Nigeria: When I Was a Boko Haram Member

opinion

I am a Muslim, but I choose not to belong to any sect, not to talk of a violent cult like Boko Haram.

But on 15th April 2013, a team of policemen led by Inspector Ibrahim Agu of the Task Force On Anti Terrorism & Heinous Crimes came from Abuja to Maiduguri to unlawfully arrest me accusing me of belonging to BH. That was how easy a government security agent could conspire with whomever to make me a BH member.

Nigerians have accused security agents of framing them for pecuniary reasons. Mr. Agu, along with Inspector Sani Daura, arrested me in my office at the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria. They searched my official car and my house at Dalori Housing Estate. Nothing incriminating was found in both searches.

I was taken to the notorious SARS office in Maiduguri and shown what they claimed was a petition written against me by one Bashir Goni that I belonged to the BH. The petitioner claimed that I was his childhood friend and that I recruited over 600 people into BH and supplied them with 200 AK 47 guns.

When I requested the police to present the petitioner, Mr. Ibrahim Agu said they searched for him at his address, Shehuri North, but couldn't locate him. He lied because at that time no security personnel dare go there as it was infested with armed BH members. When I insisted the petitioner be around to defend his allegations his boys threatened to deal with me.

Could I be such a senior person in BH and be unnoticed by the DSS/police or the army in Maiduguri in 2013? In any case, between 2007 and 2013 I was not in Maiduguri as I worked in various places: Abuja, Minna and Kaduna. Please let's look at the content of the petition, its frivolities and how the police turned reasoning upside down. If I could recruit 600 people into BH, I must be a very learned ideologue and in the top leadership of the organisation. Could I be a government worker and be a member when they consider government work/school "haram"?

At the time of arrest I was a Deputy General Manager in Federal Mortgage Bank. Could I have afforded the money to buy 200 AK 47 guns for BH? Assuming each gun cost N400,000, multiply that by 200, that's a colossal N80,000,000.

I was brought to Abuja. I wasn't even allowed to carry my essential drugs and seeing my family in tears added to my dilemma. But Agu never cared seeing my wife and seven-year-old son in tears. I was lucky he didn't kill me along the way. Because many innocent people were killed by both BH and security agents in Borno. But I think that wasn't part of the brief by his sponsors. I was detained for four days by SARS in their dungeon. If it was a dream, I have since woken up coming face to face with suspected armed robbers, Boko Haram members and other high valued suspected criminals. I swear by He who created me, my first time of seeing a BH member that close was when Agu detained me among them.

The SARS detention centre was unfit for human habitation. Detainees lay on the floor. No running water in the toilets. I bought food for many of my colleagues in detention. Detainees were also responsible for their medicals. We contributed money to have a young armed robbery suspect taken to the hospital. What I did earned me the respect of the leadership in the facility whose overall leader was called IG (Inspector General named after our tormentor).

I was so impressed because even the world of the "criminals" is organized as they take turns to clean the toilets and empty urine vessels in their cells. An armed robbery suspect shot in the foot told me it was done deliberately to stop any possibility of escape.

The other amazing thing I saw in detention was the understanding between Muslim (mostly BH members) and Christian suspects. During Muslim prayers the Christians will shift to one side of the cell to allow them enough space to pray and the same gesture is done to Christians. The wives/relations of the police solely sold the food, water and other things in the facility. A visitor to the facility must buy something from them or wouldn't be allowed to see the suspect.

Inspector Agu kept me in the facility for the stated number of days agreed with the sponsors of my arrest. A senator of the Federal Republic came with two lawyers to bail me but the request was turned down. On the third day I had an asthma attack, possibly aggravated by sleeping on the floor, and they rushed me to a private clinic to see my doctor. I spent a night in the hospital and for the first time in my life, my BP rose. While on admission, two policemen were assigned to guard me. A high valued "terrorist" like me should have been hospitalized in either police or military hospital for maximum security, but Inspector Agu, for reasons best known to him, chose otherwise.

My life, fate and well-being were in the hands of Inspector Agu and ACP Umar Garba (head of the facility), the guys with guns and unlimited power.

I have never before this write-up for one day ceased thinking over why the police arrested and detained me in the first place. I get emotional whenever I thought of the ordeal the police subjected me to knowing I was innocent, yet helpless. My earlier move to seek legal redress was frustrated by relations and friends. The petitions I wrote dated 25 July 2016 and which were acknowledged received seeking for fair investigation and Justice to the Inspector General of Police, Chairman, Police Service Commission and the Human Rights Commission were all frustrated. The investigation and justice I wanted from the police authorities were to compel Inspector Agu and his boss to produce the petitioner. I also wrote about the bribery issue in my petition.

I tried to know who could be behind my ordeal. A policeman who tried to show sympathy to my ordeal said "Oga, the petition may have originated from your work place." I also recall one of them told my wife that "your husband is not BH... We know one when we see them... We are ordered to take him to Abuja". With this background, I started reflecting on what ensued between Gimba Ya'u Kumo, the former MD/CE of Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria and me.

I am not troublesome, had quarreled with no one, therefore my thought went to the person that threatened to deal with me three months earlier. Two days after my arrest, Gimba paid an official visit to the Governor of Borno State. My staff welcomed him at the airport, drove him to the government house but he never asked after me even when I was the zonal coordinator and would have been the arrow head of the entourage. May be because he knew I was in a police cell. Gimba never sympathised with me about my arrest and detention until he left the bank.

The police wrote Gimba, being the MD/CE informing the bank of my arrest but according to the police the bank refused to acknowledge I was its staff. The bank also refused to send a lawyer to bail me or advice management on the next line of action which is a tradition in the bank.

When Gimba arbitrarily relocated the zonal office from Maiduguri to his hometown, Gombe, he met stiff resistance and was compelled to reverse it. He accused me of complicity and transferred me to Maiduguri from Kaduna and told a staff "let them go and die in their Maiduguri". He transferred me three times in less than six months. The MD/CEO cared less how these movements would impact on my family. Before my arrest I was inundated with queries and audit harassment.

From my sources, I learnt his grudges against me included the petition written against him regarding the buying of the bank's industrial kitchen utensils for his hotel in Gombe, multi-billion naira corruption pertaining the Legacy Housing Estate in Abuja and billions of naira contracts by Starting Point for IT. I have no hand in the petitions. I had little or no knowledge of all these scandals since I was not even in the Head Office.

I hold Inspector Agu and ACP Garba responsible for my unlawful arrest/detention; they should have exercised caution. No intelligence report to support their recklessness nor was the petition by Bashir Goni supported by an affidavit from a competent court of law. They told the world I was a BH member, rushed me into detention and failed to prove my membership. "Go, you are free, you are not a Boko Haram", Inspector Agu told me arrogantly. No apology, no official letter to clear me of the allegations/charges. When I requested for official clearance a few months ago, Agu told me only the Inspector General of Police could do that.

Let the truth be told, seven years down the lane I still harbour anger and bitterness. At the risk of being rearrested, harassed or even killed I decided to narrate my story to put the records straight and for posterity.

I pray to Allah to bless me with the heart to forgive my tormentors, amen.

I want to once again most sincerely appreciate all those that stood behind me during my travails.

M. B. Sabo is a former staffer of FMBN

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