Emerging report indicates that 6 Nigerians have been convicted by an Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal, in the United Arab Emirates, UAE, over the funding of Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria.
2 of the Convicts, Surajo Abubakar Muhammad and Saleh Yusuf Adamu, were sentenced to life in prison, while the remaining 4, Ibrahim Ali Alhassan, AbdurRahman Ado Musa, Bashir Ali Yusuf, and Muhammad Ibrahim Isa, were sentenced to 10 years in prison each.
The Convicts, according to a court judgement, were tried and convicted in 2019.
The court judgement also showed that between 2015 and 2016, the Convicts were involved in different cash transfers in favour of Boko Haram, to the tune of $782,000.00.
Recall, that for the past 11 years, the issue of Boko Haram funding has remained mysterious, with different theories advanced by prominent personalities and groups.
This is probably the first time that specific individuals have been identified albeit outside the shores of Nigeria, as sponsors of the deadly terrorists group.
Families of the Convicts however, stated that they were “framed up”, considering that they had been doing legitimate Bureau de Change business in the UAE, before their arrests.
The conviction of the 6 men was said to have been upheld by the Appellate Court in the UAE, after they lost an appeal earlier filed at a Lower Court.
According to the judgment, all the accused persons were charged with funding Boko Haram, by facilitating transfers of money from Dubai to Nigeria, for terror operations.
Engaging in such an activity is a crime under Article 29, Clause 3 of UAE’s Federal Law No 7 of 2017, with regards to anti-terrorism law.
Court documents indicated that arrest warrants from the Office of the National Security Bureau, were issued against the Convicts after investigations “confirmed their involvement and membership of the Boko Haram” terror group in Nigeria, and transferring money for the group.
They were said to have been apprehended between April 16 and 17, 2017, and their homes searched, according to the search warrants issued by the National Security Prosecution Office, dated April 16, 2017.
Thereafter, interrogation files were prepared for each of them.
The first and second accused persons were said to have been charged for joining the Boko Haram group in Nigeria, knowingly, which is a crime punishable under Article 22/2 of the Federal Law No 7 of 2017, with regards to anti-terrorism, punishable by death or life imprisonment.
The third, fourth, fifth, and sixth accused persons, were charged with assisting the terror group knowingly, which is a crime under Article 31, Clause 1 of the same law, and is punishable by life imprisonment or jail, for not less than five years, under the UAE law.
It was gathered that almost all the transactions that landed the 6 Nigerians now in jail in the UAE, were initiated by 2 undercover Boko Haram Agents, who are based in Nigeria, from where they were facilitating the funding transactions.
One of them, Alhaji Sa’idu, who is allegedly based in Nigeria, is said to be a senior undercover Boko Haram member, responsible for facilitating the group’s access to funds from its Sponsors.
Also fingered in some of the transitions, is one Alhaji Ashiru, who is said to be “a Nigerian government Official”, and yet a senior undercover Boko Haram member, who facilitated the transfer of misappropriated public funds to the group.
Families of those affected, revealed that their relatives were most likely deceived in the course of their routine Bureau de Change transactions, to the extent that some of the transactions they facilitated turned out to be for proceeds meant for Boko Haram activities.
It was gathered that one of the Boko Haram Couriers, Alhaji Sa’idu, would arrange an unidentified or vaguely identified Arab person on a visit to Dubai from Turkey, to hand over an amount of money in US Dollars to one of the convicts, who would in turn, advise his Nigerian-based Business Partners to hand over the Naira equivalent of the amount to him (Alhaji Sa’idu).
A source familiar with the case said: “I think Alhaji Sa’idu is just Nom de guerre who used the gullibility of the victims to achieve his aim. They were into Bureau de change business, receiving and sending monies on behalf of others.
“From what I understand, they have been doing the business for long and along the line, they fell into a trap. I am not siding with them or trying to indict them but generally, there is ignorance on their side.”
Auwalu Ali Alhassan, an elder brother to two of the Convicts; Ibrahim Ali and Bashir Ali, said that his siblings were not given a fair hearing during the trial, adding that, efforts to get the Nigerian Government to intervene, proved abortive.
His words: “There was no fair hearing during the court case; no witnesses and they were just convicted to ten years in prison (Ibrahim and Bashir) and those that provided them with the monies were sentenced to 25 years each. They were earlier accused of money laundering and nothing more but along the line, the charge changed to financing terrorism.”
On how they responded to the alleged funding of terrorism by their brothers, Alhassan said: “The case was appealed, and still the ruling was upheld. We reported back to Foreign Affairs (here in Nigeria), and they advised us to wait till after the appeal.”
He stated that, following his brothers’ arrest, he went to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and reported to the then Minister of State, Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim, and also spoke with the UAE Ambassador to Nigeria, and it was agreed that they would be released and send out of the UAE.
“This was not to be. After they were taken to court they were later charged with terrorism, that those monies they collected were from people linked with a terrorist.
“Our brothers were not accused of terrorism. The ministry requested inquiries trying to use diplomatic relations to secure their release since they were not convicted of terrorism and to seek an explanation from the UAE of what really happened. It was at that point when the COVID pandemic sets in. Till date, the government of the UAE has not provided the information and court proceedings being sought by the Nigerian government.
“We have been to relevant places including the Ministry of Justice and the Diaspora Commission; they keep telling us no response (from the UAE). We even wrote an open letter to the president, which was published in some national dailies but no positive development. The boys are still being held in prison. We are seeing lack of interest from the Nigerian government to secure their release”, he said.
Alhassan explained how his brothers started money exchange business in Kano, and later moved to Dubai, where they were eventually arrested.
“We realised that the business was booming as more people visit Dubai from Kano and other parts of the world so we decided to ask Ibrahim to move to Dubai as part of our business expansion strategies. He said on arrival, “Ibrahim started buying things for other businessmen based here at the Kantin Kwari Market, Kofar Wambai and others. Sometimes, he settled school fees of children studying abroad and also transferred monies to people to Hong Kong or China where they intended to buy commodities. This was all possible because he had a residence permit of the United Arab Emirate”, he stated.
According to him, Ibrahim later set up a company called Kofar Ruwa General Enterprises, that was duly registered in Dubai, and which enabled him to transact business and money transfers in Dubai.
“We do send gold and dollars as well for him to sell but later dollar was stopped by the government; so we sent him gold to convert to Dirham (Dubai local currency) for people and because of the status of Dubai being the hub of international business he was doing well.
“He went there in 2015 with his family and they were all having their residence permits as well. He became a trusted ally and respected by many to the point people started keeping their monies with him and it was at this point that his younger brother, Ibrahim Ali, later joined him. He too got papers and was living there peacefully”, he added.
He stated that after two years, his brothers were arrested by authorities in Dubai, in 2017, and all their belongings got confiscated.
“For three months we didn’t know their whereabouts; it was later that we got to know they were moved to Abu Dhabi. The authorities took away about 800,000 USD, equivalents to 3 million Dirham, which was peoples’ money brought for safe keep. They accused them of collecting stolen monies from people,” he said adding: “If you accuse them of wrongdoing they should be arraigned before a court but that wasn’t to be till after two years before they were charged to court.”
More news later…