The All Progressives Congress (APC) has expressed support for the international inquiry into the activities of Boko Haram with a view to unravelling its modus operandi and ending the debate about who is behind the terror group, the party’s spokesman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said yesterday.
APC’s statement coincided with crisis of confidence that has rocked the campaign for the rescue of over 200 abducted female students of Government Secondary School, Chibok, following allegations that the main opposition party had penetrated the ranks of #BringBackOurGirls protesters to score political points, THISDAY has learnt.
The allegation, which was brought to the attention of the British parliament and is being investigated by Nigerian security agencies, was said to have been triggered by revelations by a UK-based agency, Burson Masteller, that it was recently contacted by some leaders of the APC to facilitate a visit by the campaigners to the United States of America where the group was scheduled to meet with some top US officials and project the federal government as doing nothing to rescue the abducted girls.
Even though the alleged US trip by the protesters was eventually cancelled at the eleventh hour, the consultant was said to have been paid heavily to lobby interest groups in the US and rally public opinions against the Nigerian government.
A letter published by a US-based online news agency which is already being analysed by the security agencies also disclosed that the same Burson Masteller recently signed a deal running into hundreds of thousands of dollars with a prominent Nigerian businessman with strong links to opposition political leaders to organise a series of advocacy visits and public relations contacts with prominent members of the UK and US parliament, foreign media representatives and a host of other bureaucrats in the two countries.
This development is coming against the backdrop of a recent disclosure by the Department of State Security (DSS) that the â™¯BringBackOurGirls movement was maintaining various bank accounts, suggesting that its campaigns were sinister in nature.
Even though the allegations were denied by one of its coordinators, who is also a former Education Minister, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, THISDAY learnt that the disclosure by Messrs Masteller that it was approached by leaders of the opposition party on behalf of the group is said to be generating ripples among some members of the group who believe there might indeed be some underhand dealings in the objective of the group which might only be clear to all of its members.
Investigations have also shown that the insistence by the group on being briefed by security forces on their strategy to rescue the Chibok girls might be a ploy to frustrate such efforts.
However, the APC has endorsed the international inquiry into the activities of Boko Haram, stating that the unraveling of the sponsors should be done with a view to ending, once and for all, the debate over who is behind the insurgency and also to facilitate efforts to tackle it decisively
In a statement issued yesterday by Mohammed, the party said the inquiry should include intelligence experts from the US, UK, France and Canada, as well as representatives of the UN and Nigeria’s neighbours – Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
It also said representatives of the Nigerian military and other security agencies, especially the police and DSS, governments of the states worst-hit by the Boko Haram insurgency, including Adamawa, Borno, Yobe, Kano, Bauchi and Jigawa, the Federal Capital Territory, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Civil Society Organisations, the Nigerian Labour Congress, the Trade Union Congress, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and any other relevant individual or group, should be included.
APC said major political parties, including the Peoples Democratic Party and APC, must be represented on the panel of inquiry, whose findings must be made public and those found to have any links with the insurgents be made to face the full wrath of the law.
“We hope the PDP-led federal government, which has led the incessant but baseless campaign to point accusing fingers at the opposition, especially our party the APC, will give its total support to the immediate constitution of this international panel of inquiry.
“We have no doubt that the international community will give its unalloyed support to this inquiry, in view of the trans-national nature of the insurgency and the threat posed by terrorism to global peace and security,'” the party said.
APC added: “On our part, we pledge our total support for this inquiry anytime it is launched, but hopefully very soon. Our party, which is barely one year old, has been at the receiving end of diversionary, carefully choreographed and blatantly irresponsible point-blank accusations as well as insinuations of sponsoring Boko Haram, not minding that the group's activities date as far back as 2002 when there was no APC.
“These accusations and insinuations have become so virulent and have indeed reached a level where one begins to wonder whether those behind the finger-pointing are actually trying to divert attention from their own culpability and whether they have even more sinister motives for their finger-pointing.
“Enough is enough. The daily killing, maiming and abduction of innocent Nigerians, as a clueless federal government looks on, must end. The pervasive insecurity that has crippled Nigeria since this insurgency started must be halted. Those behind it must be unraveled and prosecuted. Let the inquiry begin!”
But in reaction to APC’s statement, the PDP yesterday said that it found it very curious that the statement by the main opposition party calling for international enquiry to unravel the sponsors of terrorism in the country was coming less than one week after an inquest into its links with the insurgency was tabled before the British parliament.
In a statement yesterday by the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, the ruling party said APC’s statement betrayed a party that had become “unsettled and highly apprehensive following the increasing demands by British parliamentarians for an enquiry into its links with the insurgency and violence ravaging our dear nation”.
“We ask, is the APC in a desperate move to pre-empt the British parliament for fear of indictment or are they seeking to promote an orchestrated inquest to exonerate themselves?
“We urge Nigerians to see beyond the surface, to continue to be alert and note the actions of the APC and their efforts to frustrate the genuine fight against insurgency and terrorism in our country,” he said.