Thursday, 28 August 2014

How Nigeria Politicians Fund Boko Haram Exposed by Australian Negotiator

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boko haram kingpin

According to ThisDayLive, a Perth-based international adviser, Dr. Stephen Davis, who survived months of extreme danger to try to rescue more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by terrorist group Boko Haram, has alleged that one of the primary sources of funding for the terror group is Nigerian politicians.

THISDAY had exclusively reported that one of the key federal government negotiators trying to secure the release of the Chibok girls from the clutches of Boko Haram was Davis.

Davis has worked in Nigeria in the past with the Archbishop of Canterbury and Head of the Church of England, Justin Welby, to negotiate the release of kidnapped oil industry workers in the Niger Delta.

Speaking yesterday in an interview on ABC News, an Australian television station, Davis, 63, said he had realised the only way to stop the kidnappings was to stop the sponsors of Boko Haram.

While Al Qaeda was involved in training Boko Haram recruits, Davis said one of their major sources of funding - aside from raiding banks - was Nigerian politicians.

“That makes it easier in some ways as they can be arrested, but of course the onus of proof is high and many are in opposition, so if the president (Goodluck Jonathan) moves against them, he would be accused of trying to rig the elections due early next year,” he said.

“So I think this will run through to the election unabated. These politicians think that if they win power they can turn these terrorists off, but this has mutated.

“It’s no longer a case of Muslims purifying by killing off Christians. They are just killing indiscriminately, beheading, disembowelling people - men, women and children and whole villages.

“I would say it's almost beyond the control of the political sponsors now. Terror groups are linking up in Somalia, southern Sudan, Egypt and we have fairly strong evidence they are talking with ISIS members.

“They will link up with ISIS and Al Shabaab and I think that what we are seeing in that region is the new homeland of radical Islam in the world,” he told his interviewer.

Davis, who returned to Australia after a four-month sojourn with rare footage of the intense fighting in Nigeria's North-east, as Boko Haram stepped up efforts to establish an Islamic state, said he established extensive contacts with tribes and terrorist groups in Africa, including three small cells of Al Qaeda, while working as a troubleshooter for oil and gas company Shell in the Niger Delta.

When news broke in April about the girls’ kidnapping from a school in the village of Chibok, near the Cameroun border, Davis, who had recently moved to Perth from London, decided he could not sit on his hands.

During the journey in North-eastern Nigeria, his life was threatened more than once, but his Australian passport saved him.

“When confronted by groups with an AK-47 in my face they'd say, ‘you are American, we have to kill you’,” Davis said.

“When you say, no I’m not American, they think you are British, and say you will still die, but when I said I’m Australian, they said that’s all right. I have no idea why but it’s certainly been helpful.”

The devout Christian managed to smuggle out of the country footage of a handful of schoolgirls who escaped from Boko Haram.

They detail the atrocities they endured, including being raped almost on a daily basis.

Following media reports that nobody knew where the girls were, he decided to reach out to his contacts.

“I made a few phone calls to the Boko Haram commanders and they confirmed they were in possession of the girls,” he said.

“They told me they’d be prepared to release some as a goodwill gesture towards a peace deal with the government, so I went to Nigeria on the basis of being able to secure their release.”

Arriving in Nigeria, Davis quickly set up talks with commanders and he believed he had brokered a deal.

Fearing being arrested, the Boko Haram commanders - holding the girls across the border in Cameroun - had a list of conditions.

They wanted the military to stand down and promised to drop the girls in a village before phoning to give their exact location.

Davis said they lived up to their promise, but in a region ravaged by war and corruption, the rescue was sabotaged.

“The girls were there, 60 girls, there were 20 vehicles with the girls,” he said.

“We travelled for four-and-a-half hours to reach them, but 15 minutes before we arrived they were kidnapped again by another group who wanted to cash in on a reward.

“The police had offered a reward of several million naira just 24 hours before we went to pick them up.

“I understand, from the Boko Haram commanders I spoke to, the girls eventually ended up back with them.

“I don't know what happened to the group that took them but I suspect it wasn't good,” he disclosed.

Davis said a young man kidnapped by Boko Haram and used as a driver later helped a handful of girls to escape.

One kidnapped girl, who managed to avoid having her mobile phone confiscated by turning it off and hiding it in her bra, managed to call her family while hiding in bushes, but had no idea where she was or which direction she should be heading.

After being told to walk west by following the sunset each evening, the four girls managed to cross the border from Cameroun and into Nigeria before being reunited with their families.

So far they are the only girls to have escaped from a Boko Haram camp.

When Davis later tried to contact, via text, the young man who helped them, he received a sobering reply.

“The person you are trying to contact has gone on a journey from which there is no return,” the reply read. “He was an infidel.”

Davis said the longer he stayed in Nigeria the more it dawned on him the kidnappings would not end.

“It became very clear that if I was able to get 50 girls released, then another group would kidnap 70 or 80 more. So by freeing 50 you were consigning 70 or 80 more to the same fate,” he explained.

Davis said initially journalists from around the world including CNN, the ABC and BBC flocked into the country, but they concluded it was far too dangerous to send any crew into the North-east of the country.

He said since then, the violence in North-east Nigeria and the threat of foreign journalists being kidnapped and beheaded, there has been limited coverage of the crimes being committed by Boko Haram.

“Boko Haram used to telephone Nigerian journalists and give them a story, but that doesn't happen anymore,” he said.

“They go straight to social media. They post their own material and they’ve learnt to become very savvy on social media and use it as an instrument to terrorise.”

Davis, who has a PhD in political geography, has worked as an adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

He also worked for Shell in Nigeria in an advisory capacity between 2002 and 2004.

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