Who are the brains behind Boko Haram' An Australian, Dr Stephen Davis, fingers former Chief of Army Staff Lt.-Gen Azubuike Ihejirika and former Borno State Governor Ali Modu Sheriff as the sects sponsors. The duo have since denied the allegations. The Directorate of State Security Service (DSS) has also given Gen Ihejirika a clean bill, but said it would investigate Sheriff. Lawyers believe that a judicial panel of enquiry is needed to unravel the mystery of those behind Boko Haram, PRECIOUS IGBONWELUNDU reports.It was not the first time former Borno State Governor Ali Modu Sheriff was being linked with Boko Haram. So, when Australian Stephen Davis described Sheriff as a Boko Haram sponsor, many were not surprised. But they were stunned that he also fingered former Chief of Army Staff Lt.-Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika as a sponsor of the sect.Gen. Ihejirika and Sheriff have since denied the allegations. The Directorate of Security Service (DSS) has also given Gen. Ihejirika a clean bill, but said he would investigate Sheriff. Many are surprised that the DSS had not investigated him before now. Should Gen. Ihejirikas and Sheriffs denial lay the matter to rest' Or should there be a probe of who is behind Boko Haram'While some have called for Ihejirikas and Sheriffs trial, others have argued that they should be handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity. Can they be tried on mere allegation'The DSS has exonerated Ihejirika, describing the allegation against him as wicked and uncharitable.For us to accept that he (Ihejirika) is associated with the same sect, whose activities he, together with this Service, succeeded in bringing to a halt in Kano, Okene and other places, pursuing them down to the Sambisa Forest; to accept that the same man was sponsoring Boko Haram is wicked and uncharitable. We should not allow people to use our liberal nature to perpetrate all sorts of evil in our society, said Merilyn Ogar, spokesperson for the SSS.Sheriff is threatening to go to Australia to sue Davies for defamation; Ihejirika says labelling him Boko Haram sponsor is a ploy to distract the armed forces and further disunite the country.Sheriffs defenceAddressing a press conference, Sheriff, who described himself as a victim and not a sponsor of Boko Haram, said his political enemies were launching a campaign of calumny against him, just as he denied meeting Yusuf.He said:It may interest you to know that it was the government of my predecessor in office, the late Alhaji Mala Kachallah (May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace) that introduced Sharia Law in the state in 2000 through the Borno State Sharia Administration of Justice Law 2000.As a matter of fact, late Mala Kachallah signed the bill into law at an elaborate ceremony at the Ramat Square in Maiduguri and appointed the Borno State Sharia Law Implementation Committee in February, 2001 under the chairmanship of Prof Abubakar Mustapha, the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Maiduguri.Interestingly, the late Mohammed Yusuf, leader of the Boko Haram sect, was a member of the committee among other Islamic scholars. If, indeed, there was an agreement between the sect and my predecessor on the issue of Sharia implementation, I am not aware of it, as I was neither in government then nor was I a party to it.Let me state categorically at this point that I do not share the ideology of the Boko Haram sect, which is against western education, western culture and modern science or any other sect with similar ideology.From my background, it could be easily seen that we are completely opposed to one another in terms of our viewpoints and convictions. By my nature and upbringing, I have neither associated myself with nor shared the beliefs of religious fundamentalists such as the Boko Haram sect or any other sect for that matter.While in office as governor, I did my best to curtail the activities of the sect. I have never associated myself with any terrorist in any part of the world. I have never in my life met Mohammed Yusuf, the leader of the Boko Haram sect, who died in circumstances that are being investigated.Ihejirikas positionFor Ihejirika, the allegation that he is a sponsor of Boko Haram is spurious and frivolous, just as he warned stakeholders not to be distracted by the baseless accusations aimed at diverting attention from the counter-terrorism efforts being carried out.The former army chief spoke at a gathering of the alumni of 18 Regular Course of the National Defence Academy, where he said he was not moved by the attention being given the unfounded allegation, but concerned about national security.His words: We are yet to come to terms with the motives of the terrorists and their desire to bring this nation down.I want to advise that baseless, frivolous and unfounded allegations like this have the capacity of diverting our attention away from the main problem. It is an issue that would have been dismissed within an hour in developed countries, such as America and United Kingdom.The terrorists are currently exploiting the countrys ethno-religious, socio-political and multi-cultural faultiness to advance their cause, which they have not been able to achieve through violence.I have chosen to talk at length today because we cannot allow national security to be toyed with; the need for security awareness still persists. I want to urge all Nigerians to join hands to support the president and members of the armed forces in their onerous task to rid this country of terrorism.That we are where we are today is a lesson to us. The lesson is that the terrorists are not sleeping; what they cannot achieve through bombing they want to achieve through media warfare. War is no longer fought in the traditional three dimensions of air, land and sea; we have clearly seen the fourth dimension of warfare.The army under my command in a bid to crush insurgency, recruited 9,000 soldiers in 2013 to beef up strength and effectively monitor the borders. I owe no apologies to those who feel I was high handed in the way i handled insurgency during my stay as COAS. They should know that Nigeria must exist before anyone can hold a single political office and there is no compromise in the effort to have a peaceful and united Nigeria.However, observers argued that given the seriousness of the allegation, they should not be swept under the carpet. Some suggested that an international and independent investigator be contracted to probe Davis claims; others urged the government to constitute a judicial panel of inquiry to look into the matter.Is judicial panel the way out' Lawyers were divided on constituting a judicial commission of enquiry to probe the allegations. While some supported the call and stated modalities for its establishment, others said it would amount to a waste of time and resources.Former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), said a judicial panel would be useless if evidence are is available or provided by security agencies.Indictment for offences of the nature of sponsoring insurgency is certainly not common place. Lets ask ourselves, are our agencies equipped to handle serious investigations' No! Ouragencies are bogged down with corruption and, no doubt, most inefficient. They have not been able to investigate and secure indictment for simple offences. To expect them to have any serious evidence to ground indictment of the individuals concerned is mere fantasy hence the seeming reluctance.A commission of enquiry will be of no use where the evidence needed is either not available or will not be made available by corruption laden agencies. Except we are prepared to accept foreign experts assistance to carry out thorough investigation we shall be embarking on a futile exercise if there are no confessional statements-obtained under duress or rightly as is done rarely- the only basis of most convictions secured by our agencies, he said.To George Oguntade (SAN), the call for a judicial commission of enquiry is misplaced and unnecessary because they are mere allegations by a foreigner.He said: The bare allegations of a foreign national ought notto be the basis of the setting up of a judicial commission of inquiry.The call for a judicial commission is thereforemisplaced and most unnecessary.The allegations and the consequences thereof are extremely serious,indeed. The proper step is for the appropriate apparatus of state, theSSS and the NPF to conduct a thorough investigation of the allegationand come out with their report.If it then turns out that a prima faciecase is established against the individuals accused, they will bearrested for interrogation and where found necessary, the matter shouldbe referred to the Attorney-General of the Federation who will file appropriate charges.Lagos lawyer Olukayode Enitan said: While there is need to find out the financial backers and all others surreptitiously supporting the Boko Haram terrorists, Im of the view that a judicial commission of enquiry is not the appropriate body to do the investigation, that investigation is squarely within the premise of the Department of State Security.With regards to those who have been alleged to be sponsors of the insurgents, I believe the thing to do is to look first at the person making the allegation; ask him to support the allegation with facts and supporting documents if any. Secondly, who are those alleged, what are their antecedents, no one becomes a sponsor of terrorism in one day. From their antecedents that have been properly investigated with utmost discretion, you will discover all that had predisposed them to what has been alleged against them if there is any such thing.But Felix Fagbohungbe (SAN) is supporting the constitution of a commission of enquiry on the grounds that its proceedings must be public.The allegations are grievous, serious and embarrassing to the government and people of Nigeria. If the person of a former COAS and a former governor are so alleged, it is an issue that should not be swept under the carpet.I would have considered it a political ruse if it had not come from Dr. Davies, who claimed to have been hired as a Federal Government negotiator. If the allegation is true, it means the Federal Government has been playing to the gallery that is why the war against insurgency has not been won.Having said so, it is still an allegation and should remain so until properly investigated. I support the call for thorough investigation through a judicial commission of enquiry. It should be an open investigation where the processes shall be televised.If the two are found to be so involved, they would have committed treason against Nigeria and should be adequately dealt with.When there is a problem, the crisis being sponsored inhouse is difficult to quell. The people allegedly involved are insiders, so, it must be adequately handled. I suggest that not just the two of them be investigated but all top government officials who have been fingered as collaborators.At this point, handing them over to the ICC would not yield fruitful outcome since there are no facts for prosecution. It is still and allegation that we must investigate to ascertain their culpability.If found guilty by the commission, they can be handed over to the ICC for transparent prosecution. I think what should happen now is that we give the government benefit of doubt in investigating thoroughly.Everybody including the DSS is a suspect in this matter. Their coming out to absolve the former COAS of sponsoring Boko Haram is too early. They are already putting the cat before the horse.For a pocket of insurgents to take over some towns and declare an independent state, without our military overcoming them, the problem is definitely deeper, he said.Chairman, NBA Ikeja Branch, Yinka Farounbi, said: There is no doubt that the greatest challenge facing our nation today is the insecurity of lives and properties stemming from the activities of Boko Haram. Thus, everything and I mean everything, that ought to be done must be seen done to eliminate the unpleasant and unacceptable situation we found ourselves .It is in the light of this that I will throw my weight behind the patriotic calls by genuine, well-meaning and honest Nigerians that a judicial commission of enquiry be set up to determine the authenticity or otherwise of the allegations.It is the reasonable belief of an average Nigerian that Boko Haram is getting heavy financial support for it to carry out its dastardly activities. The commission will, therefore, be able to establish whether the allegation is correct or otherwise.Supporting the constitution of an enquiry commission, immediate past NBA Ikeja Branch chairman, Monday Ubani, said such a commission should comprise retired Supreme Court justices and renowed progressive lawyersHe said allegations against everyone, not just Ihejirika and Sheriff, must be painstakingly investigated to unravel the truth to bring the mindless killings to a halt.I will prefer judicial commission of enquiry made up of retired justices of the Supreme Court and renowned and progressive legalpractitioners so that the membership ofsuch commissionwill not be cowed because of thepersonality of the accused persons.Nigerians have a right to know the veracity of the grave allegations against these two personalities by the Australian negotiator. The battle against terrorism in Nigeria can be won if and onlyif the political elites want it to be won. They brought about this insurgency and they only can abate it. There is hypocrisy in the present fight against the terrorists.There are some elites who are benefitting heavily from the insurgency while to some it is a political asset if the insurgency continues. It confers on them political advantage in terms of political sympathyif the fight, violence, killings and bloodletting persist against Nigerians.Similarly, constitutional lawyer, Ike Ofuokwu subscribed to the need for a well powered and independent commission of enquiry, constituted by men of impeccable integrity without any political affiliation to investigation the allegation and sundry issues regarding Boko Haram sponsorship.Why is the spokesperson of the DSS is so quick to dismiss the alleged involvement of Gen. Ihejirika on mere emotion and sentiment without any investigative evidence' It is a shame.It beats my imagination and only goes to show how shoddy and myopic the DSS has been operating over the years. Hence, they can no longer be trusted to investigate these very weighty allegations.Sheriffs alleged intimacy with this group from inception has been a thing of public knowledge over the years. We have just been informed that even the government of Cameroon has questioned him over this same matter in the past.If the DSS is so quick to dismiss the allegation of Dr Steven Davis against Ihejirika why then are they inviting Sheriff for a third time for questioning over an allegation by the same Davis'I, like the DSS, do not also want to believe that Ihejirika will have any romantic relationship with this monster but for Gods sake everyone seems a suspect until investigation reveals otherwise, Ofuokwu said.NBA Lagos Branch Chairman, Alex Muoka, an independent special investigator should be contracted with powers to investigate and prosecute suspects if the Australians claims are true.He said setting up a commission is a sure way of tying everything up in bureaucracy.Talk is cheap! Elsewhere in the civilised world, before the kind of allegations that Dr. Davis made are released publicly, investigations into the veracity of the claims would have been concluded. Here we are used to trial by media.Dr. Davis was working for the Presidency. It is inconceivable that he would have made such damaging discoveries (some of which he claims to have been aware of for three to four years) and our security agencies are in the dark. It does not make sense. This supports suggestions of a high-level cover-up or compromise, and lends voice to the calls for an independent investigation.I would rather suggest an independent special investigator with wide ranging powers to investigate the claims and (if found to be true) prosecute suspectsWith a commission, we are not likely to see a report until three-six months, and then a panel will have to be set up to consider and advise on implementation of the report, and thenwe will be in the middle of the 2015 elections! Muoka said.Lagos lawyer Theophilus Akanwa, said: I support the call for a judicial commission of enquiry to determine the veracity of the allegation. I also support the trial of whoever found involved in sponsorship of Boko Haram by the appropriate court. Such a commission must be made of men and women of highest integrity who will entertain no fear or favour in the course of its assignment. It does not lie in the mount of DSS to exonerate one of the parties on this allegation. The commission of enquiry or a law court should be allowed to determine this allegation.There is no one that is above the law. Thousands of innocent Nigerians and non Nigerians have been killed by this dreaded group for no just course. The battle against Boko Haram cannot be won until their sponsors are brought to book. The courage exhibited by Boko Baram to thus far sustain this heinous crime and to takeover part of our sovereign nation as witnessed in Borno State is embedded on the strength from their sponsors. Wherever and whoever their sponsors are, they should be unveiled and immediately prosecuted no matter how highly placed.A member of the Ogun State Judicial Service Commission, Abayomi Omoyinmi said it was needless setting up such a commission, since the negotiator can be used as a witness in court.He said: Once an allegation of this magnitude of crime is levied against certain persons with facts and evidence in support, such person/s should be investigated, arrested and charged under the prescribe law where a prima-facie case can be substantiated based on the evidence as provided by the witness who alleged the offence.Terms of referenceof commissionLawyers who supported the institution of the enquiry commission said its terms of reference should include establishing the existence of the Australian and acknowledgment that he made the allegation; the source of his information; the parties and status of his source of information as well as empirical evidence to back up the allegations including facts such as figures, dates and other necessary details to corroborate the evidence.They suggested that visits can be carried out by the commission to ensure authentication of their findings and reports, which must be thorough and conclusive; identify the sponsors and financiers of Boko Haram; the role of religious and political groups in the misnomer and should spearhead the immediate prosecution of any one found guilty.The terms of reference of the commission should amongst others be to identify the sponsors and financiers of Boko Haram. The role of religion and the political class (if any) in this whole evil called Boko Haram and to ensure the immediate prosecution of everyone found guilty.The battle against the insurgents can only be won with commitment, honesty and integrity of the military, political class and all Nigerians. Its a monster that if not brutally defeated by all and sundry will defeat us, Ofuokwu said.Farounbi added: I will like to suggest that the term of reference of the commission should not be limited to investigating the duo alone, but should be made to cover the entire activities of the Boko Haram sect. In this regard, the commission should look beyond those mentioned with the view of determining whether some other individuals are involved.Upon the identification of the individuals involved, the commission should be empowered to investigate their wealth, particularly the finances and the disbursements with the view of recommending the frozen of the accounts and the prosecution the backers.More importantly the government, particularly the Federal Government should stop playing politics with the security of its citizens. Nobody should be considered a sacred cow in the investigation and prosecution. Let the law take its course.]]> Click here to read full news..