Mailafiya’s allegation

Former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) deputy governor, Obadiah Mailafiya’s allegation that a serving state governor in the North has links with the terror group Boko Haram has sent shock waves throughout the country. He first made the charge as guest on the “Morning Crossfire” programme of Nigeria Info 95.1 FM, Abuja, on Aug. 10. He repeated it after he was taken in and interrogated by the Department of State Security Services Wednesday in Jos, the Plateau State capital.

The former CBN deputy governor had said on the radio programme that Boko Haram insurgents had used the coronavirus lockdown period to move heavy weapons across the length and breadth of the country. He claimed that he had spoken with “two repentant terrorists” who identified the northern state governor. “We have met with some of their high commanders, they have sat down with us not once, not twice,” he had said.

“They told us that one of the northern governors is the commander of Boko Haram in Nigeria. Boko Haram and the bandits are one and the same. During this lockdown, their planes were moving up and down as if there was no lockdown.” Mailafiya also stated that the Boko Haram terrorists were already in the southern part of Nigeria, only waiting for orders to strike.

On Wednesday, the DSS in Jo’s “invited” Mailafiya for questioning. They released him the same day, after several hours of grilling. When he came out, he spoke with journalists. He told them that he would not keep silent in the face of the nation’s “current security challenges”, even if the consequence was death. On his claim, Mailafiya said, “If I retract anything, I won’t be able to leave this place. I am a man of peace, I am not a man of violence. I must never give up on Nigeria; if need be, I will die for Nigeria.”

Allegations of some state governors supporting and financing the Boko Haram insurrection in the northeast had been made in the past, but were rightly ignored because they were unsubstantiated. But Mailafiya’s claim this time is too grave to be dismissed with a wave of the hand. A former central bank deputy governor and someone who contested the Presidency in the 2019 election, he is certainly an influential voice in the whole country.

It is for that reason that we, at Peoples Daily, support the Northern Governors Forum’s call for an enquiry into Mailafiya’s claim. A statement by the NGF Chairman and Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, said: “The Forum is concerned about the weighty allegation made by Dr. Mailafiya which must be thoroughly investigated.“ It said “The Forum has been working with the federal government, security agencies, community, civil society, traditional and religious leaders as well as development partners to defeat terrorism, banditry and other forms of criminality in the region.

“We, as northern governors, have met severally to discuss insecurity in the northern region and the nation at large where we did not only condemn the activities of terrorist groups such as Boko Haram, bandits, armed robbers, kidnappers and other criminals, but also engaged the president and all heads of security agencies in finding solutions to the problem. To now say that one of our members is leading Boko Haram in Nigeria is a serious allegation that cannot be swept under the carpet. We demand an immediate and thorough investigation.” The forum also urged Mailafiya “and indeed all citizens with useful information on the activities of criminals and terrorist groups to assist security agencies and governments at all levels with such intelligence for proper action.”

However, it did express its reservations over the claim, wondering whether “such allegations are not smear campaigns or attempts to discourage the northern governors who are putting in their best to bring an end to insecurity in the region”. Lalong said the forum did not, and would not support the activities of any criminal group “because as governors and their families, they are also not spared as was recently witnessed when the convoy of Governor Babagana Zullum of Borno State was attacked.”

Mailafiya should take up the challenge if, indeed, he meant well for this country. It seems not too right of him to have gone public with his claim without first contacting the security forces or the governors’ forum with proof. It is difficult to not accept, tentatively, the NGF’s claim that it is all a smear campaign. Nonetheless, because of the weight of the charge, it is okay to recommend that security agencies investigate the claim. The governors should find out who the governor mentioned in Mailafiya’s allegation is and interrogate him. Or won’t they probe one of their own?

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