In this interview, Australian negotiator, who has been working closely with the leadership of the Boko Haram sect, pleads with the group to seize the window provided by the death of Shekau to end the destructive cycle of insurgency in parts of Nigeria, free captured Chubok girls and return to normal life. Excerpts:
A senior member of the European Parliament, Franz Obermayr, alleged that the opposition party in Nigeria could be sponsoring Boko Haram by channeling European Parliament financial aid to Boko Haram in the North East of Nigeria. Do you have any such evidence?
Australian negotiator, Dr. Stephen Davis, and Boko Haram commanders in 2013 after BH reportedly agreed to dialogue
I have never heard any political party mentioned by any Boko Haram leader as funding or being associated with Boko Haram.
The Boko Haram commanders have only mentioned individuals like former Governor Sheriff. I heard Sheriff was APC and now PDP but that is irrelevant to me.
I have never mentioned political parties in my discussions with Boko Haram. The names of individual sponsors were given by Boko Haram leaders, not their political party association.
What sort of sponsorship has been mentioned by Boko Haram that they have received?
Former governor Sheriff was specifically mentioned many times. Specifically for example, Sheriff was mentioned as sponsoring trips of the boys to the Lesser Hajj. There, the boys are “reorientated”.
In effect they are recruited to Boko Haram. When they return to Nigeria the recruits are then taken off for further reorientation by which they mean teaching and for training. Some of the training took place in Mali by Tuareg leaders but now more training is conducted locally.
Could mere funding for Lesser Hajj by the assumed sponsors have manifested in the high level of sophistication that the sect has assumed today?
Funds are provided to purchase weapons. This is sometimes transferred through the Central Bank of Nigeria to a person in Cairo who provides the weapons and also provides military uniforms.
At other times vehicles are purchased in Benin for example and driven into Nigeria where they are sold for cash. They do not mind taking a loss on the sale price as by this method they can obtain cash in Nigeria without a direct link to the sponsor.
This person in Cairo, is he an Egyptian? Why are you not able to disclose his identity to the security agents for necessary action?
No, he is Nigerian. He is a Kanuri who has fought with Boko Haram and now associates with a network of jihadists. I have given all his details to the DG-SSS.
What sort of vehicles do they purchase?
VW Golf was mentioned as a favourite. They can sell these very easily in Nigeria. They do keep some to use for suicide bombing. Some time ago they told me one sponsor pledged six Hilux vehicles for the suicide bombers.
You have heard that a “fake” Shekau was killed last week in Kondunga. Do you believe what the military is claiming that the man killed was Shekau or possibly a “fake” Shekau?
I continue to believe that Shekau was killed on or about June 19, 2013 when we were deeply engaged in peace discussions. I have had so many senior commanders tell me that Shekau is dead. It was several weeks after that a Shekau video appeared on YouTube. When I viewed that video with JAS leaders they immediately said, “That boy.
We have used him before.” They were totally dismissive of any claim that Shekau was still alive. They referred to the person in the video as the “fake Shekau”. Some months later one of the senior commanders told me the name of the fake Shekau was Abdul Mutallif. The commander who named him was the one who wrote the script that the fake Shekau reads from in the videos.
But I have heard they have used more than one fake Shekau. In July this year I was told the fake Shekau is Isa Damasaka. Earlier in June they referred to him as Bashir.
We had been in communication with him over the release of the Chibok girls. Isa Damasaka is one of the names the military has released when identifying the man killed at Kondunga last week. He has also been identified as Bashir Mohammed so I am confident this man is indeed the fake Shekau.
However, I do not know if Abdul Mutallif is another name he used or there is another fake Shekau named Abdul Mutallif who may still be alive. I have no doubt we will know soon so we await a new video by another fake Shekau.
The man who was captured at Kondunga last week was a great source of information about Boko Haram sponsors. He was captured alive. The military are too quick to execute captured Boko Haram leaders. This man could have revealed so much about Boko Haram and its sponsors that may have brought a quick end to the terrorism.
There are some reports that many Boko Haram fighters have surrendered in recent days. You want to say something on this?
This is an indication that Boko Haram commanders now understand that they have been fooled. They have followed a “fake” Shekau. Boko Haram fighters have died following a fake Shekau and fake teaching.
The political sponsors have led these boys to believe that they are purifying Islam, purging the country of corruption by slaughtering people. In fact the political sponsors of Boko Haram are corrupt politicians seeking power and more wealth. The sponsors epitomise all that the Boko Haram fighters are seeking to eliminate from Nigeria.
So what is next for Boko Haram?
The death of the fake Shekau shows how the fighters have been duped and totally misled by the sponsors.
The fighters and commanders would be wise to take this opportunity to reach out to the government for a peace dialogue.
If they do not believe they can have a peace dialogue without being captured and executed the alternative message I have for the commanders is this: Your sponsors will use you and sacrifice you so they can gain power. Set the captive girls free and walk away from Boko Haram while you still have the opportunity.