By Hassan Gimba
In a move normally seen in Hollywood spy thrillers, Tukur Mamu, publisher of Kaduna-based Desert Herald and an aide to Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, a popular Islamic cleric, was arrested in September last year at the Cairo International Airport on his way to Saudi Arabia for lesser Hajj, and detained for 24 hours before he was repatriated back to Nigeria.
Perhaps Mamu’s arrest was not because of negotiations for the release of the passengers abducted during the attack on a Kaduna-bound train in March 2022. Perhaps. The Department of State Services (DSS) which describes the outcome of its investigation on him as “mind-boggling” said he “betrayed” the federal government during negotiations for the release of the abductees. The department alleged that the kidnappers did not demand ransom at first, but that Mamu “put money issue” into the negotiation.
Well, he now faces a 10-count charge bordering on terrorism financing and others before Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court in Abuja.
Mamu was accused of receiving $120,000 ransom payments from families of hostages on behalf of the Boko Haram terrorist group. The federal government said the offence contravenes section 21 (3) (a) of the Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2022.
The attorney general also alleged that Mamu, sometime in 2022 in Kaduna, received ransom payments of N500,000 on behalf of Boko Haram from families of victims of the Abuja-Kaduna train attack. Mark the words on behalf.
But just two Fridays ago or so, four girls – Bilha Musa, Faiza Ahmed, Rahma Abdullahi and Hafsa Murtala – out of the remaining 11 schoolgirls of Federal Government College, Birnin Yauri, in Kebbi State, abducted by the bandits on June 17, 2021, were released.
The bandits did not release the four girls out of magnanimity, or because they had “served their due”. No, it was because of what Tukur Mamu was arrested and arraigned in court for – negotiations and fundraising to get the abductees released.
“It took six days of negotiations in the forest before four of the girls were released to us,” Salim Kaoje told pressmen after their release. The sum of ₦80m was also said to have been given to the bandits out of the ₦105m they demanded. They held the remaining seven back until the balance was made available to them.
It is common knowledge that former head of state, Abdulsalami Abubakar; Attorney General Abubakar Malami, SAN; Senator for Kebbi Central, Senator Adamu Aleiro and others raised the sum of ₦105m demanded by the bandits for the release of the students of the Federal Government College (FGC), Birnin Yauri. The bandits even gave the condition that the money must be in the new currency.
General Abdulsalami Abubakar, Attorney General Malami, General Aminu Bande (retd), who is also the Kebbi State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate, Senator Adamu Aleiro and Malamawan Kebbi were said to have contributed millions while Col Dangiwa Umar went round the country to get the rest.
This group donated and got some from the abducted girls’ relatives and good Samaritans, including organisations, to convey such to the abductors who, in turn, released their captives. Is this not exactly what Tukur Mamu did which was termed “financing terrorism?” But, maybe, the key difference can be found in the word “betrayed”, not in the words “on behalf”.
But people like Mamu and the parents took it upon themselves to negotiate with and give bandits money sourced for the release of kidnapped victims because there is a vacuum; those whose responsibility it is to secure citizens seem overwhelmed, but when non-state actors fill that vacuum, then there is a problem.
However, more worrisome is when a retired general and one-time commander-in-chief of the Nigerian armed forces, a one-time military governor and senior officials of a serving government team up with other respected citizens to pool resources and deliver the proceeds to brigands to release their prisoners. It makes one cry for Nigeria.
That ₦1.2billion Firefighting Truck
Early this month, we were hit with the news that ten firefighting trucks had been bought by the Ministry of Aviation for our airports at the cost of ₦12billion. This translates to one truck at the cost of ₦1.2billion. The honourable minister posted on his official Twitter page: “Just commissioned 10 firefighting trucks, total cost of over 12bn Naira. More to come in due course. Safety has been Buhari’s focus in Aviation, since 2015. Hitherto FAAN had not bought new trucks in 15 years.”
The vehicles are said to be the Lion Volkan 6×6 Brand, Major Aerodrome Rescue and Fire Fighting Vehicles (MFFV), can carry 14,000 litres of water, 1,700 litres of foam, 250kg powder capacity each, and have a discharge rate of between 6,000 litres to 10,000 litres per minute.
The trucks, to be deployed to the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, and Malam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, have an acceleration rate of 0-80 km per hour in 30 seconds and possess a limitless capacity to discharge while in motion. They are also equipped with under-chassis nozzles to tackle running fuel fires.
But from the grapevine, it is said that apart from all these, the vehicles run on water and not fuel, do not use engine oil and are self-repairable. They can bring out multi hands to rescue victims, can sniff fire fifty kilometres away and can zoom off towards it even without a driver. And depending on the terrain, they can fly to the scene, and like a ship glide on water or climb mountains to reach the scene. That’s why each costs ₦1.2billion, which is even a 75 per cent discount because the contractor is held in high esteem by the fire-fighting trucks’ manufacturers.
The source swore that what he said was the truth, and looking at me straight in the eye, he said anyone who does not believe him can go to court!
Lest I Forget
Sudan has been embroiled in a war called “The Generals’ War”. The two main opposing actors are General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (a.k.a. Hemeti), leader of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), and General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan of the Sudanese Armed Forces. The conflict is threatening to snowball into a full civil war and so far, hundreds of people have been killed, as residents in the capital Khartoum grapple with blackouts and water shortages.
I am not writing about the Sudanese conflict with its attendant repercussions that may affect us as a nation, maybe in a much worse dimension than that of Libya. Even though arguably, Sudan has the largest concentration of Nigerians in the diaspora and a serious conflict may see them trying to return to their roots.
Since when Islam arrived in this part of the world, long before Nigeria was born, Muslims have gone on the annual pilgrimage to Makkah on foot. From the open fields of Sokoto down to Fika, the land of the undulating plains, pilgrims have trekked to the Holy Land to perform the Umrah. Many settled along the corridor, married, farmed, gave birth and moved on.
Some have set up villages and settlements that still exist. Many of these dot the landscape of Sudan, being strategically placed on the route. There is a village in Sudan named Fika, for instance, with the people speaking a smattering of Bole, the language of the Bolewa people.
I am also not talking about the 4,000 or so students. No. What I want to talk about is, why the disappointment in evacuating our students despite the federal government budgeting a humongous amount of money to do so. $1.2 million can buy outright more than the 40 buses said to have been hired to evacuate the students.
It will be a sad narrative if Nigerians see the government and its officials as vultures waiting for disaster to happen to make illicit gain out of it.
Hassan Gimba is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Neptune Prime