The announcement last Thursday by Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed at a press conference in Abuja, that, the Federal Government had identified 96 financial sponsors of terror groups like Boko Haram and Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP), came to many Nigerians as a symbol of credence to President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent promise that terrorism in Nigeria would soon be utterly destroyed.
The declaration by the Minister that the terror sponsors would soon face prosecution and stand the risk of losing their assets was an added tonic to the hopes of Nigerians that Buhari’s administration might actually be up to something positively dramatic in the protracted war with terrorists in Nigeria.
In the recent past, fillers from government circle had pointed to the fact that identities of terror financers in Nigeria have been unmasked. In November, 2020 authorities of the United Arab Emirates had arrested and prosecuted some named Nigerians residing over there but financing terrorists in Nigeria. An Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal had convicted six Nigerians over alleged funding of Boko Haram in Nigeria.
Two of the convicts Surajo Abubakar Muhammadu and Saleh Yusuf Adamu were sentenced to life imprisonment while the remaining four; Ibrahim Ali Hassan, AbdulRahman Ado Musa, Bashir Ali Yusuf and Muhammed Ibrahim Isa were sentenced to ten years imprisonment each.
At such a time, hopes were high among Nigerians that collaborators here in Nigeria were going to be unmasked too. It is therefore a cherry news that the Federal Government through the effort of security agencies and Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), many sponsors of the terror groups have finally been identified.
Now that the personalities empowering the terror elements with the leverage to commit heinous crime against the Nigerian state and humanity in general, President Muhammadu Buhari and his administration’s security stakeholders have no excuse in not doing the needful and timely too.
While appreciating the government for the diligent effort in identifying the alleged sponsors, there is big fear on the land over the possible manner of prosecution, the seriousness of it and chances of securing conviction.
The anxiety is largely hinged on hindsight of several past criminal cases where the prosecution failed to do diligent investigation and packaging the case in a manner that is devoid of technical loopholes the defense counsels could leverage upon to defeat the arguments or pleadings of the prosecution.
Nigeria is a country of dramatic summersaults once there is vested political interest in our criminal justice administration. We dare say that it is one thing for Lai Mohammed and the Federal Government to announce the identification, arrest of the alleged sponsors and intention to prosecute them but another thing entirely to practically arraign them in court and diligently prosecute them in record time without bringing some mundane considerations like ethnic group, religion, social status and other elements to taint the judicial process.
Their trial should be in open court with the media given full access for coverage of proceedings on the days of sitting. Since the Buhari administration has barely a year to leave office, the judicial process must run on speedy but steady lane for early conclusion of the trials.
The defense lawyers must not be allowed to drag the court into unnecessary long adjournment or flimsy legal arguments that could create deadlock or cause delay in the entire process.
This is a litmus test for Buhari and he must not fail it, otherwise Nigerians who hitherto, the recent announcement of the identification of the terror financiers had believed that some of the administration’s officials were aiding and abetting the terrorists, would have a field day jubilating that they have been vindicated.
Now is the time for President Buhari to walk his talk and prove his critics wrong.