Nigeria may not win war against insurgents because of corruption, culpability in military – Experts

Following the revelation by the former General Officer Commanding (GOC) 1 Division of the Nigerian Army, Maj Gen Danjuma Ali-Keffi (rtd) that the air crash that killed former Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Ibrahim Attahiru might have been linked to terror sponsors, the Federal Government has been asked to set up a probe commission that would investigate the circumstances that led to Attahiru’s death and also ensure that those who come up with information are protect from assassination.

A security expert, Akin Adeyi, in an interview with The Point, said it was possible that the aircraft ferrying Attahiru might have been sabotaged, which caused it to crash mid-air, noting that more insights into the incident could only be supplied by Nigerians if government puts machineries in place to protect information donors from being killed by terror financiers and others who might have had a hand in the alleged killing of the former COAS.

Attahiru died on Friday, May 21, 2021 in a plane crash that occurred in northwestern Kaduna State.

The ill-fated crash involved a Nigerian Air Force plane. It occurred near the Kaduna International Airport in bad weather.

Attahiru, one of the victims, was on his way to Kaduna to attend a passing-out parade for army recruits.

The Nigerian Army had listed the officers, who died in the crash, to include Attahiru, Brig Gen. M. I. Abdulkadir, Brig. Gen. Olayinka, Brig. Gen. Kuliya, Maj. L.A. Hayat, Maj. Hamza, and Sgt. Umar.

The crew members were Flt. Lt. T.O. Asaniyi, Flt. Lt., A.A. Olufade, Sgt. Adesina, and ACM Oyedepo.

Speaking on his death close to three years after, Ali-Keffi, alleged about 10 days ago that the crash which killed Attahiru and 11 senior officers was linked to terror sponsors and therefore called on President Bola Tinubu to probe the ‘suspicious’ plane crash.

He lamented that the matter was swept under the carpet, as the full report of the crash investigation was not made known.

Ali-Keffi said Attahiru had devised the strategy to end terrorism in the North, part of which was infiltration of terror groups and the instigation of crisis among terror leaders, which culminated in the elimination of Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, by a rival terror group, Islamic State for West African Province.

Noting that some of the individuals involved in terrorism financing of Boko Haram terrorists and who were also involved in procurement and movement of arms and ammunition for Boko Haram and other criminal organisations might have links with the military, Adeyi, a former Director of the Department of State Services, said the military could not win the war against the insurgents because the Nigerian government has been lackadaisical in tackling alleged corruption and culpability in the military.

“If indeed it was assassination, I think those people that did that will not silence this one and if he has anything to say, let him quickly say it now because he doesn’t know what will happen to him again because it could become serial murder that anybody that knows about it, they want to wipe off”

“Coming to the issue of the General’s (Ali-Keffi) revelation, world over, murder issue is a recurrent thing that will continue to reoccur. You cannot investigate and conclude, saying you have safely concluded investigation into a murder case because thirty, forty, hundred years thereafter, something might come up that would be revelation and that would throw more light into the why and how that incidents came to be. I think this is one of the examples. Look at the time that we have had the issue of the unfortunate death of that General (Attahiru), see the time that it is coming up now and there would still be more revelation because we have unresolved murder, assassination and even death cases in Nigeria.

“It is coming to look like we don’t even bother to investigate deeply into any situation; we just conclude. We are people that easily conclude that “it is the Lord’s doing.” No!,” Adeyi stated while condemning the failure of the government to do a diligent investigation into alleged killings in the past.

While nursing the fear that Ali-Keffi and any other persons who come up with information on Attahiru might be killed, Adeyi called on the government to constitute a commission that would protect information providers.

He called on Ali-Keffi to come up with more facts on the death of the former COAS, saying, “If indeed it was assassination, I think those people that did that will not silence this one and if he has anything to say, let him quickly say it now because he doesn’t know what will happen to him again because it could become serial murder that anybody that knows about it, they want to wipe off. There are cases like that when we have a murder and a murder will lead to another murder and another murder will lead to another murder. The same thing with assassination and all what have you. So, if he has anything serious to say, this is the time for him to say it and purge himself of whatever he has bottled up in him. He is not doing it for any reason other than him helping the country and he is helping the security apparatus of this country.”

“You know, it was about the same time that General Attahiru died in that plane crash that same thing almost happened to a former Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, it was kind of averted. I think he (Osinbajo) just enjoyed God’s grace.

“I think the government at this point should set up a kind of commission that will protect the people and encourage them and assure them that if they reveal anything they know in the last 30 or 40 years, they will be protected. And the government itself should be plain to accept the truth or information from those people and then process its intelligence and then, let it go back for investigation. We have in this country where a Minister has been assassinated, up till this moment, we have not gotten anything. The government arrested some people and later left them off the hook.

“So, it is time for the government to go back to those issues and resolve them. We are not doing it to victimise anybody, but to deter some other people that may be contemplating these things so that we don’t hand over to a generation coming, a ring of killers, or we don’t hand over a society that when you kill, you get away with it. So, this is why the government must do this so that we can still protect those of us that are still alive. It is like killing is now becoming a norm in our society and which should not be. It is because the previous ones were not investigated, perpetrators were not brought to book, and that is why we have been having more and more. There should be justice to deter future occurrence but when there is no justice, people will continue to perpetrate it because the other person that did it, got away with it, so, why will I not get away?,” Adeyi added.

He said, “From all indications, there are financiers of terrorism. You see, world over, kidnapping, terrorism are becoming serious business, and anytime the government say they have arrested the terrorists, you will see that the suspects they will parade are low-level citizens, people that cannot boast of N1,000, N2,000 in their account and these are the same people that collect millions of naira as ransom. So, you start wondering, are they really the end-users, consumers or beneficiaries of this action, then you will see that they are not. Recently, N100 million was collected to free the Abuja girls, is it those riffraff arrested that collected the ransom? And where are they keeping the money? Is it inside the bush?”

The expert alleged that banks, telecommunications companies and bureau de change operators are involved in terrorism and that they should be probed.

“All these bureau de change, the banks are all culpable in this. There is no way they will investigate it and it will not establish that these people are culpable.

“The government itself is too lackadaisical about this whole issue. If they really want to find these kidnappers, I don’t think it should be difficult. And then, our communication companies are involved, there is no way they can say they are not involved. Then, that will bring us to the government. Why do we have the Minister of Communication that we are spending millions and billions of naira on every year and we cannot and we cannot establish these phone contacts?

“I am aware that all our conversations are with the telecoms and this can assist greatly in apprehending these terrorists. And, I am aware that, even when I was in the service, we have gadgets, equipment and devices that you can attach to this money they are paying to these terrorists, kidnappers and bandits and it will record everything they are doing there. But, where are those equipment now?,” Adeyi stated.

While blaming citizens for not putting pressure on the government to stem the tide of insecurity, he advocated for mass protests nationwide against worsening insecurity.

He said, “Society itself is guilty of this. If there is a hike in petrol price now, all of us will go to the streets, and protest against it. People protest when things don’t go the way they expect it should but how many times have you seen any Nigerian protest insecurity? We all sit back at home; it becomes the problem of the victims and not theirs. How many citizens of Israel that Hamas attacked or carted away but look at the reaction of Israel to it. Look at the thousands they have killed and destroyed because of about a hundred citizens killed.

“Our government is not under pressure because we are not putting them under pressure. We are not acting the way we are expected to act. That they have kidnapped one of us, we should be on the street. We should put the government under pressure to go and bring that person, it is then that the government will know that you don’t joke with these people.

“Look at what happened recently, a former president and vice president were seated in a place at a book launch and a former Vice President thought he was cracking a joke and said there was a time he wanted to go to a certain part of the country and the then president was telling him that he should make sure that he was not the first vice president that would be kidnapped and everybody in the hall were like laughing and clapping. Was that a joke? That was an embarrassment to us before the international community. It was so bad that the country’s president was dishing out a warning to his vice that you should be careful so that you are not kidnapped. This means they have submitted everything to the kidnappers. With the kind of security that moves with the vice president, yet, his boss was telling him to be extra careful, that was an embarrassment.”

A legal practitioner, Clement Iloh, said, “As much as I admire Ali-Keffi’s bravery in coming out now and making these startling allegations, I think he should have manned up before now.

“For crying out loud, Attahiru died in May 2021. That is almost three years now. If Ali-Keffi had knowledge of such sabotage, why did he keep quiet? Is there something he is not telling Nigerians?

“Come to think of it, when Attahiru died, a Northerner like him, (Muhammadu) Buhari, was the president. Why did Ali-Keffi have to wait for a Southern president to come onboard before blowing the whistle on the “suspicious” circumstances that led to the death of Attahiru?

“You see, one thing about Nigerians is that we can be predictable and most of the time, too, Nigerians can be cowards.

“Obviously, Ali-Keffi had kept mute while he was still in active service. He may have wanted to preserve his job. He may have even decided not to open his mouth then because there was the likelihood that he would be made the COAS and he did not want to offend the powers that be.”

However, Iloh said sabotage should not be ruled out and that Attahiru’s successor, Farouk Yahaya, should be called in for questioning.

He said terrorism financiers had links with the military but that Nigeria and the military could defeat insurgency.

“All the same, it is better late than never. Ali-Keffi has come out today, he deserves commendation. Some would have taken such information to their graves.

“Whether the aircraft was sabotaged, I will say don’t rule out anything in this country. It is possible.

“Look at what happened in Russia, where the late WAGNER chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was blown out of the sky after he led a mutiny against his boss, Vladimir Putin of Russia.

“They snuffed out Prigozhin’s life while he was thousands of miles high above the skies, halfway between Moscow and St Petersburg, his hometown. One hand grenade would have done the dirty deed.

“The consolation we have here is that Attahiru’s successor, Farouk Yahaya, is still alive. It will, therefore, take nothing away from president Tinubu if he ordered an investigation and Yahaya was invited to tell us what he knows about the unfortunate incident and the investigation that came to nothing.

“Then on the question whether those terrorism financiers have links with the military, that is like asking whether an umbilical cord has links with a baby.

“Luckily for us, many of those financiers have been exposed but it is still very possible to permanently uproot them.

“We are a country of more than 200 million people. So, yes, we can win the war against insurgency,” he concluded.

Also, the Northern Elders Forum and some civil society organisations have urged President Tinubu to investigate terrorism financing in the country.

They also called on the president to, in view of recent revelation that the plane crash that killed Attahiru was caused by sponsors of terrorism revisit the investigation.

NEF Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, highlighted the gravity of terrorism financing, describing it as the financial support that sustains terrorist organisations.

“When Attahiru died, a Northerner like him, (Muhammadu) Buhari, was the president. Why did Ali-Keffi have to wait for a Southern president to come onboard before blowing the whistle on the “suspicious” circumstances that led to the death of Attahiru”

He said, “The call by Major General Danjuma Ali-Keffi for President Tinubu to investigate terrorism financing in the country was a justified and necessary step towards unraveling the truth behind the heinous acts of terrorism in the country.

“Terrorism financing refers to the financial support provided to terrorist organisations, enabling them to carry out their nefarious activities. This support can come from various sources, including individuals, organisations, and even state actors.

“Investigating terrorism financing is crucial as it helps identify the root causes of terrorism and disrupts the flow of funds that sustain these extremist groups. By probing terrorism financing, Nigeria can effectively dismantle the networks that perpetuate violence and restore peace and security to its citizens.

“Investigating terrorism financing is crucial as it helps identify the root causes of terrorism and disrupts the flow of funds that sustain these extremist groups,” he said.

Suleiman added that if proven true that terrorism sponsors with collaborators in the military were responsible for the late COAS’ death, would expose a deeply rooted problem within the military, which is compromising its ability to effectively combat terrorism.

The NEF spokesperson further noted that the alleged involvement of terrorism sponsors within the military not only undermines national security but also erodes public trust in the Armed Forces, adding that thorough investigation was necessary to identify and hold accountable those responsible for such heinous acts.

“Given that in recent times, Nigeria has been grappling with the scourge of terrorism, which has claimed countless lives and destabilized the nation, the call by Major General Danjuma Ali-Keffi for President Tinubu to investigate terrorism financing in the country is a justified and necessary step towards unraveling the truth behind the heinous acts of terrorism.”

Likewise, CSOs including Transparency International, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, and the Transition Monitoring Group said they have begun a campaign to pressure the government to investigate terrorism financiers.

Speaking through their leader, Awwal Musa Rafsanjani, the CSOs said, “The truth is that terrorism is affecting Nigeria negatively. Previous administrations spent over $20 billion to deal with Boko Haram, but nothing tangible has been achieved.

“The former Chief of Army staff was dealing with terrorists and everyone knows about this. Even when he became the COAS, his record was good in dealing with terrorists and their sponsors. But they ganged up and killed him.”

The CSOs said, “The Accident Investigation Bureau submitted their investigation report to the former Chief of the Air Staff when the crash happened. Nigerians didn’t hear of anything tangible till this day.

“President Tinubu must investigate that incident again and the report should be made public. There is no way a whole Chief of Army Staff can be eliminated in the conspiracy of terrorism and nothing is done about it.

“Terrorism financiers must be investigated and if found guilty they must be punished.

“We are in support of Tinubu to carry out a serious security investigation concerning the death of the former Chief of Army Staff. We can’t be losing such people and no credible information is given on the causes of the death.

“Every aircraft has a black box. The black box gives details of what happens if an aircraft crashes. The black box will give details on what killed him.

“President Tinubu should ensure that the report of that incident is out and people that are found culpable should be punished,” Rafsanjani added.