By Fredrick Nwabufe Stephen Davis, the Australian negotiator who sparked off a controversy by naming two prominent Nigerians as sponsors of Boko Haram, has accused the State Security Service (SSS), also known as DSS, of doing the bidding of Ali Modu Sheriff, one of the alleged sponsors of the terror group.
Davis had in August named Ihejirika Azubuike, former chief of army staff, and Ali Modu Sheriff, former governor of Borno State, as sponsors of Boko Haram. Both denied the allegation.
Davis is now accusing the Nigerian secret security agency of shielding Sheriff from justice and doing his bidding.
In a statement made available to TheCable, the Australian negotiator also raised the issue of arrest of some community workers known as Shehuri North Community Development Youth Empowerment Association, in Maiduguri.
The group is accused of working for Boko Haram.
According to Davis, the Shehuri association is a small group of young men and women who provide community service for people affected by insurgency.
He alleged intimidation of Theophilus Danjuma, chairman of the Victims’ Support Fund, and deputy chairman of the fund, by the SSS with the aim of stopping them from intervening in the case of the arrested members of the Shehuri group.
He also alleged that the arrest of members of the group was on the behest of Sheriff who declared afterwards that those who framed him as a sponsor of Boko Haram had been arrested, and were undergoing interrogation.
The SSS, however, reacted to one of Davis’ claims.
Speaking with TheCable, spokesperson of the service, Marilyn Ogar, denied that the SSS was shielding the former Borno State governor, adding that he was entitled to protection just like every Nigerian.
“Is Sheriff a member of the SSS? Is he working with us? They say we are trying to shield him, how? How can somebody say we are trying to shield Sheriff? He does not work with us. He is a Nigerian, and every Nigerian comes under the protection of the SSS. We do not have exceptions. This is a democracy and it is election period so people can come up with all sort of propaganda. The SSS is a government institution owned by the people and managed by the people,” she said.
On the arrest of the community workers, she said the officer in charge of such matters would verify the claim.
Here is a full text of Davis’ statement.
The untouchable sponsors of Boko Haram: Who is the SSS protecting?
A little over one month ago I wrote about a small group of young men and women who go out into the community each week to provide food to the widows whose husbands have been killed by Boko Haram. These young people are true humanitarians. They have no government funding. They are not wealthy people. They struggle to support their own families but still they reach out to the poor, the widows, those who have lost their homes in Boko Haram slaughter of countless villages.
The Shehuri North Community Development and Youth Empowerment Association in Maiduguri has been locating girls who have escaped from Boko Haram camps, providing food, ensuring the escaped girls can get medical support and verifying their stories in order that the President’s Victim Support Fund chaired by General (ret.) Danjuma might provide ongoing support and trauma counseling.
The Shehuri group has made formal application for funding to continue the victim support work and the additional work they do in locating and verifying the identity of escaped girls for relocation and protection from the Federal Government.
Five weeks ago the State Security Services arrested some of these fine young community workers on the pretext that they are Boko Haram sympathisers.
Several weeks ago I was optimistic that General (ret.) Danjuma, as Chairman of the President’s Victim Support Fund, would find the case for acknowledging the valuable work of these community workers deserving of his support. The Shehuri North Community Development and Youth Empowerment Association had recently met with Ambassador Gana, Deputy Chairman of the Fund and written to him seeking funding for the ongoing work with escaped girls and boys. The SSS seems to also have General Danjuma and Ambassador Gana intimidated to the degree that they have remained mute on this matter.
On hearing of the arrest of members of the Shehuri North Community Development and Youth Empowerment Association I immediately sent a message to the DG-SSS. He has chosen to ignore my communications.
These young men and others whom I have known have been held by the SSS without charge for weeks. They have been denied access to legal representation. Their families are distraught. How does a wife and mother support her family when her husband is locked up by the SSS without explanation for an indeterminate period?
It is not just the Shehuri members who are being targeted by the SSS. I have known Junaidu Idris, a resident of Maiduguri, for many years. When we needed a respected and trustworthy Kanuri speaker to assist in the June 2011 peace discussions with Baa Fugu’s family we asked Junaidu and he graciously accepted at some risk to himself. Governor Shettima had then recently been elected and joined the dialogue. Junaidu was not paid for his services and saw it as his duty as a citizen of Nigeria. In May this year when we again needed a Kanuri speaker to travel with us to assist in the handover of a large group of girls in Borno State Junaidu agreed to travel with the government’s medical team. Again he did not seek any funds. The SSS has arrested Junaidu for providing such support to efforts to return kidnapped girls to their families. He too has been held without charge and without access to legal counsel. Governor Shettima who knows Junaidu well has chosen to stand in the shadows and ignore the arrest of these innocent people in Maiduguri. Maybe he too feels intimidated by the SSS.
The Director General of the SSS has chosen to ignore the total innocence of these young men. Rather, we now hear former Borno Governor Sheriff announcing on air that those who allegedly “framed” him have been arrested and are undergoing interrogation. So now we see that the SSS is doing Sheriff’s bidding. The SSS has arrested people who have been supporting girls who have been kidnapped, raped and abused but managed to escape from Boko Haram camps and is interrogating these young men in order to intimidate the general population and ensure Sheriff is free to continue his sponsorship of Boko Haram.
The SSS has not touched Sheriff. The EFCC has not touched Sheriff. The Cameroon Government arrested Sheriff in 2012 on matters related to Boko Haram but political muscle saw him released. The Nigerian public cannot be blamed for concluding Sheriff is above the law and more powerful than any agency of political office in Nigeria.
The arrest of ordinary, law abiding citizens who have been trying to help the victims of Boko Haram should make every law abiding citizen disgusted.
Is there still a Constitution in Nigeria to protect these people?
Has the SSS become a law unto itself? To whom is it accountable?
When will these innocent people be freed?
Dr Stephen Davis