s eventual decision and an apparent dismal implementation of the recommendations, the report chronicled how a little-known group, which appeared harmless at start, metamorphosed into a world class, modern day terror organization years after.
The report says if the sect’s leader, Mohammed Yusuf’s rapid momentum at first, could have been reversed early enough, Nigerian courts did not help by discharging Mr. Yusuf repeatedly on initial state charges of disrupting the peace.
Mr. Yusuf was charged more than once in Abuja, and was repeatedly he was acquitted. On each occasion, the report states, he returned to a hero’s welcome in Borno state, projecting an air of invincibility and drawing even more members who relished his legal exploits, to his fold.
“The discharge of Mohammed Yusuf on two occasions by an Abuja court made a hero out of him, as the reception accorded him upon his return to Maiduguri, attracted a mammoth crowd that temporarily undermined state authority, and served as an avenue for him to attract additional membership into the sect,” the report says.
Again, the report says, while Yusuf continued with his fundamentalist sermons that electrified his followers, the government only attempted a forcible crackdown; without seeking to comprehend, and contradict the group’s belligerent ideology.
The report briefly accused the late President Umaru Yar’Adua for failing to institute proper investigation into the extrajudicial killing of Mr. Yusuf by the police, a fatal twist, which the report acknowledges, became the turning point for increased attacks that have failed to abate since 2009.