An Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal has convicted six Nigerians over alleged funding of Boko Haram.
Daily Trust reported that two of the convicts, Surajo Abubakar Muhammad and Saleh Yusuf Adamu were sentenced to life imprisonment while the remaining four, Ibrahim Ali Alhassan, AbdurRahman Ado Musa, Bashir Ali Yusuf and Muhammad Ibrahim Isa were handed ten-year imprisonment respectively.
The convicts were reportedly involved in different cash transfers allegedly in favour of Boko Haram to the tune of USD782, 000.00 between 2015 and 2016, even though their associates insisted that the transactions were for legitimate purposes.
Engaging in such an activity is a crime under Article 29, Clause 3 of UAE’s Federal Law No 7 of 2017 with regards to anti-terrorism law. It was further gathered that arrest warrants from the office of the National Security Bureau were issued against the accused after investigations “confirmed their involvement and membership of the Boko Haram” terror group in Nigeria, and transferring money for that group.
They were apprehended between April 16 and 17, 2017, and their homes searched according to the search warrant issued by the National Security Prosecution office dated April 16, 2017.
While the first and second accused were said to have been charged for joining the Boko Haram group in Nigeria knowingly, which is a crime punishable under Article 22/2 of the Federal Law No 7 of 2017 with regards to anti-terrorism punishable by death or life imprisonment, the third, fourth, fifth and sixth accused were charged with assisting the terror group knowingly, which is a crime under Article 31, Clause 1 of the same law, and is punishable by life imprisonment or jail for not less than five years under the UAE law.
The publication reported that almost all the transactions that landed the six Nigerians now in jail in the UAE were initiated by two undercover Boko Haram agents who are based in Nigeria from where they were facilitating the funding transactions.
One of them, Alhaji Sa’idu who is allegedly based in Nigeria, is said to be a senior undercover Boko Haram member responsible for facilitating the group’s access to funds from its sponsors.
Also fingered in some of the transitions is one Alhaji Ashiru, who is said to be “a Nigerian government official” and yet a senior undercover Boko Haram member who facilitated the transfer of misappropriated public funds to the group.
A source said;
“I think Alhaji Sa’idu is just Nom de guerre who used the gullibility of the victims to achieve his aim. They were into bureau de change business, receiving and sending monies on behalf of others.
“From what I understand, they have been doing the business for long and along the line, they fell into a trap. I am not siding with them or trying to indict them but generally, there is ignorance on their side.”
Families of the convicts however told Daily Trust that their relatives were most likely deceived in the course of their routine bureau de change transactions to the extent that some of the transactions they facilitated turned out to be for proceeds meant for Boko Haram activities.
Auwalu Ali Alhassan, an elder brother to two of the convicts; Ibrahim Ali and Bashir Ali said his siblings were not given a fair hearing during the trial, adding that efforts to get the Nigerian government to intervene proved abortive.
“There was no fair hearing during the court case; no witnesses and they were just convicted to ten years in prison (Ibrahim and Bashir) and those that provided them with the monies were sentenced to 25 years each. They were earlier accused of money laundering and nothing more but along the line, the charge changed to financing terrorism.
“The case was appealed and still the ruling was upheld. We reported back to foreign affairs (here in Nigeria) and they advised us to wait till after the appeal.
“This wasn’t to be. After they were taken to court they were later charged with terrorism, that those monies they collected were from people linked with a terrorist.
“Our brothers were not accused of terrorism. The ministry requested inquiries trying to use diplomatic relations to secure their release since they were not convicted of terrorism and to seek an explanation from the UAE of what really happened. It was at that point when the COVID pandemic sets in. Till date, the government of the UAE has not provided the information and court proceedings being sought by the Nigerian government.
“We have been to relevant places including the Ministry of Justice and the Diaspora Commission; they keep telling us no response (from the UAE). We even wrote an open letter to the president, which was published in some national dailies but no positive development. The boys are still being held in prison. We are seeing lack of interest from the Nigerian government to secure their release.”
When contacted, the Attorney – General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami said the Nigerian government was aware of the matter and had written the UAE seeking records of proceedings but was yet to get feedback.
Commenting on claims by families of some of the convicts that different government agencies including the ministry of justice failed to come to their aid, Malami said it was not true that the Nigerian government did not do anything on the matter.
“Nigerian government has written firstly for copies of the proceedings, which will give us the opportunity to see whether justice was done or not. And on whether they have committed the crime, we requested to know who and who are involved so that the Nigerian government will know what to do next.
“Nigerian government is working but it doesn’t have the exclusive control, it has to rely on the information provided by UAE. So, it is not in control of the speed of response or action.
“We are working on both the issues that they did not receive a fair hearing and that they were alleged to have supported Boko Haram activities.”
On alleged undercover agents who are said to be at large, Malami said;
“Since the relationship involves issues of money between Nigeria and UAE, the Nigerian government has equally instructed the existing agencies of government to embark on an investigation on that and we have gone far.
“We await further intelligence from the UAE, which has relevance to the conviction and trial in order to do what we can as a follow-up to take the next line of action.”