The ‘Repentant’ Boko Haram Fighters

Olusegun Adeniyi

Many Nigerians were aghast when they learned that military authorities had begun the controversial ‘Operation Safe Corridor’ initiative to ‘rehabilitate and reintegrate surrendered and repentant Boko Haram terrorist members.’  But it had the backing of President Muhammadu Buhari with Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State also fully embracing it the moment he got to office. While I understand the social problems Zulum may have been attempting to solve, I have always believed that the entire programme is wrongheaded. Any policy based on appeasing criminals at the expense of justice for their victims cannot, in my book, be justified.  

Incidentally, many stakeholders in Borno State, the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency, were also critical of the idea. For instance, the Shehu of Borno, Abubakar El-Kanemi, is on record as saying it would be difficult to cohabit with ‘repentant’ killers. “Many people were killed along with their property. And you people (government) and the media expect us to forget and forgive the repentant terrorists?” he queried. Senator Ali Ndume (currently the senate chief whip) was no less vehement in his opposition. “I am completely against the idea. You are just telling people to go and join Boko Haram and then repent…that’s a totally unacceptable way of solving problem.”   

In February 2020, Ndume publicly denounced the announcement by the military that another batch of 603 ‘repentant’ insurgents had completed their de-radicalisation programme. He alleged that most of those earlier integrated into the communities had gone back to their old ways. “Many among those released have since run away. The government should know what to do about them, but not reintroducing someone to you, who has killed your parents or your relations”, said Ndume who recounted the atrocities committed by Boko Haram in his community. “In my village, mallams that are Muslims, not ordinary Muslims but mallams, elders above 60, were taken to an abattoir and slaughtered by Boko Haram. 75 of them…Not that they even apologised to you, they apologised to the government with the thinking that government has failed and that is why they are being pampered. They are like Kharajites. They will never repent.”

That ‘prophesy’ came to pass last week Tuesday night when ‘repentant’ Boko Haram insurgents (who dressed in military uniform) invaded a police station in Maiduguri to set free eight of their colleagues who had been arrested earlier with 476 grammes of illicit substances. “Thereafter, they went and attacked Nigeria Immigration Service and NDLEA check points after the welcome to the township gate and they burnt it down,” according to the Police Public Relations Officer in Borno State, Kenneth Daso who said arrests were made. Although Daso was silent on injuries and death, there are reports of fatalities.

I have on three occasions deployed Ndume’s argument to oppose this warped idea, especially given the factor of timing and the issue of justice. You don’t pamper killers with goodies and send them back to the families of their victims in the middle of a war that has no expiry date, I warned. De-radicalisation, as I also pointed out in the past, is never an easy option, even in advanced countries that have all it takes. To effectively tackle the issue of ‘reformed terrorists’, according to Sabariah Hussin, a research analyst at the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR) in Singapore, the authorities must be well equipped to handle the various reintegration challenges. “This requires strong political will, adequate resources and the involvement of the wider community,” Hussin wrote. “An under-appreciated aspect of the reintegration process involves community engagement.” 

It is evident that in Nigeria, we do not have what is required for a proper deradicalization process, which also takes time. It’s certainly not about preaching sermons to killers. Former Agriculture Minister and then chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Chief Audu Ogbeh spoke to this same issue three years ago. “We are currently witnessing large scale surrender of large numbers of Boko Haram insurgents, among whom are bomb makers, commanders, arsonists, rapists, and child snatchers,” said Ogbeh who then asked: “Do we have good reason to cheer and hope for an end to this decade-old insanity? Is ‘I am sorry’ enough to bring relief to Nigerians and the thousands of dead and maimed?”

The unjust nature of the idea was further elaborated upon by Mr Abba Ali at one of the Internally Displaced Camps (IDPs) in Maiduguri called ‘Bakassi’ in 2020. “Imagine you had your children murdered, your wife raped and killed. The culprits are arrested, and the government tells you they are now repentant. And while you are still at an IDP camp, with your family disorganised, and you are struggling to get food to eat, the government brings the culprits, feeds, and clothes them, gives them education and money to start a business and sends them to come and be your neighbours” Ali told VANGUARD newspaper. “I learnt that many of them who pretended to surrender were not only given money and certificates after their graduation from a radicalization centre in Gombe, but they were also allowed to be reintegrated into the society to mingle with their victims. It is very shocking to me.”   

It would be shocking to every rational person. And with what happened last week, it is now obvious that the suggestion that anybody can appeal to the conscience of these criminals is ludicrous. Meanwhile, the same formula was tried with bandits in the Northwest before it exploded in the faces of everyone. “With good engagement, education and enticements like jobs and other things, they will leave this work. But we need a partner, and we need the government to understand”, Sheikh Abubakar Gumi once rhapsodized while pushing a case for negotiations with bandits. “To secure schools, why not engage the bandits? Engage them; they are not many. You can count them with your fingers. How can you guard schools? It is not possible.”

I wonder what Gumi would now say to Governor Dikko Radda of Katsina State who last week accused unnamed government officials and security personnel of aiding banditry, which he described as “a business venture for the criminals and a business venture for some people who are in government and some people who are in the security outfits and some people who are responsible for the day-to-day activities of their people.” These are weighty charges coming from a governor, but the greater concern is the extent to which the problem has grown in a state where former President Muhammadu hails from. “…in Katsina, we have more than 100 different camps that are being led by somebody. So, they have many leaders, many camps and if you’re negotiating with camps A and B and don’t negotiate with camps C and D, it will not bring any lasting peace,” said Radda. “Even if you negotiate with the leaders, the other leaders may not necessarily comply with the directives of the leader. So that is what makes the negotiation very difficult. That is why I said I would never go into negotiations with any criminal at the point of weakness.”

A combination of porous borders, weak signal and technical intelligence, lack of proper data regarding who exactly is a Nigerian and the influx of illicit drugs including Tramadol have given rise to sundry cartels of opportunistic criminals. I commend the military for their efforts and the sacrifices they make on behalf of our nation. But it was always obvious that a policy of appeasement cannot work with insurgents in the Northeast or bandits in the Northwest. As I have often argued on this page, the connecting thread for the variants of violence we are witnessing across Nigeria is the loss of what Max Weber described as “the legitimate use of physical force” to criminal cartels. And until we muster the requisite capacity and political will to effectively confront those who trouble the peace of our country, we will continue to be at their mercy. But for now, the federal government must discontinue this ill-advised policy.

CP Adeoye and Matters Arising

Following my last Thursday column, ‘The Billionaire Police Commissioner’, Mr Aderemi Adeoye responded on his Facebook page, apparently for the benefit of his Alpha Trust Investment Club members who then circulated the message. “The publication (my column) is nothing but junk journalism. I will be appearing on Arise Television by 9am tomorrow Friday 3rd May 2024 to show how unintelligent the article is and throw light on all issues surrounding renegade members antics to blackmail us,” Adeoye wrote on the platform. “If you are interested in knowing the truth in a no holds barred manner, please tune in.” 

Last Friday morning, I watched Adeoye on ARISE as he tried to justify his actions and I leave readers to their judgement of his performance. But I need to clarify a few issues concerning my column. One, did I check for the registration of Alpha Trust Investment Club at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC)? Yes, I did. The search came up with five companies with similar names: Alpha Trust Nigeria Limited; Alpha-Trust Divine Resources Limited; Alpha Trust Company Nigeria; Alpha-Mage Trust Insurance Brokers Limited and Alpha Intercity Trust Securities Limited. But Adeoye made some clarifications on ARISE. “The name of this organisation is Alpha Trust Investment Club. Our loan arm is registered as ATIC Cooperative Multipurpose Society Limited, which is registered with the Lagos State Government. We carry on investment under the business name of ATIC Ventures and Business Services and that is the name that is registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC)”, Adeoye said on ARISE. So, I concede that the business is registered, even though with a different name. But the devil, as they say, is in the details. This business (ATIC Ventures and Business Services) has only three people listed as proprietors (not investors) at the CAC: Aderemi Olufemi Adeoye, David Kaykay Egbele and Akanbi Babatunde Olanrewaju. “Principal business activity: Real estate and importation of vehicles.” That’s what is on the official record with nothing about Alpha Trust Investment Club there.

If Adeoye says this company belongs to 1400 Facebook members, I choose not to contest that. The fact that he controls a business worth N20 billion doesn’t mean he is a billionaire, Adeoye told ARISE. That is also a valid point, especially since he explained that the 11 million shares that he alluded to in his PUNCH interview do not belong to him. Incidentally, a friend forwarded this message to me last Thursday for my response: “Good afternoon, Sir. I just went through this (link to my column added). Please, if you don’t mind. Can I have a brief audience with Mr. Segun Adeniyi? I don’t mind a tripartite call. I also don’t harbour any grievance based on the content of his piece. I only want to explain a few things. My brother is definitely not a billionaire, among other things. The investment club is registered with LASG as a cooperative. It’s not a company.” I declined speaking with the said brother but appreciated his point.

On the allegations by those Adeoye considers ‘renegade members’, I have received a deluge of messages from some of them. I have also received in my mail several unsolicited documents, including from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Lagos State Ministry of Commerce and Cooperative where the business is registered. My attention has also been drawn to Section 160 of the Investment and Securities Act, 2007 on ‘Authorization of Collective Investment Scheme’ that may have been breached. I have also seen a copy of the 8 March 2024 letter to the Inspector General of Police, Mr Kayode Egbetokun, personally signed by Chief Afe Babalola, SAN, on behalf of a lady who made damaging allegations against Adeoye, ‘the Chairman’ of the investment club. Babalola ended the letter with an appeal to Egbetokun: “I passionately, but humbly, appeal that you use your good offices to investigate the matter, prosecute the perpetrator(s) for fraud and assist the said (name withheld) retrieve her trapped fund from the Scheme.” Since the issue between Adeoye and his Facebook Club members is of no interest to me, let me leave out the lurid details in the letter. Besides, it is also fair to say that I know members of the club who defend Adeoye.

One of them, a very close friend and former classmate now based in Belgium sent me a message. “I am still a member of ATIC. The N20 billion belongs to ATIC and not to Remi Adeoye personally. I don’t think he needed to mention ATIC in his disengagement speech, but ATIC is not a Ponzi Scheme,” she wrote to which I replied that it was not me that described it as such and that I never even heard about Adeoye or the scheme until I read his police pull-out speech last week. My concern, I explained to her, is whether a public official could engage in such a business. “I don’t know the rules of the police, but I know a lot of people have one business or the other on the side for their families,” she replied. I conceded this same point in my column last week: “I am not opposed to legitimate ‘side hustles’ without which it is difficult for professionals to stay afloat in Nigeria.” However, the fact that other people may be doing it does not mean that there are no ethical and legal muddle that a police officer should strenuously stay away from.

Now to the questions I posed: “How could Adeoye have been diligent in his work as a law enforcement officer if he spent considerable time chasing money from people whose backgrounds he had no idea of—including those who could be criminals? Are there no regulations within the police that frown at a serving officer establishing and running a business venture, especially of this nature? Are police officers exempted from the code of conduct for public officials in Nigeria?”

Adeoye said that what he is running on Facebook is not a business. “So, we don’t have an office, we don’t have overhead costs, we don’t have employees, we don’t pay salaries, we don’t have a generator, we don’t have official cars. The only thing we spend money on is organising our physical meetings and this is paid for by membership dues, which is N5,000 per member, per annum,” Adeoye said although he forgot to mention that the online club also has no website which we can describe as another ‘cost-cutting measure.’ But despite having no structure, Adeoye wants us to believe all the 1400 members were verified. “Usually, we demand to see a workplace identity card and we go further to verify it. We do background checks, and we insist that any member we admit must not have any criminal record. Those who have pending matters with EFCC are excluded.” I would have asked how this extensive and obviously expensive vetting process (including of those abroad) is done and who the WE are but then, what is the point?

For a venture that has no support system (no office, no staff, no website, no vehicle), it is remarkable that Adeoye could undertake all these and still be diligent at his work, especially at a period Nigeria is facing huge security challenges: “We bought hundreds of plots at N750,000 per plot in 2019 and today each plot is worth N12 million. It is determined by the market price. We subscribed for 600 plots and in Ibeju Lekki we subscribed for five plots.” And on accountability: “We are not answerable to anybody, except to our members, the BOT, and the management for our record, unless you bring a court order for us to account to you. Everything we do is published for our members to read. At the AGM, our accounts are approved.” Adeoye has struggled to wave away what he said at his pull-out parade but he was reported by several publications, all of which quoted him on the same issue of his post-retirement plan. The Daily Trust report is the most comprehensive: ‘My firm now worth N20bn, will give Dangote a run for his money —Outgoing Anambra CP – Daily Trust.’

Now to my interest on this matter. I am aware of the provisions of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 on code of conduct for public officers. Section 1 states: “A public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities.” And Section 10 states, “A public officer shall not be a member of, belong to, or take part in any society the membership of which is incompatible with the functions or dignity of his office.” These are Constitutional provisions. Even if we overlook several other things, should we not be concerned if a law enforcement official initiates a ‘Facebook business’ that would elicit being accused of unwholesome practices while still in uniform? Besides, Section 95 of Police Act, 2020 on ‘Private Business and Conflict of Interest’ states: “A police officer shall not, while in service, be directly involved in managing and running any private business or trade except farming”—the only vocation also permitted a public official by the Constitution.

Let me reiterate that I have nothing personal against Adeoye and I had no inkling of his problem with some of his Facebook ‘business partners’ until the Google search led me to the petition. It was the same search that led me to his response in PUNCH which I also quoted copiously. And in writing my column last Thursday, as I do every week, the only motivation was public interest. My main concerns stem from issues of possible conflict of interest, divided loyalty, abuse of power/office and what I consider sacred lines that should not be crossed, especially by senior law enforcement officers. For instance, all the certificates of shares issued to members that I have seen were all signed personally by Adeoye which means he was running the business while still in uniform, notwithstanding his claims to the contrary.

Adeoye has been insisting that no law stops a public servant from investing or from belonging to a cooperative. But this is only an attempt to be clever, and by half. From Adeoye’s own admission, there is a registered business venture in which, according to a CAC search, he is one of the proprietors, and the business activities of the venture are real estate and car importation. The law does not allow a public officer to be the proprietor of a business venture. There is a clear breach there, and not just of any law, but of the constitution. I hope he will also submit all the nine GTBank accounts that are used for this business to public scrutiny.

It is conceivable that some of Adeoye’s Facebook friends joined the club because it was floated by a serving senior police officer. There is a probability that Adeoye could have put official time and resources in the service of a cooperative outside the police force. There is also the possibility of a senior law enforcement official using his position to bully and hound those who disagreed with him. This whole venture has potential abuse of office and abuse of public trust written all over it. That’s the more reason a serving police officer should steer clear of such undertakings.

On Tuesday, Adeoye released an ‘ATIC UPDATE BROADCAST’ on his investment platform where he stated, “We need 10 copies of ThisDay Newspaper of Thursday, 4th May 2024 urgently. We will pay N1,000 for each copy we can get. We want to make those who published falsehood against us pay for their perfidy.” That sort of language from a retired police officer is a not-too-subtle threat but Adeoye doesn’t scare me. He then concluded his message: “I invite ATICIANS in Abuja Zone to join me at Transcorp Hilton Hotel Abuja on Saturday for a Press Conference during which we will address the blackmail against our Club and Cooperative. We will have lunch together afterwards. The bill is on me. Members who are able to make it are requested to come in their ATIC Tee Shirts as top. We will hold preliminary discussions afterwards on our direction in business.

Adeoye is now retired from the police, so he is free to pursue whatever he wants without the justified restrictions imposed by public service rules and the constitution. I am also aware that Adeoye has reported me to the THISDAY ombudsman, threatening to take legal action, which is fine by me. He doesn’t own the court, so we meet there. He said his shareholding is “just a little above half of” the 11 million ascribed to him. He also alleged that I am being sponsored by renegades and an unnamed ‘low-life criminal’, which underscores why a public official, especially a policeman, shouldn’t get into such transactions in the first place. If he admitted a ‘low-life criminal’ to the club, what does that say about his judgement and the quality of checks he claimed was done by his Facebook Club and the risk that he has exposed his office to? As said earlier, Adeoye’s active involvement in this venture while still a public servant raises serious ethical and legal issues, which still seem lost on him, possibly because he thinks he is forever untouchable and that he can bully everyone. But this is a public interest issue, and Adeoye cannot intimidate me.

While I await Adeoye’s legal challenge, the NPF will do itself a world of service to take a dispassionate and professional look at this matter with a view to erecting and strengthening guard rails and to ensure that the institution is not brought into disrepute by certain acts and businesses some of its officers and men might think are permissible. Especially if and when things go wrong, as they sometimes do when money is involved. Relevant regulatory and accountability agencies must also be interested in the ethical and legal issues thrown up by the Adeoye saga. This case should be of special interest to the Code of Conduct Bureau, the custodian of ethical conduct for public officials. It is important that boundaries set by the constitution be respected and strengthened. 

• You can follow me on my X (formerly Twitter) handle, @Olusegunverdict and on   

Related Articles