BY JAMES OBUTE
Senator Ali Mohammed Ndume, 55, Chairmen, Senate Committee on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and representative of Borno South Senatorial District, was arrested by operatives of State Security Service (DSS) over alleged sponsorship of the dreaded Boko Haram Sect on November 21, 2011 and was arraigned in the court on December 12, 2011 on four counts of having links with Boko Haram.
Since the arrest of Senator Ali Ndume, and the commencement of his trials several controversial issues have emerged. These issues which had raised a lot of questions, however, beg for answers.
Former House of Representatives Minority Leader (2007 – 2011), Senator Mohammed Aliyu Ndume, was born of a Christian mother, Magdalene and Muslim father Ndume on November 20, 1959. While he was with his mother he remained a Christian until he was in form 1 in secondary school when he joined his father. He had three sisters and one brother which include Diana, Martha, Naomi and Daniel.
Ndume’s alleged connection to Boko Haram was made following the Nigerian State Security Service’s interrogation of a suspected Boko Haram member and spokesman, Aliyu Umaru Sanda Konduga. Aliyu Konduga (terrorist/criminal) was charged to magistrate court, convicted and sentenced to three years imprisonment. However, the alleged friend of the terrorist/criminal, Ndume was charged to Federal High Court, Abuja and if convicted will serve seven years in prison.
Recently, unexpected happened as Senator Ndume alleged that his phone number seized by SSS and kept in the court custody as exhibit was used to call his current phone number by a man who addressed himself as George.
At a hearing of his case in Abuja, Ndume told a Federal High Court that his telephone which had been confiscated and in possession of the court was being used to call his new phone numbers. His lawyer, Mr. Rickey Tarfa (SAN), told Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the strange development.
Responding, the trial judge expressed shock and said: “I don’t know much about technology. How can a phone that is switched off be able to receive and make calls? I think you should go to MTN for clarification and also confer with the prosecution witness to know what to do.”Really, it is strange to me that a phone line that is not active can be used to make calls,” he said.
However, Senator Ndume said he was compelled to seek clarification from MTN communications.
In a letter to MTN, dated 13th June, 2014, with the title “COMPLAINTS ABOUT CALLS FROM MY MTN NUMBERS” Ndume said he had already complained to the service provider that he had been receiving strange calls from his previous number 08035998045 which is in the custody of the Federal High Court where he is currently standing trial for allegedly sponsoring Boko Haram activities.
Parts of the letter to MTN which was tendered to the court as exhibit read: “I wish to register my complaint about strange calls I received from my previous MTN Number 080-35998045
“I got calls from my former number 080-35998045 which supposed to be in the custody of Federal High Court Abuja at 9:58am which went off after few seconds.
I then got called again by 080-35998045 at 10:07am and when I asked who was speaking, the caller said he is George. He asked me whether I got his text message and I said No. Then the line went off again. When I tried to call back – I got the voice message that ‘the number you are trying to call is not available at the moment please try again later.’
“I immediately called MTN Customer Care Center using 180 and I was connected to one Juwairah Muktar after lodging my compliant she asked me to hold on, so that she could talk to her team leader Sybil Uwakwe. She subsequently got back to me and advised that I should report the case to the nearest police station. I accordingly reported the case to Apo Police Station where I was made to write a formal complaint,” the letter said.
“Find attached copies of the said formal complaint and Police Extract in respect of same,” he said.
Ndume’s letter to MTN and Police Extract were tendered in the court as exhibits.
The letter further said “In view of this and the fact that I am currently standing trial at the Federal High Court in connection with the use of my phone and the seriousness of the case, I wish to request for the following information:
- My call data record for 13th June, 2014
- Identification of the caller and the location where the call originated; and
- The IMEI no of the phone used.”
MTN Nig Comm. Ltd responded to the letter and provided the calls log. The calls log, showed that the strange calls emanated from Abuja.
Challenge of Senator Ali Ndume prior to his arrest by SSS and subsequent arraignment in court for trial.
Membership of Ambassador Gaji Galtimari led presidential committee
Senator Ndume was appointed as a member of Presidential Committee established by President Goodluck Jonathan to consider the way of ending Boko Haram crisis in the North. This committee constituted in August 2011 was headed by Ambassador Gaji Galtimari. Other members of the committee include FCT Minister, Senator Mohammed Bala, former Minister of Defence, Bello Haliru, Minister of Labour Emeka Nwogu, among others.
The committee among other things recommended dialogue with the sect members; youth empowerment; the issue of Almajiri should be addressed; implement previous similar reports set up by the government; those involved in the extra judicial killing should be prosecuted etc. It was not certain whether any of the recommendations of the committee has been implemented apart from the building of Almajiri schools.
However, Senator Mohammed Ndume in the court maintained that his links with Boko Haram members was an effort that was geared toward resolving the security challenges which threaten the peace and unity of the nation. According to Ndume, he only made contact with the group while serving as the member of the presidential committee set up to help quell the hostilities in the North East.
”It was the committee that mandated me to contact the Sect. Before then I had no contact whatsoever with anybody in the Sect. I got the contact through BBC correspondent who they usually talk to.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole, the Trial Judge at the Federal High Court earlier admitted the CDs, calls log tendered at the court as evidence against the accused person, Ndume. The counsel to Ndume had argued that the evidence provided by the prosecutor were shredded with controversies. One of such instances he cited was the IMEI of phone being confiscated and used as exhibit against his client, Ndume. He maintained that the IMEI of the phone used as evidence is completely different from the IMEI of Ndume. He also maintained that CDs are not admissible as evidence as they are subject to manipulation. Though Kolawole admitted the evidence despite the argument of Counsel to Ndume, the case was appealed at Appeal Court in Abuja and the superior court quashed the evidence. The judgment of the Court of Appeal set aside the admission, by the trial court, of some evidence, including compact discs (CDs) and calls log, earlier tendered by the prosecutor.
Fallout with Ali Modu Sherif, strong man of Borno State politics
Prior to the 2011 general election, Senator Ali Ndume had fallen out with former Governor Ali Modu Sheriff, the strong man of Borno State politics who was never tried by Federal Government despite several allegations linking him with Boko Haram Sect as its major sponsor.
Ndume’s desire then to contest for Senate under the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) the party that merged with other three other parties to form All Progressive Congress (APC) angered Sherif who was then the governor of the state.
Considering the firm decision of Sherif that ANPP’s ticket for Borno South Senatorial District election should not be given to Ndume, the latter defected to PDP, a party that did not have serious structure on the ground in the state then. Though Ndume was then a member of House of Representatives, his defection to the PDP was seen as a major challenge to ANPP because of his popularity. He was considered one of the most dynamic of the lawmakers from the North East Geo-political zone.
Following Ndume’s defection, the PDP re-opened the sale of nomination forms. Alhaji Sanda Garba who had been the only aspirant for the Borno South Senatorial Seat stepped down for Ndume as PDP candidate. In the election in April 2011, Ndume won 146,403 votes ahead of Dr. Asab Vilita Bashir of the ANPP with 133,734 votes and Alhaji Umaru Ibrahim of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) with 20,414 votes.
Apart from winning election in his senatorial district, fortunately, through his influence, Sherif who was then a sitting governor was defeated in his Borno Central Senatorial District by Ahmed Zannah, a businessman who contested the election under the platform of PDP.
Ali Sherif a friend of power that be in Aso Rock was displeased and allegedly plotted how to deal with his political foes. The rest is now left for others to decide.
In 2011, a serving Senator, Ali Ndume was arrested and being prosecuted by Federal Government few months after the general election for alleged link to Boko Haram Sect. Ndume was being prosecuted even as the investigation on how he allegedly got involved was going on.
However, Ali Modu Sherif, a politician who is without any political position is merely being investigated without prosecution after a weighty allegations that he sponsored the dreaded Boko Haram Sect.
Apart from various reports linking Sherif with Boko Haram Sect as its major sponsor, Stephen Davis, an Australian hostage negotiator who spent some time in Nigeria trying to secure the release of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram militants in Chibok, Borno State said former Governor Modu Sherriff of Borno State and a former Chief of Army Staff, General Azubuike Ihejirika (rtd.), were among the top sponsors of the Islamist insurgents who have massacred thousands of Nigerians and foreigners and made the northeast part of Nigeria a highly militarized zone.
Boko Haram Sect’s activities no doubt had made several children to become orphans. The sect had also wiped out some families, destroyed places of worships, burnt government buildings and carried out all sorts of atrocities. It is therefore the view of this writer that the fight against terrorism should be holistic at all level of government. The Holy Scripture said a wicked man shall not go unpunished. The federal government should not make anyone a sacred cow in the fight against terrorism. Allowing sacred cow in the fight against insurgency and terrorism and thereby making group of persons or an individual scapegoat for selfish political interest will only place the nation on timed-bomb.