Borno State-based Christian cleric and Director General, Centre for Justice on Religion and Ethnicity in Nigeria, Pastor Kallamu Musa-Dikwa, tells SIMON UTEBOR that the Federal Government is not sincere in fighting Boko Haram, and tackling other security problems in the country
What does Centre for Justice on Religion and Ethnicity in Nigeria represent?
The organisation – Centre for Justice on Religion and Ethnicity in Nigeria – stands for truth and equality. It strives to ensure that every Nigerian must be treated equally without any religious or ethnic discrimination. We thought of discrimination, particularly against Christians in northern Nigeria and we have all the necessary facts and figures.
Different reasons have been given for the creation of Boko Haram. What, in your view, do you think led to the creation of the insurgency group?
In my view, the creation of Boko Haram started in 2000. I sent some messages and statements to some people and media organisations then. When Olusegun Obasanjo became the President of Nigeria in 1999, he appointed service chiefs – all from the North Central zone – Benue, Plateau, Kogi and Kwara states. Incidentally, all of them were Christians. The development prompted three northern governors to come up with the idea of creating and raising Islamic militants to fight for Islam because they felt Obasanjo did not appoint their own (what they described as pure Hausa/Fulani northerners as service chiefs). From there, they created Islamic militants. Those governors contributed N100m each to buy working equipment, uniforms and so on for the militants. Immediately, Nigeria started experiencing religious crisis.
After they contributed the money, those organised Islamic militants started religious crisis in Kaduna, Kano, Jigawa, Zamfara, saying they wanted Sharia. The aim was to intimidate and oppress the Christians. They started attacking churches and killing people. Any time elections took place and they did not favour them, they would burn churches and attack their members. They never went to offices of political parties or the Independent National Electoral Commission office to carry out their attacks.
On February 18, 2006 in Maiduguri, those boys came out and said they wanted Sharia law and that a governor in the state then did not cooperate with them. And because of a cartoon that was designed in Denmark in 2006, they protested and burnt down 66 churches in the state and killed many Christian men, women and children. After that, they started moving from house to house, church to church, yet nobody talked – we were the only ones talking or raising the alarm about what was happening.
A former state governor had an agreement with them that he was going to support them to do everything they wanted to do. But along the line, they disagreed.
In July 2009, they prepared themselves to attack security agents and churches. That year, they burnt down 27 churches and killed many Christians. At that time, they did not touch any Muslim man or woman. They only killed security agents and Christians.
From 2009 till 2014, they were attacking churches – going from house to house, slaughtering Christians. They started attacking people, including Muslims in 2014 when they felt their leaders had deceived them by not backing them to fight ‘infidels’ in the North. Four of our reverends were slaughtered in 2009.
Do you have evidence to back up all these claims?
We have over 20 VCDs recorded by Islamic scholars and they said if a northerner did not get to power, they were going to fight Christians in Nigeria. A scholar once preached and incited Muslim youths not to be civil if the President of Nigeria was not a Muslim. We have the videos – he preached in Hausa. He alleged that all the former Muslim Heads of State that died, including Umaru Yar’Adua, were killed by the infidels and therefore, they would not allow a non-Muslim to lead Nigeria.
As somebody who is passionate about security of lives and property, have you either through your association or personally expressed your concerns about insecurity to the relevant authorities?
I submitted petitions to the late Chief of Defence Staff, Alex Badeh. He took our petition to the then President, Goodluck Jonathan. When he reached the Presidential Villa, he met a Muslim governor with Jonathan. He came back with the petition and called me to say he met a Muslim governor in Jonathan’s office and he could not deliver the document to Jonathan because Jonathan might let the governor know about it. I took all the necessary documents to late General Owoeye Azazi. Even Ayo Oritsejafor, the former President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, has the copies. I photocopied and gave these things to our people. I have sent the videos to President Muhammadu Buhari to watch them. I have also submitted it to the American Embassy and the European Union.
What is your take on the South-West security outfit, Amotekun?
The security outfit of the South-West region, Operation Amotekun, is a good one. The South-West governors have a vision and I tell people that it was God that used them to protect their own land. It is a good idea but right now, they are trying to cripple them so that they won’t actualise Amotekun. It is a good idea but my concern is that the present regime in the country can use the military and other security agencies to frustrate the Amotekun guys. South-West must be careful and take action that will block them from frustrating the outfit.
Looking at the level of insecurity and the security architecture in place, do you support states to have their police?
I support state police but my fear is that some overbearing governors can use the outfit against their opponents. If not because of that, it is good to have community and state police in every community and state.
As I am talking to you now, about six local governments in Central Borno have been taken over by insurgents. We have over 30 districts – it is Boko Haram that occupies the districts. Government brought out the villagers and put them in camp in the council headquarters as refugees. It is good for us to have community policing so that what has happened to us in Borno will not happen to any other communities again. I am in full support of community or state police.
There are several military operations across the country under different codenames. Nigerians are worried that soldiers have taken over the work of the police? Do you think the fear is genuine or that the police are ill-equipped to entrust certain security issues into their hands?
It is the plain truth that the military has already taken over the work of the police. I don’t know if the police have corrupted the military and made them to start collecting bribes on the road or the soldiers are just doing it on their own as a business. It is a terrible situation for Nigerians because the military personnel are using the law to do business. I think the police are a little bit better at fighting insurgents than the military. For example, in Baga, who are the people that are fishing? Some of the Boko Haram insurgents are the ones fishing on the river and some military officers are buying from them and taking it to Abuja.
Our security agencies have been politicised; they are just doing business. We have to rise up and do something to rescue our future and our children’s future.
What do you think about the position of the Nigerian military that Boko Haram has been technically defeated?
Travel more than five kilometres in Maiduguri, Boko Haram members will kill you. How can they say they have defeated Boko Haram? This is a total lie. They have not defeated Boko Haram. Let me share this secret: political leaders negotiated with the Boko Haram to leave local government headquarters. They brought people who had been displaced and dumped them at the local government headquarters. Boko Haram is occupying our villages, so how can they say they have defeated Boko Haram technically?
You cannot go to one local government without armed escort and even the military will not agree to follow you to some local government areas.
In your view, how can Boko Haram be defeated?
If our military and political leaders are serious about it, they can defeat Boko Haram within three months.
There has been a resurgence of Boko Haram attacks, what do you think is responsible for that?
There is a resurgence of attacks by the insurgent group because they have been empowered more than before and the government and the military know where they are. Recently, there was a corps member that refused to come out of a Boko Haram camp. The guy is from Benue State. For anyone abducted by Boko Haram, if you pay ransom and go to pick up the victim from their camp, they will kill you. It is the military and the Department of State Services that escort people to bring back those abducted by Boko Haram.
Because I am involved in Leah Sharibu’s issue (one of the schoolchildren kidnapped by Boko Haram from Dapchi, Yobe State in 2018, who is still in captivity), I asked an agent to go and secure her release. The agent came back with three or four abducted innocent people from Boko Haram. Anytime people need to rescue their loved ones, it is the security people that will go and negotiate and bring the people out. This is what is happening.
There have been reports on social media that Leah Sharibu now has a baby, do you believe it?
I don’t believe that. When I went to Maiduguri for a meeting with a NGO regarding the case of an abducted pastor of Living Faith Church, I went to the DSS Command in the state (Borno) and met with the state director of the agency. I asked about the NGO and he said he knew them and their competence and so on. He invited them to come and meet me.
We sat down in his office and discussed with them. I asked the NGO about Leah Sharibu because they had the contact. We nearly got Leah Sharibu out of the place but I didn’t have the kind of money they were asking me to pay to get proof that she was alive. They asked for N6.5m but we didn’t have any support and I didn’t have the money to give them. That was why we couldn’t get the proof. If Leah had given birth to a baby boy, Boko Haram insurgents would be the ones to announce it and not the other way round. It is not true that she has given birth.
Through which means were you negotiating for the release of Leah Sharibu?
It was through Kalphum Foundation for Peace. I engaged them to work towards the release of Leah Sharibu. I was the one who engaged them to also work towards the release of the Living Faith Church pastor, who was kidnapped.
Let me clarify one thing: Leah is not in the hands of Boko Haram. She is in the hands of the Islamic State’s West Africa Province and ISWAP has disagreements with the government. Boko Haram was created to protect the interest of the Muslims and politicians from the North but ISWAP is no longer meant for Nigerian politicians.
You said you were asked to bring N6.5m for the release of Sharibu and that you didn’t have that kind of money. Why did you not contact the CAN to assist you in raising the money?
Yes, we were asked to bring N6.5m for us to get Leah Sharibu’s release and proof of life. The meaning of proof of life is to provide an avenue (for us) to see and talk with her. She will also use the opportunity to talk to Nigerians to help her regain freedom. Government did not talk with ISWAP, they are just deceiving Nigerians.
As for CAN, let us keep the organisation aside. When I started pushing for this, CAN was the body that contacted the government and the government came and crippled everything. They collect money from the government in the name of transport fare.
Is there any hope for Sharibu’s release?
Yes, if we get the N6.5m, Nigerians will see that the story of Leah Sharibu will change totally. That is the plain truth.
The group has been reaching out and talking to ISWAP. In my presence, they (Kalphum Foundation for Peace) called one of their (ISWAP’s) representatives and they said they were talking with one of the persons working towards securing Leah’s freedom, that is, me. And they said they would like him (me) to hear what they were saying. They put the phone on speaker for me to hear. I heard all the things they said.
What do you think about the recent killing of the CAN chairman in Michika Local Government Area, Lawan Andimi, by insurgents?
They abducted Lawan Andimi in Michika. The Boko Haram boys came into Michika and collaborated with Michika boys. They created chaos. When they came into the area, they targeted him and got him. They came in a friendly fashion. They told him the area was not safe and that they wanted to help him escape. They took him in his car and that was how he was abducted.
As I speak, Boko Haram people have infiltrated the whole area, even in Abuja, building houses to do carry out surveillance for them. Today, some Egyptians and Lebanese have come into Nigeria in the name of selling electrical or kitchen items. They are in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe, Bauchi, and some parts of Abuja. They are moving around, going from house to house, office to office, selling things at cheap prices. These people can’t speak English or Hausa.
I am facing trouble already, even from some so-called Christians in the North. I have been attacked more than four times with guns but the God I am serving is a very powerful God. They have even tried to bribe me not to expose some things. I have a lot of facts. They have invited me to the DSS office. They told me the government was supposed to work with me. I said even if they give me an appointment, I won’t accept it because the lives of Nigerians are better than any position in Nigeria or the world. I will continue to fight until they stop the insecurity in the land.
What do you think about the general state of insecurity in the country, with some states like Kaduna and Niger facing the problem of banditry?
Last month, I was in Birnin Gwari. Bandits attacked Bangi people. Bandits have taken over about four villages. The attackers have occupied the villages and the villagers are in camps. In Plateau, there is a place called Mahanga. It has been taken over by Fulani herdsmen and nobody is talking.
If you watched the killing of Rev Lawan Andimi, the people were talking in their dialect – Fulani native tongue. When Fulani herdsmen want to attack villages, they shout the same way the Boko Haram insurgents shout when they want to attack. What is the difference between them? They are the same. It is just that they are changing names to suit their different purposes.
Culled from The Punch.