Former Borno Governor Denies Forming Boko Karam
ABUJA, July 13, (THEWILL) – A former Governor of Borno State Ali Modu Sheriff alleged to have helped form radical Islamic sect Boko Haram has denied the charge, saying the group was formed 3 years before he was elected governor of the state.
Sheriff of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) was governor of Borno State from 2003 to 2011.
The former governor also denied issuing an apology to the sect and being quizzed by the secret police (SSS) over the radical sect even though he admitted visiting the SSS headquarters a few days ago but failed to disclose his reason for doing so.
Answering questions from State House correspondents inside the Presidential Villa after a meeting with President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Sheriff was particular upset at a statement credited to the Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), General Jerry Useni (rtd), who yesterday accused him of propping up touts for election purposes which he said led to the formation of the Boko Haram sect, just like governors of some Niger Delta states maintained an army of touts that later became rebels and militant groups in the oil area.
Useni said he warned Sheriff about the touts a few years ago but the then governor told him they were useful during elections.
"This report is not correct; I saw it on the pages of newspapers today. But since I didn’t speak to General Useni, I gave him the benefit of doubt by not commenting on it but now that you journalists say that he came here and he told you, that story was not correct. He said that he saw people selling petrol on major streets of Maiduguri. NNPC depot in Maiduguri did not receive petrol from Kaduna refinery for over 15 years and marketers go to Kaduna and Lagos get petrol and people buy it and sell. Innocent people cannot be Boko Haram. Boko Haram and these boys selling petrol are two different things,” Sheriff told journalists.
Continuing his explanation, he said, “In any case, I did not even introduce the selling of petrol in jerry cans to Borno State it has been in existence before I came. If all the past military and civilian governors in Borno State did not ban the selling of petrol outside petroleum stations, why should I come and ban people who are legitimately earning a living. There is no responsible government in Borno State or Nigerian that will allow a young man carrying arms on the street and be allowed to sell on the street. So that report is most unfortunate and I am surprised that somebody like General Useni will be making a public statement like this because of his age. I respect him and I also believe that he should always be cautious when speaking in public otherwise, the age he has earned and the position he has earned would be in question," Sheriff stated.
When asked his mission to the Villa he simply said as a former governor he has a right to see the President to discuss important matters. Sheriff also added that the leader of the Boko Haram sect was killed in Abuja 5 years before he was elected governor.
"Boko Haram has been in existence before I became a governor. The so-called leader of Boko Haram was arrested and was executed in Abuja before I even thought of becoming the governor of Borno State. People make comments on what they don’t know and in life, you don’t speak on matters that you are not very competent. Whoever said that I am a mentor of Boko Haram is most unfortunate and it has no truth in the statement.
Commenting on his alleged apology to the terrorist group a few weeks ago, Sheriff said, "I didn’t apologize to Boko Haram. I apologized to every citizen of Borno State when I was leaving office in my May 29 speech. You can see that the Boko Haram said that they will stop what they were doing if the governors of Gombe, Bauchi and Borno apologized to them publicly. The two governors have done publicly, I only lifted from my May 29 speech on what I have done in the last eight years. I said I have served them for eight years, I must have in one way or the other offended people. I ask everybody that I have offended including Boko Haram to forgive me.
"But as we know when there is a problem, people want a solution to the problem that they found themselves in. There are many ways of solving a problem but when people are carrying bombs and guns, it is a serious problem that will need a solution. Since I left government I have not gone to Maiduguri and therefore I don’t know what they say the JTF has done. So at my level, I will never make a comment on what I do not know," the former governor said.
Speaking on Boji Foi, a former Commissioner in his cabinet, alleged to be a key financier of the sect, Sheriff said, “I want to make this very clear. Boji Foi was a politician. He was a chairman of his own local government before I became Governor. And he was out of my cabinet two years before the Boko Haram crisis and if everybody that served in my cabinet will do something and I will be responsible for it, then no nobody can govern any state in Nigeria.
"They brought his name from his local government as a nominee and we appointed him commissioner and at a stage, we found that he was not doing what we wanted and we did not reappoint him. Before the incident of Boko Haram, he was not in the government for two years. So we couldn’t have taken responsibility and most importantly, I didn’t know when Boji was arrested or when he was killed and who arrested him and who killed him," he said.