CBN Funds Boko Haram, Australian Hostage Negotiator Alleges
A large chunk of the finances of Boko Haram may be passing through the
Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), an Australian with close links to the
militant group has told TheCable.
Dr Stephen Davis, who was in Nigeria for four months trying to negotiate
with Boko Haram to release the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls, said Boko
Haram commanders told him a senior CBN official, who cannot be named by
TheCable for legal reasons, was fully involved in the funding of the
Davis, who spoke with TheCable on phone from Australia in his first
interview with a Nigerian journalist, said Western countries could not
trace the majority of the source of funding to Boko Haram because “it is
done through a legal channel, through the gatekeeper, the CBN, and that
makes it very easy to cover up”.
He said Boko Haram commanders told him a senior CBN official, who
currently works in the bank's currency operations division, was the one
handling the transactions.
“One of the biggest of suppliers of arms and military uniforms to the JAS
(Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad, better known as Boko Haram)
currently lives in Cairo, Egypt. He is the recipient of money sent by
political sponsors from Nigeria. The funds go through the CBN's financial
system and appear to be a legal transaction.
“Meanwhile, the CBN official who handles the funding is an uncle to three
of those arrested in connection with the Nyanya bombings. The three boys
lived with him. They were arrested by the SSS (Department of State
Security) after the bombings but they do not seem to have been
interrogated about their uncle in CBN. Or if they have given up
information about their uncle then the SSS has not moved against him.”
“Also, a senior official of CBN, who recently left the bank, was very
close to Sodiq Aminu Ogwuche, the mastermind of the Nyanya bombings who
also schooled in Sudan. Boko haram commanders said Ogwuche's wife used to
visit this top official in his office at the headquarters of the bank in
Abuja before the Nyanya bombings. They were very close,” Davis said.
The former Canon Emeritus at Coventry Cathedral, UK, said he decided to
come out to speak now because the Nigerian authorities were not acting
fast and he was heart-broken by the evils being done to the kidnapped
Chibok girls and the many other girls and boys being kidnapped.
“I have three daughters. I just cannot stand the thought of what those
girls are passing through. I have spoken to an escapee who described how
she was being raped for 40 days by militants. I can't stand it. It is
heart-breaking. Nigerian authorities must act decisively now,” he said,
revealing that he spent “days and weeks” with commanders of Boko Haram in
the north-east during his time in Nigeria.
Davis, 63, holds a PhD in political geography from the University of
Melbourne, Australia. Below are excerpts from the exclusive interview with
Below are excerpts from the exclusive interview with TheCable.
TheCable: Can you share with us your experience with Boko Haram leaders?
Davis: Let me take you back a bit. I specialise in negotiation. It may
interest you to know that I have been involved in peace negotiations in
Nigeria since 2004 when President Olusegun Obasanjo invited me to
intervene in the Niger Delta crisis. With a local Nigerian colleague, I
spoke with Asari Dokubo and took him to Obasanjo at the Presidential Villa
in Abuja. Because Asari is a Muslim, the Muslim boys in the north heard
about me and warmed up to me. I did a report in 2005 on the threat of
extremism among young northern Muslims. Obasanjo's security chiefs
dismissed the report with a wave of the hand. They said no such thing
existed. In 2007, President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, who desired to end the
militancy in the Niger Delta, invited me and made me presidential envoy. I
toured all the northern states. I went to the country's borders. I came
back with a report that there were some budding sects in the north. The
national security adviser (NSA) at the time, Gen. Sarki Mukhtar, dismissed
the report. He said they didn't exist. A succession of NSAs dismissed all
these reports and allowed the groups to flourish. By the time President
Goodluck Jonathan came to power in 2011, these groups had spread all over
the north. They had cells and commanders in 16 out of the 19 northern
states. President Jonathan called me and sought my opinion on the best way
to tackle the militancy and bring it to an end. I knew many of the
leaders. I spoke with them. They trusted me. They initially wanted to kill
me. They thought I was an American but I told them I was not. They also
thought I was British but I said I was not. I told them I was an
Australian. They relaxed. I don't know why but they became more
accommodating. They became friendly and, gradually, we built the trust.
They started feeling free with me. I don't call them Boko Haram. I call
them JAS. People call them Boko Haram. They don't call themselves Boko
TheCable: What deal were you seeking under Jonathan's mandate?
Davis: The president wanted peace. He asked me to discuss with them so
that we could arrive at the terms of peace. They came up with some terms
that were acceptable and others that were not acceptable. TheCable: What
were those terms? Davis: They wanted training for the widows of their
deceased fighters. They asked the government to give these women cottage
training. They, ironically, wanted education for the children of their
deceased members. That is why I don't call them Boko Haram (“Western
education is a taboo”). They asked that the children be sent to school.
They also wanted the government to rebuild villages that were destroyed by
the security agencies. They asked for amnesty as well.
TheCable: What terms were unacceptable?
Davis: The president said he would not grant amnesty in the sense that
they meant it. He said those who surrendered their arms would not be
prosecuted, but those who continued to commit more crimes would face the
law and would be charged with treason. They also wanted women and children
who were being held in custody to be released. Their leaders that I spoke
with were ready to accept the conditions. But the NSA then, Gen. Owoye
Azazi, went vehemently against it. He said there should be no negotiation
with terrorists. He completely turned the military against the peace deal
I was working on, even though we were very close to bringing an end to the
insurgency the same way we did it in the Niger Delta. The military then
refused to back the deal. They succeeded in convincing the president not
to accept it. I could understand where they were coming from: the security
budget was like $6 billion and any peace deal would seriously reduce their
TheCable: How did you become involved in the negotiation for the release
of the Chibok schoolgirls?
Davis: Because I had built trust among the militants, I made calls to them
when I heard about the abductions. They confirmed to me that the girls
were with them. I came to Nigeria in late April (the girls were abducted
on April 14). I told the president I would try to intervene and help get
the girls out. He said he would give me the needed support if I wanted.
However, what I discovered was that thrice we tried to get the girls
released, and thrice my efforts were sabotaged. That was when I now
realised that some politicians were also involved in the insurgency. There
were the remnants of those involved in the former peace deal as well as a
political arm and what I call the ritual arm which specialises in
butchering human beings. While I was making efforts to get the girls
released, the political backers of the group threatened that if I got 30
or 40 girls out, the militants would kidnap another 60 to replace them. I
became very frustrated. They threatened that any commander of the group
who agreed to participate in any dialogue would be slaughtered by other
commanders. The political sponsors are very powerful because they supply
the finances and the arms. Until they are cut off from the group, those
girls will not be released. We are talking about 200 Chibok schoolgirls,
but there are over 300 other girls that have been kidnapped. There are
many young men that they also kidnapped and turned them against their
families. They asked them to go and slaughter their family members and
they are doing it. Nobody is talking about those ones. They are the new
TheCable: How can we get these girls released?
Davis: The first thing is to stop the bagman who supplies weapons and
military uniforms. We know his name, location and associates. If the man
is stopped, the slaughterers, the ritual arm of the group, would be
demobilised. The girls can be released afterwards. This man controls these
ritualists. TheCable: Was there really any deal to release the girls?
Davis: Yes, there was. Some commanders of the group told me that they
would first release 100 of the girls and that would be the first step
towards dialogue. They needed a guarantee from President Jonathan that
they would not be arrested or prosecuted if they showed up for dialogue.
They agreed with me that if they did that and no one was arrested, then
they would return to the camps to release the rest of the girls.
TheCable: In all your discussions, did they name their sponsors?
Davis: They named the man who lives in Cairo. He is of the Kanuri tribe.
He passes arms, ammunition and uniforms to them. The CBN official who
handles the funding (name withheld by TheCable for legal reasons) is an
uncle to three of those arrested in connection with the Nyanya bombings.
The three boys lived with him. They were arrested by the SSS (Department
of State Security) after the bombings but they are yet to be interrogated
about their uncle. The official still works with the CBN. He is still
there. He works in currency operations. He knows how to handle the
transaction in a way that it can never be traced. Western countries are
frustrated that they cannot trace the funding. How can they when it is
passed on legally, through the gatekeeper, through the CBN? Also, a senior
official of CBN, who recently left the bank, was very close to Sodiq Aminu
Ogwuche, the mastermind of the Nyanya bombings who also schooled in Sudan.
Ogwuche's wife used to visit this official in his office at the
headquarters in Abuja before the bombings. They were very close. Don't
forget that the CBN official who handles the transactions also used to
report to his superior, the official who recently left the bank. Also,
there is a politician who was supplying operational vehicles for the
suicide bombers. He gave them Hilux vans. He is a prominent politician. If
the president goes after these guys, they will say it is political. That
is part of the problem. Everybody will say the president is going after
his political opponents, especially as there is a general election next
year. The militants also named the former governor of Borno State, Ali
Modu Sheriff. In 2003 and 2007, Sheriff was very close to them. He used
them for his elections. They worked for him. However, in 2007, the leader
of the group, Muhammed Yusuf, collected money from Sheriff in return for
support. Yusuf's mentor, Ja'afar Mahmud Adam, exposed and criticised him
for collecting money from Sheriff, and Yusuf ordered his killing in April
2007. But eventually, Yusuf and Sheriff fell out. However, it is
acknowledged that Sheriff was and is a major financier of the group. He
pays for young men to go for lesser hajj. From there they are recruited
into the group. They interact freely with the Al-Shabbab militants from
Somalia. They are trained by Al-Shabbab. Some of them go to Mali for
training. These guys are in touch with the ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq
and the Levant, which now simply calls itself Islamic State and controls
parts of Iraq). They are deadly. They share the same philosophy. The
militant commanders I spoke with also named a former army chief as one of
their sponsors. You have senior military officers who are benefiting from
the insurgency because of the security budget. It pays them to keep the
insurgency going so that they can continue to make money. I asked them
several times who the army chief was and they told me it is… (name
withheld by TheCable for legal reasons).
Courtesy: The Cable
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