Illorin — Members of the Berende family of Ile-Are in Idi-Ape, Ilorin East local government area of Kwara state have vouched for Abdullahi Mustapha Berende who was paraded last week by the State Security Service (SSS) as Nigeria's contact person for an Iranian terror group.
A newspaper (not Daily Trust) had earlier quoted some Berende family members to have disowned the suspect.
However, investigations by Daily Trust revealed two Berendes in Ilorin; one at Idi-Ape and the other at Eruda, Baboko in Ilorin West local government while the suspect belongs to the former (Idi-Ape's).
He hails from the same compound with late Governor Mohammed Lawal, ruled the state from 1999 to 2003.
Members of the Berende family of Idi-Ape where the suspect hails from said he is a member of the family, declaring that he was innocent.
The SSS last Wednesday paraded three persons allegedly connected with the terror group working on plans to assassinate former military president Ibrahim Babangida and former Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki and attack American and Israeli interests and nationals in Lagos.
Others paraded alongside Berende are Sulaiman Olayinka Saka and Saheed Aderemi Adewumi while Bunyamin Yusuf, also linked to the group, is still at large.
SSS spokesperson, Marilyn Ogar said the service had extracted information from Berende that Babangida and Dasuki were made targets because attacking them "could unsettle the West."
But members of the Berende family told Daily Trust their son, 50, was not guilty of the offence he was alleged to have committed.
According to the younger brother to the suspect, Yakubu Berende, his brother was being framed up on trumped up charges.
Yakubu, 47, said, "My brother is completely innocent. He doesn't know anything about the crime he was alleged to have committed. Truly he went to Iran to study and his certificate is with his wife. He frowns at anything relating to terrorism.
"In fact, as an Islamic scholar, he has preached several times against terrorism. We have the cassettes. He preached regularly at the old central mosque not knowing he would find himself in this mess. I have the cassettes."
On his brother's confession, the Junior Berende added, "No, he never made any confession. In fact, if you read what he said carefully he said he was a patriotic Nigerian and he would never engage in any act that would destabilise the country. He is educated both in Western and Islamic types of education. I believe the whole issue is about politics."
Those who also spoke with Daily Trust are the head of Berende family, Alhaji Amosa Ile-Are (92); Aremu Kamaldeen, the suspect's personal assistant and Mohammed Sulaiman, the chairman of Idi-Ape community association.
Alhaji Are said, "I taught Abdullahi Mustapha Berende the holy Quran when he was young. He finished Quran with me before furthering his study and since I have known him, he has always been a peaceful gentleman. I never knew him to be violent or troublesome".
The nonagenarian appealed to authorities to release their son, adding that "we are shocked by what has happened and we see it as an act of God. We are peaceful and against trouble in whatever form. We believe God will free our son."
The personal assistant who said he has been with the suspect for 17 years challenged the SSS to allow Berende address the nation if he truly made the confession.
"I can say categorically that my boss that I have been working with for the past 17 years is completely innocent. The allegation is not only unfounded but ridiculous," he said.
He said that his boss' travail is politically motivated. "I believe the political opponents are at work to persecute my boss unjustly," he said.