A Federal Court of Appeal in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), has convicted six Nigerians for funding the Book Haram terrorist group.
Preliminary investigations revealed that the convicts, whose identities were given as Surajo Abubakar Muhammad, Saleh Yusuf Adamu, Ibrahim Ali Alhassan, AbdurRahman Ado Musa, Bashir Ali Yusuf and Muhammad Ibrahim Isa, had between 2015 and 2016, made different cash transfers of USD782, 000.00, in favour of Boko Haram.
It was gathered that the accused persons were apprehended on April 16 and 17, 2017, after warrants of arrest were issued from the office of the National Security Bureau, following evidences indicting them to be members and sponsors of the terror group.
Muhammad and Adamu were charged for joining Boko Haram in Nigeria knowingly, 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 other accused persons were charged with assisting the terror group knowingly, a crime under Article 31, Clause 1 of the same law, and punishable by life imprisonment or jail for not less than five years under the UAE law.
In the judgement which was reportedly delivered in 2019, Muhammad and Adamu were sentenced to life imprisonment, while the others bagged ten years imprisonment each.
It was also alleged that the transactions that indicted the accused persons were initiated by two undercover Boko Haram agents, Alhaji Sa’idu and Alhaji Ashiru, both based in Nigeria, but organise the funding from their base.
Alhaji Ashiru is a top government official in Nigeria, while also actively acting as a senior undercover Boko Haram member, who facilitates the transfer of misappropriated public funds to the group.
Reacting to the judgement, family members of the convicts maintained their relatives were framed, as they were legitimate bureau de change operators in the UAE before their arrest.
Making a case for his siblings, Auwalu Ali Alhassan, an elder brother to two of the convicts, Ibrahim Ali and Bashir Ali, stated that they were not given a fair hearing during the trial.
While also insisting his brother were not associated with Boko Haram, he said his brothers started money exchange business in Kano and later moved to Dubai where they were eventually arrested.
He said the move by his brothers was a family decision taken to expand their business, as Ibrahim had shortly after relocating with his family to Dubai, started buying things for other businessmen based at the Kantin Kwari Market, Kofar Wambai and others.
According to him, Ibrahim had a residence permit and had even set up a company called Kofar Ruwa General Enterprises that was duly registered in Dubai, but said on his arrest, his properties and businesses were confiscated by authorities.
Narrating the pain the family experineced before knowing the whereabout of their relatives, he said it took the family three months to find out the duo had been arrested and taken to Abu Dhabi.
Alhassan further stated that attempts to get the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the UAE Ambassador to Nigeria, to intervene in the mater proved abortive.
He said: “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.”
Also, the families of the six Nigerians are alleging that their relative may have been deceived during some of their their transactions as bureau de change operators, transferring monies to the said accounts owned by Boko Haram.
The Attorney – General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who spoke on the development, said that Nigerian government was aware of the matter and had written the UAE seeking records of proceedings but was yet to get feedback.
Malami stated that it was not true that the Nigerian government did not do anything on the matter.
He said: “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.“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.
Recall that the funding of Boko Haram has remained a major source of concern to the Nigerian government and security agencies battling the unending crisis caused by the sect. – Agency report.