Following the revealing interview by a former intelligence agent, Commodore Kunle Olawunmi (Rtd), the sanctity of the Nigerian intelligence agencies as well as the oath of office taken by President Buhari Buhari has been put to question, writes Emameh Gabriel
There is no better time for the government to address the litany of speculations in the public space to douse down the fear and suspicious among Nigerians that there are identified and profiled Boko Haram sponsors within the government circle than now. The allegations is becoming one too many that most Nigerians think sweeping such declassified information under the carpet could amount to complicity and indictment on the part of the government.
Last week, Nigerians were stunned by a 50-minute interview on a live television show in which a former intelligence agent confidently raised the alarm that powerful forces within the government, including governors and staff in the presidency are sponsors of Boko Haram. He also alleged that there is a sinister move by certain individuals he said he would not want to name on air to Islamise Nigeria.
The interview came on the heels of the attack at the Nigerian Defense Academy (NDA), Kaduna where two officials were killed and one other kidnapped.
The Nigerian government has been battling with insurgency in some parts of the north, one last one decade, a situation that has continued to take a huge chunk of the country’s annual budget with thousands of lives already lost to the war and million others displaced.
In the revealing interview, Commodore Kunle Olawunmi, (Rtd) who some analysts said was not only audacious but was possessed by righteous anger, was emotional following the incident at the NDA, a place he said he knew the in and out of its daily activities.
Kunle Akiwunmi who is also a
Professor of Global Security Studies had in the interview alleged among others that some governors, ministers and senators are sponsors of Boko Haram and the government knows them.
He said there is delibrate security breach in all government institutions every Friday when they are opened for Jumat prayers. He said, “They come on Friday for worship. Later they become members of the mess who will later spy on the institution and plan their attack.”
Commodore Kunle Olawunmi (Rtd) who served as a naval intelligence agent also said he interrogated a retired senior officer but the said officer escaped sanctions because of his ethnicity,
also claimed that the fight against insurgency in the country has been widely politicised by people in government.
He said: “Of course the government knows sponsors of Boko Haram. In April this year, the government said they have arrested 400 BDC sponsors of Boko Haram. And Abu Dhabi also helped us arrest few Nigerians. Try them, we know them. If not that they are part of the Sharia that is going on, why can’t they bring those people out for trial?
Olawunmi recounted how every attempt to nip the dreaded Boko Haram sect was frustrated in 2012 by interested persons. “You remember this Boko Haram issues started since 2012 and I was in the military intelligence then. We arrested those people. It was my organization that actually conducted interrogation and interview. And they mentioned names. I can’t come on air and start mentioning names of people that are presently in this government that I know.
“The boys that were arrested mentioned some names. Some of them are governors, some of them are in the Senate. Some of them are in Aso Rock.”
Commodore Olawunmi also claimed that The Department of State Service (DSS) knows those involved in the dastardly act.
Asked if the Defence headquarters should share in the blame, Olawunmi explained that “the defence headquarters cannot conduct any operation that is not sanctioned by the President, no matter how little it is.”
According to him, if President Buhari is not politicising insecurity, why not tow the line of late president Umar Musa Yar’Adua, “When the Yar’adua government decided to put an end to the Niger Delta militancy in 2007, what he did was simple. He called all the security chiefs and all the intelligence chiefs and asked them to come up with a solution. Then the problem was Niger Delta and the President was Yar’adua. He was dispationate and he wanted to solve the problem.”
“Within six months, we solved the problem. I remembered I had to go to Angola to bring Henry Okah. Nobody in Nigeria knew what we did, all we know is that since we conducted that operation, Niger Delta issues has remained manageable.”
He accused Buhari’s government of lack of will to solve the insecurity problem, rather the government is escalating it because of tribal and religious sentiment, adding that buying of military hardware is not the solution to security problem that is premised not only on ideology but socio-cultural issues.
“When you have a problem at policy level, operational level, what you need to do is to identify the centre of gravity of that problem and attack it. What they are doing, is not attacking the centre of gravity of that problem on Boko Haram and insurgency. If the President is buying super tucano, he is changing service chiefs, that is not the solution. We are looking at the wrong side. It’s not kinetic, is politics. What they should look out for is the sponsors of Boko Haram and bandits.”
He wondered why suspected Boko Haram sponsors who have been profiled by DSS are still allowed to walk freely or even contest elective position or appointed into public offices.
“When I worked with the DSS in 2007, when Yar’adua approved the operational order that we did, he asked us to work together as a team, I was surprised at the tremendous amount of information available to the DSS. I was shocked. I was in Defense Intelligence. When they (DSS) were forced to bring out the files, I was shocked. They have so much information at the DSS. But you see, if a fish is going to get spoilt, it is going to start from the head.
“The DSS would not do a thing except the Commander-in- Chief body’s language shows that this is the direction I want to go. By the time in 2023 when somebody else takes over and wants to undo some of the evil you see in this country today, you would be surprised by the names the DSS will bring out.
“They have the information. The Defense Headquarters has the solution. I am not going to come here to advise them. It has to do with politics. The sponsors, people that feel that this country should be Islamised.
“The end game for them is to turn the country like a Taliban type of country. It’s a mindset and anything goes. In other words, 10 percent, 20 percent casualties is allowed in trying to Islamise this country.
“It’s not about the terrorists or bandits, it is about the sponsors. I have told you and I will repeat on this channel. The sponsors of Boko Haram and bandits are the problem and the Naval Headquarters, Army Headquarters, Defence Headquarters and Police Headquarters cannot do anything about that. Buhari has to do something about that.
“The Interpol has the list of those that are sponsoring Boko Haram. I worked with Interpol. If they don’t know, they should ask. The government of Dubai has the list of those people during the trial of those people that were caught, ” Akiwunmi noted.
He said if the government was sincere about its fight against Boko Haram, why has it not begun the trial of 400 hundred BDC operators and Boko Haram sponsors claimed to have been arrested since May this year.
“Names were mentioned. They have the list. The Government also told us that they have arrested 400 sponsors of Boko Haram. Why should a government not try those people and bring peace and harmony to this nation. On the attack on NDA, he said that there must be insider collaboration in NDA.
The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, had in March this year lamented that people were benefiting from insecurity in some parts of the north, noting that banditry was fast becoming an industry and that quite a number of people were benefitting from the ugly situation.
Lawan, who spoke after the confirmation of Nigeria’s new service chiefs, described the situation as unacceptable and asked the new military generals to stop the ugly trend before it gets out of hand.
Similarly, Pesident Goodluck Jonathan had in 2012 admitted that members of the extremist Boko Haram sect had infiltrated his government, planting its members in government agencies and security outfits.
Jonathan had made the assertion during a church service at the National Ecumenical Centre as part of the annual Armed Forces remembrance day celebrations.
During the Jonathan era, the deadly sect became Nigeria’s biggest security challenge, operating in an amorphous manner and bombing innocent Nigerians at random, even in churches and mosques.
The erstwhile President said he believed Boko Haram had sympathisers in government, national assembly and even security agencies. According to him, Boko Haram threat was becoming worse than the Nigerian civil war in which over a million people were killed.
“During the civil war, we knew and we could even predict where the enemy was coming from,” the President said. “You can even know the route they are coming from, you can even know what calibre of weapon they will use and so on.”
“Some continue to dip their hands and eat with you and you won’t even know the person who will point a gun at you or plant a bomb behind your house,” Mr Jonathan added.
A former Assistant Director with the Department of State Services, Dennis Amachree, had few days after the controversial interview said there that are unpatriotic politicians who often order the release of suspects of national crime.
He said the intelligence agencies, including the DSS cannot carry out their duty effectively as long as their independent is not guaranteed. He recounted instances where called were made from powerful forces in government to release deadly criminals.
The former DSS official spoke on the same platform and TV programme monitored by THISDAY at weekend.
According to him, “One thing I know is that the intelligence community is solid in this country but what impedes them in carrying out some of the jobs they want to do is politics, politicians because when you mix with politics security, then it becomes a big problem.
“If these agencies are independent on their own, they should be able to do a better job but when they are under the direction of leaders that are not forthcoming or who don’t think seriously about the whole country, then we have problem.”
When asked to explain how the political class interferes with the operations of intelligence agents, Amachree said, “You are a Nigerian and have you ever heard anything called ‘Orders from above’? And have you heard a situation where somebody was arrested for certain things, national crimes, security crimes and a call will come to let the person go. It has happened in the history of this country
“So, you will find out that it is not a situation where security agencies are not very free to do what they are supposed to do. But if their allegiance is to the constitution of Nigeria, you will find out that they will carry out the national interest.”
Also, a private security expert and retired major who prefers not to be mentioned told THISDAY that no amount of effort, even if the US army joined force, would end insecurity in the country as long as the government continue to shield suspected Boko Haram sponsors from prosecution.
He said this is the time to unmask unknown killers and declare them terrorists. For bandits to kidnapped people and go back to their base and be asking for ransom, it means they have been allowed some space. He was worried that it has taken too long for the country to be talking about unknown gunmen. Have people not been arrested?
He said the problem is internal and the government has its solution. “The government knows what to do. It has the solution.
He said: “Late Owoye Azazi told the Jonathan government that Book Haram was imbedded in his government and the government knew these persons and their sponsors. Was anything done? There is nothing new from what Olawunmi has said.
“It is at the feet of the government. The government should be proactive. The UAE government from Dubai submitted a list of about 400 names of sponsors of Boko Haram, has any of them been prosecuted till today?
“It shows there is a complicity somewhere. Maybe somebody in government is involved and somebody has to protect certain interests. Because if you look at it this way. Let’s take example of IPOB and what happened in the South West in recent time. Are those as deadly as what is happening in the North-west and North-east? The killing and the kidnaping. But government declared IPOB a terrorist organization. Why have they not declared Boko Haram and bandits terrorists group. So, it is selective dealings.
“The government is complicit in it. The President and his people know who and who are sponsoring these people and they are not ready to do anything. Even if you bring American military, Afghanistan will happen because it’s an internal thing known to government, he stated.
Meanwhile, a public affairs analysts and columnists, Dr. Ugo Egbujo has described Olawunmi’s claims as too lousy for a former national intelligent agent. Dr. Ugo said though he cannot contest Olawunmi’s claims, he was a bit too loud.
He said: ” Olawunmi was of the naval intelligence. I can’t contest some of his assertions . Olawunmi was a bit too loud for a former intelligence officer.
“He was too self congratulatory for a senior officer who worked in teams, who should appreciate military work as team work. He was a little self absorbed.
“Let’s say he was possessed by righteous anger. We can say he was a bit emotional following what happened at the NDA. Olawunmi demonized the current president for that reason,” said Dr. Ugo who asked: “why did he let off Jonathan”?
“There are truths in what Olawunmi said. But I disagree with some of his sweeping conclusions. I wish Olawunmi had named names, he said.
Like many Nigerians, Dr Ugo Egbujo called on the government to investigate the allegations to endear public trust and avoid division among the military ranks.
“Because Olawunmi was senior Intel officer, the FG must investigate his revelations and allow the public know the truth. It’s important because we can’t let division seep into our military.
Already the DIA has confirmed reports that it has invited Kunle Olawunmi to furnish them with details of his claims, Nigerians have challenged the Buhari-led government to rise to the occasion as part of the larger agenda on the war against insecurity, and as a responsive government, develop clear and transparent systems to investigate the allegations.
The DSS would not do a thing except the Commander-in- Chief body’s language shows that this is the direction I want to go. By the time in 2023 when somebody else takes over and wants to undo some of the evil you see in this country today, you would be surprised by the names the DSS will bring out