Nigerian Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume has been arrested in an investigation into sponsorship of the Boko Haram. The Islamic group has been targeted by the Nigerian Federal Government in recent years., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Nigeria: Alleged Boko Haram Sponsorship - Senator Ali Ndume Arrested
Bayo Oladeji, Uchenna Awom, and Chizoba Ogbeche
22 November 2011
Senator Ali Ndume has been arrested last night following allegations that he was one of the sponsors of the dreaded group popularly known as Boko Haram.
He was fingered alongside former Nigeria's ambassador to Sao Tome and Principe, the late Amb. Sa'idu Pindar by a kingpin of the sect, Ali Sanda Umar Konduga, aka, Usman Al-Zawahiri who was paraded by the State Security Service (SSS) in Abuja yesterday as being sponsors of the violent sect.
Though his arrest was not confirmed as at press time, sources said Ndume who is a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senator from Borno State and a former Minority Whip in the House of Representatives, was picked up even before the suspect was paraded and made to speak to journalists at the SSS headquarters.
LEADERSHIP put several calls through to his phone for his reaction to the allegation, but could not get the calls answered and nor did he reply the text messages sent to him.
But the suspect, who spoke through an interpreter, confessed to having been a member of the sect after graduating as a student of the late leader of Boko Haram, Muhammad Yusuf. He also admitted being the mastermind behind the threat messages to the judges of the Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Maiduguri, Borno State.
According to him, the group was totally against the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and former governor Ali Modu Sherrif, and wanted to ensure that the tribunal remove the present government in the state.
He said the sect had problems with the government which always made promises and policy statements without fulfilling them hence, their reaching out to the opposition through the late Ambassador Pindar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Konduga claimed the late Pindar had informed them that former President Olusegun Obasanjo was behind ex-governor Sherrif, and encouraged them to send the threat test messages to him and other Northern politicians including Senator Sanusi Daggash, who he claimed worked against the victory of the PDP in the state during the governorship election.
He claimed Senator Ndume had provided the numbers to which the test messages were sent but after his acceptance to be on a committee set up by the administration, the sect members began to question his loyalty and had to confront the lawmaker.
The suspect further explained that the sect had been in good terms with the former governor who appointed one of their members, Buju Foi, as commissioner for religious affairs until he was sacked and killed under questionable circumstance.
The spokesperson, who claimed he had been suspended by the sect on the suspicion that he was a government informant, disclosed that the sect had only one spokesperson before the death of their leader, pointing out that on regrouping they decided on three persons to coordinate the affairs of the sect.
On whether the sect had sympathy for the PDP, he said Boko Haram was only against the ANPP but would support any other party in Borno State because they believe the party was not capable of meeting the yearnings of the people.
Earlier, the SSS deputy director public relations, Ms. Marily Ogar, had told journalists that the suspect was arrested through a joint security operation on November 3, 2011, at Gwange area, Maiduguri.
"On November 3, 2011, about 2030 hours at Gwange area, Maiduguri, Borno State, a joint security operation led to the arrest of Ali Sanda Umar Konduga, acclaimed spokesman of the Boko Haram sect widely known in the media as Usman Al-Zawahiri.
She said: "He was a political thug operating under a group widely known as ECOMOG. His arrest further confirms the service position that some of the Boko Haram extremists have political patronage and sponsorship."
According to her, Konduga has made valuable confession including that he was recruited by a political party stalwart in Maiduguri, and following the compulsory registration of all SIM cards nationwide, he was asked to steal a SIM card which he used in sending threat text messages.
Ogar disclosed that the suspect had also confessed that: "The pseudo name, Usman Al-Zawahiri was given to him by the said politician to portray him as an extremist as well as conceal his true identity.
"That one of his benefactors promised to pay him N10 million to work for his party but by stint of fate, he died on his way to delivering the part payment. That consequent upon this, a serving member of the National Assembly took over the running of his activities."
The SSS spokesperson further disclosed that the suspect had also confessed he was behind the threat text messages sent to the judges of the Election Petitions Tribunal in Maiduguri.
She added that his objective was to ensure that the tribunal removes Governor Shettima Kassim, just as he had confessed to also being behind other threat messages sent to Governor Sule Lamido and Babangida Aliyu; Ambassador Dalhatu Tafida, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Justice Sabo Adamu.
Ogar further stated that the suspect claimed the threat messages he sent to Justice Sabo Adamu were scripted and relayed to him by the lawmaker and that the text led to the eventual relocation of the tribunal from Maiduguri to Abuja.
The suspect, she said, had also claimed that the legislator had promised to send him some telephone numbers of members of the Galtimari-led committee on security in the North-East before he was apprehended.
Similarly, the number and content of the text message sent to the attorney-general of the federation (AFG) and minister of justice, the suspect said, were also given to him by the legislator in order to compel him (AGF) to influence the judgment of the tribunal against Governor Shettima.
She said: "Analysis of Al-Zawahiri's phone has confirmed constant communication between him and the legislator," even as she reiterated the service commitment to addressing the current threats posed by the Boko Haram sect and similar groups in the country including dimensions of political patronage and sponsorship of such violent groups.
In a related development, about 13 suspects have been arrested by the Joint Task Force (JTF) over the Yobe State bombing in early November where over 65 people were killed.
The committee of Joint Security Information Managers made this known yesterday in Abuja just as it revealed that 750 illegal refineries have been destroyed by the JTF in Niger Delta Region.
The spokesman of the committee, Navy Commodore Kabiru Aliyu, who briefed journalists, disclosed that the suicide bombing that was targeted at the security personnel on November 4, 2011 was aborted as a result of tight security in Maiduguri by the JTF and other security agencies, while all the suicide bombers died in the failed attempt.
He added that, the 13 suspects arrested were currently being held in a detention facility within the country, while mopping up operation of illegally acquired arms, ammunition and improvised explosive devices is ongoing and yielding positive results.
He made it clear that the state of insecurity in Borno and Yobe States as painted by some section of the media was not the true reflection of the situation on ground, saying that normalcy had since returned to these areas and people were going about their normal businesses. He added that though there were still some reported cases of crimes, he said the issues were being addressed.
The spokesperson of the committee said that it was not true that two soldiers were killed in Maiduguri, adding that the JTF did not lose any of its soldiers in the said attack, and commended the good people of Borno State for their resilience in the face of mindless attack by terrorists and other criminal elements in the society.
He also acknowledged that there had been remarkable improvement in the passage of information by members of the public to the security agencies, stressing that they were confident that their collaborative efforts in this fight would usher in sustainable peace and security in the country.
Acknowledging the commitment of the Joint Task Force (Operation Restore Hope) in the Niger Delta, and the support of government, he said the problem of insurgency in that area had been laid to rest, adding however, that the main issue was the economic survival of the country.
Commodore Aliyu announced that in the last three months, the JTF had continued to intensify its operations against criminals who involve in operating illegal refineries, as well as crude oil thieves and petroleum pipeline vandals.
He disclosed that within a period of three months, the JTF arrested 85 suspects, three vessels, namely: MV Victor I, MV Omiesam and MV Zia, while the suspects and vessels were arrested in connection with illegal dealings in crude oil and illegally refined petroleum products of which the JTF destroyed over 750 illegal refineries.
He also announced that the suspension of operations around Imo River by a major oil producing company also drew the attention of the JTF to the area while in the ensuing operation by the JTF, over 100 barges of various sizes and quantities of stolen and illegally refined petroleum products were destroyed on the spot.
The spokesperson added that even though no arrest was made, the JTF is determined to sustain the ongoing operation until these crimes are drastically reduced, if not totally eliminated.
On the Plateau situation, Commodore Aliyu noted that for the past few months, the security situation in lateau State has been significantly calm, as law and order are gradually returning to the state as the incidence of wanton destruction of lives and properties has been brought under firm control by the Special Task Force on ground.
Nigerian Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume.
He added that to further consolidate on its overall mission of bringing about peace and security in the state, the Special Task Force, under the supervision of the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin has within the period organized several peace meetings with various community leaders and heads.
Also, the special task force presence on the streets has remained conspicuous as it has maintained active patrols throughout its area of responsibility to ensure the sustenance of peace, but added that in spite of these efforts, there are still pockets of reported cases of armed robbery attacks, car snatching arrests and recovery of arms and ammunitions.
Answering questions on the presence of foreign security operatives assisting their Nigerian counterparts in the war against Boko Haram, the director of defence information, Colonel Muhammad Yerima said that the Defence Headquarters is not aware of any foreign security operatives in Nigeria.