Members of the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North on Thursday met behind closed doors with the mastermind of the Chritsmas Day bombing of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State and other suspected members of Boko Haram currently being held inside the Kuje Prisons, Abuja.
The committee members were led to the prison yard by their chairman and the Minister of Special Duties, Kabiru Turaki.
The committee members met with all the suspects separately.
A prison source told one of our correspondents that a total of 54 inmates are being held for terrorism related offences.
All the suspects were moved to the entrance of the prison chapel from where they were being called one after the other to meet the committee members inside the chapel which was the venue of the dialogue.
Except for about three of them, most of the suspects, our correspondent observed, would be in their 20s.
Among them is a 23-year-old man said to a Master’s degree holder in Electrical/ Electronics.
All the suspects looked sober as they acknowledged greetings from journalists and other supporting staff of the committee while they waited for their turn to appear before the committee.
Some of them, while waiting for their turn, took time out to go and pray inside the prison mosque.
Our correspondents learnt that members of the committee took time to counsel the inmates on the need to assist the committee in establishing contacts with their leaders and other members of the sect.
It was learnt that an offer of freedom if they cooperate was dangled before the inmates.
A mild drama however played out inside the prison yard when about five other inmates protested the planned amnesty for members of the sect while those of them in prison for minor offences had no such privilege.
The aggrieved inmates were quickly chased away from the vicinity of the meeting venue by some prison officials.
Turaki later told journalists that the visit to the prison was in continuation of the process of consultations with major stakeholders that the committee members felt could assist them to get more information and perspective of the security challenges in the country.
Meanwhile a witness told the court on Thursday that Kabiru Sokoto had confessed that a disagreement over the sharing of a cash donation received from an Algerian group led to the split of the Boko Haram sect.
The witness told an Abuja Federal High Court that the Algerian group has an Arabic name which was translated as “The group from the sunset.”
The Federal Government, which is prosecuting Sokoto on two counts bordering on terrorism, called two witnesses against the accused before the court presided over by Justice Adeniyi Ademola on Thursday.
The two witnesses are police officers attached to the Inspector-General of Police Special Task Force on Terrorism and Heinous Crimes, which participated in the initial arrest of Sokoto before he escaped from police custody in Abaji, a town on the outskirts of Abuja, in January 2012.
Sokoto was eventually rearrested by officers of the State Security Service.
Following the court’s order granting the Federal Government’s wish to conceal the identity of its witnesses, the two prosecution witnesses were masked, and their real names were not disclosed.
The witnesses also told the court that, in the organisational hierarchy of Boko Haram, Kabiru Sokoto was “the governor of Sokoto State.”
Prosecution witness 1, who was introduced by the court as Mr. XYZ, disclosed how he participated in the hunt for Sokoto in January 2012, culminating in his arrest at the Borno State Government Lodge in Asokoro, Abuja.
The witness told the court that Sokoto gave his statement voluntarily, a claim which was contested by the defence counsel, Mr. Adamu Ibrahim.
Led in evidence by prosecution counsel, Mrs. Chioma Onuegbu, Mr. XYZ said, “The accused person (Sokoto) voluntarily detailed his involvement as a member of Boko Haram.
“He told us how they make money to fund Boko Haram and he mentioned a group in a foreign country that made donations to them. The group is known as ‘The group from the sunset.’
“I remember he mentioned that the group is from Algeria.
“I am not sure of the exact figure now but he specifically mentioned the money that was recently sent to them.
“He (Sokoto) mentioned that the money caused Boko Haram to split into two because of the way the money was shared.”
Mr. XYZ noted that the exact sum of money mentioned by Sokoto as donation received by Boko Haram from the Algerian group was contained in the suspect’s statement.
He also said Sokoto confessed that the sect also raised funds by attacking Christians.
The witness also told the court how Sokoto was tracked down and arrested at the Borno State Government Lodge in Asokoro, Abuja.
He revealed that the police team had to search the Governor’s Chalet in a bid to locate, and arrest Sokoto at the lodge.
He said, “My department was in charge of investigation of terrorism in Nigeria. In the course of investigations, we became aware of the accused person, Kabiru Sokoto.
“My team was divided into various groups but the whole team was headed by Zakari Biu, an ex-commissioner of police. I was in Team C, my team leader is CSP Augustine Pam.
“We finally trailed him (Sokoto) to the Borno State Government Lodge in Asokoro. We told the staff at the lodge that we were looking for somebody we didn’t know but we had a way of identifying him.
“They opened the whole rooms for us to search and we started searching them one by one, starting from the governor’s chalet, we got to the boys’ quarters but only one room was locked.”
The witness said that the locked room was identified as the temporary residence of one Ibrahim Umar, a United Kingdom-based student, who, upon a mobile telephone call, said he was on his way back to the UK.
He added that, after knocking on the locked door for about 30 minutes without any response, he decided to break the door.
“I used my feet to break the door and the accused person was inside, pushing the door back. We then arrested him.
“I asked him, ‘Are you Kabiru Umar Sokoto?,” he said no.
“I searched him and recovered an LG handset from his pocket, I now used his handset to dial my number and his number appeared on my phone and it was the number we had.
“I asked him again if he was Kabiru Sokoto and he said he was Kabiru Umar.
“I spoke to him in English language.”