A former governor of Niger State, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu, revealed that he chased the dreaded Boko Haram leaders, Abubakar Shekau and Abu Qaqa out of the state and stopped the state from becoming the headquarters of the group.
He stated this at the 2023 Annual Public Lecture, Awards and Election of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) Kaduna State chapter.
The former governor, who was the guest speaker, noted that part of the solutions to the security challenges bedeviling Nigeria, like terrorism and banditry, is proper planning and budgeting to eradicate the negative statistics of 20 million out-of-school children.
While speaking at the event, he said, “When I arrived Niger State, I found a security challenge in the form of nine people who went to a village in Mokwa local government and multiplied in 2007 to 7,000 people and they were involved in armed robbery and abducting women in the area and constituted themselves into a republic.
“I also discovered that many governors have tried to do something but were probably frustrated by Abuja. In fact, two immigration officers sent to investigate the activities in the group became members.
“When I took a census, I discovered that more than 60% of the members were not Nigerians. The original Shekau and Abu Qaqa were the leaders. I got the support of the late President Musa Yar’Adua to disperse them after compensating them and provided them transport to their destinations in Nigeria and the foreigners were taken to their borders.
“That action probably saved Niger State from being the foundation of Boko Haram as we come to know that they were regularly visiting the River Niger Bridge. If the planning is proper, we cannot be talking of 20 million children out of school; we cannot be described as the poverty capital of the world,” former governor Aliyu said.
Daily Trust verified the claim and found out that Shekau never stayed in Niger State as claimed by the former governor. Rather, the Darul Islam sect group members were the ones who resided in the state and later dislodged by former Governor Aliyu.
In an interview with this newspaper in 2012, the leader of the group, Malam Bashir Abdullahi Sulaiman said Boko Haram led by Shekau was never part of Darul Islam sect group, adding that the allegation was part of a plot by the Niger State governor (then) to instigate a mass killing campaign against members of his group.
Governor Aliyu while in office, was reported to have said that the leader of the insurgent Boko Haram group, Abubakar Shekau, started the propagation of the group’s activities in Niger State before his followers were dislodged by security operatives, alongside the group’s spokesman, Abu Qaqa, in 2009.
The governor said pictures of the two prominent Boko Haram figures regularly posted on the sect’s website and published in newspapers, were the same as the ones in possession of security agents before the two were dislodged from the state.
If the security agencies and the state government had not acted promptly, he was quoted as saying, “Niger would have been the headquarters of the sect.”
But reacting to the claims then, Abdullahi said neither Shekau nor Qaqa had ever lived in their midst, as he was well acquainted with all his members.
“I knew all the people living in Darul Islam, young and old, male and female. Boko Haram members were never part of us, we don’t know their faces,” he said.
The Darul Islam leader further said: “This is the third allegation against us by him. He has been on this plot for a long time. There was a time some people were arrested and he said they were our members. We don’t know his aims against us. He was behind our eviction from Niger and he is now trying to link us with Boko Haram,” Suleiman said in 2012.
Similarly, a credible source who has covered the Boko Haram crisis for a long time, while speaking to Daily Trust, refuted the claim of the former governor.
“It is not true. Shekau never stayed in Niger State. Maybe he is referring to Sadiku, the mastermind of the Kaduna train attack who was one of Shekau’s former top commanders.
“There was a cell in Pandagori forest and around the Shororo, which Sadiku has been operating in and out,” the source told Daily Trust.
Conclusion: Following verification by Daily Trust, it has been ascertained that the claim by former Governor Babangida Aliyu is unfounded, as Shekau never stayed in Niger State.
This Fact check is produced in partnership with the Centre of Democracy and Development (CDD)