Archive for July, 2015

By Prince Charles Dickson

If two friends ask you to judge a dispute, don’t accept, because you will lose one friend; on the other hand, if two strangers come with the same request, accept because you will gain one friend. –Saint Augustine

I would start my admonition this week by telling us a Yoruba folklore tale about the Tortoise and Boa snake.

Ijapa the tortoise went on a long walk. He walked very far and got very tired. Ijapa was very hungry too.

Ijapa came to the village where Ojola, the boa snake, lived. Ijapa thought, “I am so hungry, I will stop here. Ojola will surely give me food to eat.”

Ijapa went to Ojola’s house and Ojola welcomed him. They sat in the cool house and talked. Ijapa smelled food cooking in the other part of the house. Ojola said, “Come, let us get ready to eat together.”

Ijapa went outside to prepare for the meal. When he came back, the food was placed in the center of the house and Ijapa smelled the aroma. But the tortoise could not reach the food. The snake was coiled all around it. Ijapa got more and more hungry.

Ojola the snake said, “Come sit with me and eat.”

Ijapa said, “I would be very happy to sit and eat. But Ojola, why are you surrounding the meal?”

Ojola replied, “This is the way of the snakes. When we eat, we sit around the food like this.” Ojola ate and ate of the food, but Ijapa could not get it at all. Ojola finished eating at last. He said to Ijapa, “How good it is to eat with a friend.”

Ijapa was even hungrier after the meal than when he came to Ojola’s house. He felt much in his heart about what happened.

Ijapa decided to invite Ojola to his house for a meal on a feast day. Ijapa’s wife prepared all the foods and Ijapa went out to weave a long tail for himself out of grass. He stuck it on with tree gum.

Who really is the winner?

Who really is the winner?

Ojola arrived to share the feast. The tortoise welcomed him and said, “You have come a long way and you are hungry.” Ojola went to wash at a spring and when he returned to Ijapa’s house, he saw Ijapa was already eating. Ijapa had coiled his long grass tail all around the food. Ojola could not get near enough to eat. Ijapa heartily ate the food.

Around and around Ojola went. He could not get to the food. “Ijapa,” the snake said, “how is it that you used to be so short and now you are so very long?”

“One person learns from another,” Ijapa said.

With the above story in my mind, let me take us on a little insightful inquisition…

In Plateau State, one of the first activities of the State governor was to travel to Brazil—reason: to rest. Before that a group of political elites went to Obudu on a cruise, anyway before you loose my drift—The government before it, did same.

While that was going on, my friend El-Rufai in Kaduna was getting accolades for slashing his salary by half, something the President has since done too.

Meanwhile by June, the National Assembly was inaugurated…amidst all the drama, they have remained closed till date, not because they need to get back to their constituencies, or to get ready for legislative business; on the contrary they have been on break because they could not agree on how they share our cake.

469 of them: split into two chambers, from two major parties, the PDP and the APC have simply been awol, because Godfather Tinubu lost out, and the party supremacy and all such jargon should be followed.

While they have been away, the nation or even their senatorial zones have not collapsed.

A sizeable number of them have acquired new wives, increased the number of women in their convent/harem, more concubines, girlfriends and mistresses have been amassed.

They are not alone in this Frankenstein folly, governors too and other political ‘servants’ are not left alone.

Many of them, simply collecting dozens of aides, ranging from 30-45, be them senior special assistants/special assistants/advisers (both senior and junior)/countless aides and yes consultants on various subject matters.

These Nigerians are just gallivanting, on wedding, naming and graduating, birthday, and death-day ceremonies, they attend meetings, left right and center, and flex in caucus meetings of how to remove Saraki, or how to deceive Buhari and make money.

They are all working hard, an average of 4 hours everyday, 15 days a month and 9 months a year in the office. Indeed they are working so HARD, while hardly WORKING.

They are screaming how they have not received bailout, they are shouting hoarse how the money is a loan and they will pay

Our Senators and Representatives amongst them are telling us how difficult the art of making laws are, and you sure would agree, contending with the opposition, with political enemies from different camps, and sure spending all that billions that make them one of the most expensive Parliament must be one hell of a job.

While all these happens in the political space, the likes of Aregbesola explains why he cannot pay salaries. We the masses keep arguing and debating on how much they earn for all the hard work?

These set of Nigerians with many cars, without kids in public schools, and none with less than N10M in his|her personal account fools the larger society.

Despite the best of intentions, it would be a herculean task, to search for a political office holder today in assets and cash, that is not at least a millionaire.

These dudes, like the Tortoise and Boa are just protecting themselves, I stand to be corrected no single Nigerian governor is being owed June salaries whether half, or three quarter.

No legislator is being owed basic allowances, but here we are in Osun state being fed by a church, pensioners in Akwa Ibom treated like lepers, teachers in Kogi treated like ghosts that many of them are.

Like the Boa, and tortoise, the earlier we realize that we need to protect our food, the better—There is need to start asking questions, we need to demand answers to issues of governance, and stop all the current bickering.

If we do not…stop the salaries of governors and legislators…one question that will remain unanswered is will there ever be a year ending with salaries/pensions/entitlements not owed workers by these charlatans—Only time will tell.


The Phones no longer ring

Posted: July 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

By Reuben Abati

As spokesman to President Goodluck Jonathan, my phones rang endlessly and became more than personal navigators within the social space. They defined my entire life; dusk to dawn, all year-round. The phones buzzed non-stop, my email was permanently active; my twitter account received tons of messages per second.  The worst moments were those days when there was a Boko Haram attack virtually every Sunday.

The intrusion into my private life was total as my wife complained about her sleep being disrupted by phones that never seemed to stop ringing. Besides, whenever I was not checking or responding to the phones, I was busy online trying to find out if the APC had said something contrarian or some other fellow was up to any mischief. A media manager in the 21st century is a slave of the Breaking News, a slave particularly of the 24-hour news cycle, and a potential nervous breakdown case. Debo Adesina, my colleague at The Guardian once said I was running a “one week, one trouble schedule”. There were actually moments when trouble knocked on the door every hour, and duty required my team and I to respond to as many issues that came up.

Top of the task list was the management of phone calls related to the principal. In my first week on the job, for example, one of my phones ran out of battery and I had taken the liberty to charge it. While it was still in the off mode, the “Control Room”: the all-powerful communications centre at the State House tried to reach me. They had only just that phone number, so I couldn’t be reached. When eventually they did, the fellow at the other end was livid.

“SA Media, where are you? We have been trying to reach you. Mr President wants to speak with you”

“Sorry, I was charging my phone.  The phone was off.”

“Sir, you can’t switch off your phone now.  Mr President must be able to reach you at any time. You must always be available.”  I was like: “really? Which kin job be dis?”

The Control Room eventually collected all my phone numbers. If I did not pick up a call on time, they called my wife. Sometimes the calls came directly from the Residence, as we referred to the President’s official quarters.

“Abati, Oga dey call you!”

If I still could not be reached, every phone that was ever connected to me would ring non-stop. Busy bodies who had just picked up the information that Abati was needed also often took it upon themselves to track me down. My wife soon got used to her being asked to produce me, or a car showing up to take me straight to the Residence. I eventually got used to it, and learnt to remain on duty round-the-clock.  In due course, President Jonathan himself would call directly. My wife used to joke that each time there was a call from him, even if I was sleeping, I would spring to my feet and without listening to what he had to say, I would start with a barrage of “Yes sirs”! Other calls that could not be joked with were calls from my own office. Something could come up that would require coverage, or there could be a breaking story, or it could be something as harmless as office gossip, except that in the corridors of power, nothing is ever harmless. Looking back now, I still can’t figure out how I survived that onslaught of the terror of the telephone.

Of equal significance were the calls from journalists who wanted clarifications on issues of the moment, or the President’s opinion on every issue. I don’t need to remind anyone who lived in Nigeria during the period, that we had a particularly interesting time. The Jonathan government had to deal from the very first day with a desperate and hyper-negative opposition, which gained help from a crowd of naysayers who bought into their narrative. I was required to respond to issues. Bad news sells newspapers and attracts listeners/viewers. Everything had to be managed.  You knew something had happened as the phones rang, and the text messages, emails, twitter comments poured in. The media could not be ignored. Interfacing with every kind of journalist was my main task.  I learnt many lessons,  a subject for another day.  And the busy bodies didn’t make things easy.

If in 1980, the media manager had to deal with print and broadcast journalists, today, the big task is the dilemma of the over-democratization of media practice in the age of information. The question used to be asked in Nigerian media circles: who is a journalist? Attempts were subsequently made to produce a register of professionals but that is now clearly an illusion. The media of the 21st Century is the strongest evidence we have for the triumph of democracy. Everybody is a journalist now, once you can purchase a phone or a laptop, or an ipad and you can take pictures, set up a blog, or go on instagram, linked-in, viber etc.

All kinds of persons have earned great reputation as editors and opinion influencers on social media where you don’t have to make sense to attract followers. The new stars and celebrities are not necessarily the most educated or knowledgeable, but those who with 140 words or less, or with a picture or a borrowed quote,  can produce fast-food type public intellectualism, or can excite with a little display of the exotic -Kadarshian, Nicki Minaj style.  But I was obligated to attend to all calls. The ones who didn’t receive an answer complained about Abati not picking their calls.

My defence was that most editors in Nigeria have correspondents in the State House. Every correspondent had access to me. There was no way I could be accused of not picking calls, and in any case, there were other channels: instagram, twitter direct message, email, and media assistants who could interface with me. But this was the main challenge: while in public office, people treat you as if you are at their mercy, they threaten to sabotage you and get you sacked, every phone call was a request with a price attached, you get clobbered; you are treated like you had committed a crime to serve your nation. Relatives and privileged kinsmen struggled with you to do the job – media management is that one assignment in which everyone is an expert even if their only claim to relevance is that they once had an uncle who was a newspaper vendor!

The thinking that anyone who opts to serve is there to make money in that famous arena for primitive accumulation partly accounts for this. And that takes me to those phone calls from persons who solicited for financial help as if there was a tree at the Villa that produced money. Such people would never believe that government officials don’t necessarily have access to money. They wanted to be assisted: to pay school fees, to settle medical bills, to build a house, purchase a car, complete an uncompleted building, or link them up with the President. Everybody wanted a part of the national cake and they thought a phone call was all they needed.  If you offered any explanation, they reminded you that you’d be better off on the lecture circuit. Businessmen also hovered around the system like bees around nectar.

But what to do? “Volenti non fit injuria,” the principle says.  There were also calls from the unkind lot. “I have called you repeatedly, you did not pick my calls. I hope you know that you will leave government one day!”.  Or those who told you point blank that they were calling because you were in the position as their representative and that you owed them a living.  Or that other crowd who said, “it is our brother that has given you that opportunity, you must give us our share.”


The Presidential election went as it did, and everything changed. Days after,  State House became Ghost House. The Residence, which used to receive visitors as early as 6 am, (regular early morning devotion attendees) became quiet. The throng of visitors stopped. The number of phone calls began to drop. By May 29, my phones had stopped ringing as they used to. They more or less became museum pieces; their silence reminding me of the four years of my life that proved so momentous. On one occasion, after a whole day of silence, I had to check if the phones were damaged! As it were, a cynical public relates to you not as a person, but as the office you occupy; the moment you leave office, the people move on; erasing every memory, they throw you into yesterday’s dustbin.  Opportunism is the driver of the public’s relationship with public officials.

Today, the phones remain loudly silent, with the exception of calls from those friends who are not gloating, who have been offering words of commendation and support. They include childhood friends, former colleagues, elderly associates, fans, and family members. And those who want interviews with President Jonathan, both local and international – they want his reaction on every development, so many of them from every part of the planet. But he is resting and he has asked me to say he is not ready yet to say anything. It is truly, a different moment, and indeed, “no condition is permanent.” The ones who won’t give up with the stream of phone calls and text messages are those who keep pestering me with requests for financial assistance. I am made to understand that there is something called “special handshake” and that everyone who goes into government is supposed to exit with carton loads of cash. I am in no position to assist such people, because no explanation will make sense to them. Here I am, at the crossroads; I am glad to be here

By Prince Charles Dickson

You don’t ask a toad to give you a chair. When you can vividly see it’s squatting

To say that Nigerians are easily excitable people is stating the very obvious and indeed our political players do not spare any effort in providing the much-needed entertainment. The fever was intense, everyone talked about it, and you will be forgiven to think that the world was coming to an end, but it all came and went—The 2015 General Elections, which saw not just a new President, but a not entirely new party but with a CHANGE mantra.

Forgive Nigerians, we are like that, in our clime when everyone starts talking even patients at Psychiatric homes air the views.

Many analysts have written and quite a number of commentaries are in public domain regarding how the Peoples’ Democratic Party imploded, and how and why the All Progressive Party won.

However the morning does not seem good, there is hope though, that aphrodisiac that keeps Nigerians going. We are again witnessing at best the typical episodic irritation of a political system in which groups that seem to have been outsmarted conglomerate are at war with themselves. It is not about Nigeria – not about its future, progress and prosperity, its evolution and integration, but again we see it is about ‘them’.

Not loosing hope on Nigeria

Not loosing hope on Nigeria

Leadership and followership is in a state of higgledy-piggledy, Nigerians being docile people, despite our acclaimed intellectual prowess, remain largely politically ‘miseducated’, and majorly functional illiterates, that are still naïve. While this might sound hard and derogatory but we are equally cowards that are quick to celebrate a bunch of self-serving, self-interest and petty interest infested persons.

Political schemes and permutations are largely regional, religious and ethnic based. We engage in two psychoses, first is the self-destruct, we are not meant to live together, and the “we have too many problems myth”, while the other, is the fallacy of ‘god’ will come down and solve it all, because it is Nigeria.

We are a group of people that would complain right from meat not being in the soup, to that the meat is too soft or too hard, in cases that we do not want meat again, rather we want fish but when given fish we tell people only yesterday, we had become vegetarians, thus denying goats their own livelihood and wasting the soup in the process.

And the All Peoples Congress APC seems to be making all the same mistakes that tumbled the PDP—because APC is no political party: and in few lines, let me elucidate.

In democratic societies, people who share similar views and goals often join together to form political parties. They do this to strengthen their ability to influence governmental decisions of the nation. However in Nigeria the reverse is the case, we at best have a collection of anything and everything goes, no ideology, they all stand for nothing other than position, money and power.

With our democratic trek nearing the twenty year mark, it is sad that we have parties that do not have a defining process, they have not been able to identify the needs and concerns of the people by interacting with the public at different levels of society, address these needs and concerns through the formulation of policies and thirdly execute their policies to the public.

The APC as opposition hardly proffered solutions, nor did they ‘co-optite’ (cooperatively compete/competitively co-operate), so governance now looks a simple task made hard. And the PDP that has consistently in the last 30 days criticized the Buhari administration for not having ministers does not have leaders either.

A political party ordinarily has three persons called voice, choice and continuity. The voice is the capability of parties to provide a voice for different elements of society, and provide a safe means of competing with other parties without threats of violence.

There is nothing wrong with interests, or opposition within the governing party, and this I have said regularly and I stand by it, but then in line with the personae called choice, they should offer a wide variety of voices to allow citizens to interact among different ideas of governance, these parties should differ in how they think government should work and what it should provide to its citizens.

One strong characteristics of TRUE democracy is that it offers at least two or more strong political parties/ideologies which offer voters a real choice in government, our case is that of political parties of two sides of the same coin; nothing is really different in terms of spending value. This is where we get it wrong; all the present political gladiators are offering the same goods, same price and conditions, so our leaders, albeit for the exception of Buhari–Trading is at the same rate, same old faces, and same ideologies if any is available.

Finally continuity is it, political parties are more effective when they are founded on a set of ideas for governance; this is so because IDEAS LIVE LONGER THAN PEOPLE. If a political party has a strong grounding in ideology, it can keep its members and supporters and provide leadership to the governed even if the leadership changes. This is exactly what is lacking in the political party structure in our nation.

The reason why Saraki and Dogara’s emergence has hampered the ideologue of APC and all we are hearing is “Party Supremacy” when there is no Party.
If APC is to get it right, my counsel, is that the conglomeration, must have one common characteristic and that is to be really open and transparent, committed to a democratic system of governance.

All of APC’s teething problems must be addressed, or else its CHANGE mantra would remain an ‘isi ewu’ discuss. They must make sacrifices for Nigerians, they need to understand it is about Nigerians, or again it will be failed expectations–only time will tell.

By Prince Charles Dickson

On Saturday, 4 October, 2013, Bauchi, capital of Bauchi State, was experiencing an unusually cold weather. At the Old GRA, a suburb of the city, Ismaila Gambo, a 21-year old with a neatly trimmed beard got up at dawn and headed to a nearby mosque for his morning prayers. He wore a grey sweatshirt atop a pair of jeans and boots.

Ismaila’s dressing suggested that he was off to some high-energy work. But he was actually headed for Maiduguri, capital of Borno State where he believed he was to carry out a self-appointed divine assignment.

Upstairs, in a bedroom in the Gambos’ home, a duplex, his17–year-old sister, Khadija, said her own prayers. She was dressed in a long gown and wore a headscarf as she waited for her brother to return.

Khadija wore a niqabi, a veil worn by a Muslim woman so that only the eyes are visible. Soon, if all went according to plan, Khadija would be married to a jihadi, a fighter for the cause of Islam. What would her husband be like? She hoped he would be handsome and bearded like Ismaila, her brother.

When the men returned from the mosque just before 6 a.m., Khadija waited until she heard her father go back to bed. Then, before her parents woke up, she stuffed some pillows under the covers to make it seem like she was the one in bed and mentally reviewed her checklist: – clothes for five days, boots, warm socks, a toothbrush, a hairbrush, her niqabi, hijab, and Qur’an.


She grabbed her suitcase, walked downstairs, slipped through the door with her brother and they sped off in one of their father’s many cars.

For the Gambo children, they were embarking on a journey to fulfil destiny. Both had been radicalised by the extremist ideology of Boko Haram and were making a trip to be part of the movement they believed in. But fate had other plans for them.

The two Gambo siblings – this website agreed to change their names for security reasons – had been plotting their journey for over a year. They had been in touch via the telephone and internet with others who had become convinced that the Boko Haram ideology represents the way to salvation.

Ismaila is an Engineering graduate of the Abubakar Tafawa Belewa University, Bauchi, his sister a second year French undergraduate of the University of Jos, before they embarked on their journey.

But Ismaila and his sister did not fulfil the mission to join the insurgents. They were caught because he mixed up the phone number of his contact, a lecturer at the University of Maiduguri which was given to him by the Boko Haram. The contact was to have provided them with accommodation in GRA Maiduguri.

“I made a mistake with the numbers they (Boko Haram) had given me in Bauchi, and by twist of fate it was another University of Maiduguri lecturer’s number.”

“The lecturer played along, and while we were waiting, the house was raided,” Ismaila recalled, without regret.

He and his sister are among many that wanted to join Boko Haram or successfully joined but have been caught and are now cooling their heels at a detention camp in Maiduguri, capital of Borno State and the heart of the insurgency.

The was given a brief, exclusive access to the detention facility in Maiduguri, one of the many such places where the children of mostly rich and powerful people who have supported, sponsored or were working for Boko Haram are being kept.

The story of these “rich kids” provides a small window into how some of the terrorist activities of the Boko Haram group have been financed. Apparently, part of the insurgency group’s past success can be attributed to the contributions these children made to their “cause”.

Ismaila told the that there were many of them who were successfully recruited from very influential homes to work for Boko Haram. Many of them consider claims that the insurgency was poverty-driven laughable.

Major Adegboyega Sam, one of the officers at the camp, said that when Ismaila and his sister were caught, they had almost an equivalent of N3 million in various currencies, several banks’ ATM cards, four smartphones and three laptops.

“There are many of them here, children of influential Nigerians, some we have been keeping for more than three to four years. We only await instructions from above; ours is to follow orders,” he said.


In spite of several hours of interrogation, investigators who have handled the case of these young Nigerians are still a bit confused about how they got conscripted to work for Boko Haram. There are still too many questions unanswered. Why did they leave everything dear to them – family, privileged upbringing and life – without looking back to become terrorists?

The services that Ismaila intended to offer Boko Haram are unclear, even to him. According to a rough transcript of his confessional statement, he told security operatives that he wanted to play a “public-service role” — delivering food, or, perhaps, providing intelligence for the sect. Maybe “a combat role,” he said.

Ismaila said that he had never held a gun, let alone fire one. As he claimed, his desire was to help Muslims. He wanted to die fighting a holy war.

When asked if he was willing to be used on a suicide mission, Ismaila said: “Yes, if it pleases the Almighty Allah.”

“I did not just run with my sister. An Islamic State had been established, and it is thus obligatory for every able-bodied male and female to fight to keep it. I wanted the comfort of a new khalifah (caliphate),” he said.

Investigations show that there are many like Ismaila who have come to believe in the Boko Haram ideology and have provided support in terms of intelligence, logistic support, food, transportation and so on. Others have directly provided funds to oil the wheel of the deadly insurgency campaign waged by Boko Haram against the Nigerian state and its people.

Musa Awal

Another inmate of the detention facility, Musa Awal, 18, was restless as he spoke to our reporter.

“This nation is openly against Islam and Muslims, especially since Jonathan became President and the evil of this country makes me sick,” he said angrily.

Musa is the third son of a wealthy family from Borno State. His family came into wealth during the regime of the late General Sani Abacha. He told our reporter boldly that not only is education harmful, but “living in this land is haram [sinful].”

But when reminded that he had attended some of the best schools in Nigeria, he kept mute, looking bemused.

When Musa was caught, he begged that his parents should not be called. He told interrogators that if he confessed, his parents would be killed.

According to a security source, this suggests that he must have worked in a group of people – the possibility of a cell could not be overruled.

Another source at the Directorate of Behavioural Analysis which is part of the office of the National Security Office, NSA, revealed that they had been tracking finance and supplies to Boko Haram for long and it was no surprise that many influential families had set up some sort of fund which they released in the shape of “protection monies” to Boko Haram.

“Some of them watch helplessly as their kids become radicalized and when we nab them, some even prefer that their wards are left in detention out of fear,” said the source.

The source disclosed that one way that Boko Haram finances its operations is through collection of protection money which it obtains from willing sources or through blackmail and coercion of residents of territories it controls.

For example, rich people like Ismaila and Musa, who sympathise with the Boko Haram fighters, funnel monies to the insurgents ostensibly for protection but in reality as financial support to prosecute their activities.

The source contends that, it is why, curiously, in spite of the numerous attacks on Maiduguri, places like the old and new GRA where wealthy and influential people stay have never been attacked.

“Go to both the new GRA and the old one, none of them has been attacked all these years that the insurgency has lasted,” he stated.

The Parents

When our reporter visited Musa’s parents, it was obvious that they were regular people, although wealthy.

His mom expressed shock that he had become radicalised and joined a terrorist group. She said that the only time her son was violent was when he was aged about eight. That was when he got angry and broke the television. She also said they ensured that their kids never had unsupervised internet access and encouraged them to watch cartoons.

“We wanted to preserve their innocence, but maybe with all the affluence we failed,” she said with a sigh.

The story is no different from the Gambos whose children first attended religious schools before heading to the upscale Hillcrest School in Jos, Plateau State, after which they spent a year in a preparatory college in the United Kingdom. After that, back home in Bauchi, a private Islamic teacher came home to give them Islamic knowledge in what they considered a conducive environment.

But the story of radicalised rich kids like Ismaila and Musa cannot be strange or new to those who know about Farouk Abdulmutallab, who at 23 attempted to bomb a US-bound plane on a Christmas Day in 2009.

The youngest of the 16 children of Umaru Mutallab, a wealthy businessman and banker from Kastsina State, Farouk, now popularly known as the “underwear bomber”, hid explosives in his underwear which failed to detonate on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, Michigan.

Among other charges, he was arraigned for the attempted murder of 289 people and was in February 2012, sentenced to four life terms and a 50 year jail term.

There is also the story of Ibrahim Uwais, the son of a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, who allegedly left with his two wives and children to join the ISIS.

The 41 year old devout Muslim who was perceived to have hated Boko Haram, its ideology and killing of innocent people, left his father, Muhammed Uwais, and other family members shocked.

Kunle Nwosu, a psychologist with the NSA office’s Counter-Terrorism Department, works on a de-radicalization programme started recently for these “rich misdirected boys” as he called them.

He said in many cases, most of their parents are nice, regular people and the kids seem well adjusted. They are obedient, well-mannered, got good grades in school and are volunteers in mosques. Religion plays a central role in their lives and they make efforts to pray five times daily.

“To be honest with you, you can’t imagine their kids being Boko Haram,” Nwosu stated.

Aliyu Ibrahim, an Islamic scholar in one of Maiduguri’s many Islamiyya (Islamic schools), explained why many kids from wealthy homes are Boko Haram supporters. “We have a lot of experience with these influential children. Many of these kids are Boko Haram fans. Something just goes wrong. It probably begins from drugs, stealing, waywardness and then sympathy for Boko Haram,” he said.

Big Problem

“If you read many of their statements, there is a similarity to them as if they’d been copied from a script. For example you keep seeing the phrase “I simply cannot sit here and let my brothers and sisters get killed by infidels; I am ready to die and so forth,” noted Nwosu.

Nwosu observed that most of the boys and girls in the facility were arrested before the coming of the Islamic State, IS, which has launched a terrorist campaign in the Arab world. He believes that many such youths who are open to extremist indoctrination might have since joined ISIS and that Nigeria may already have a large army of radicalized youths that could make the country a huge tinderbox.

But if nothing can be immediately done about Nigerian youths that might be flocking to join ISIS, certainly, back home, the state can take action against those who have been detained for links to Boko Haram. Or so it seems.

For, our reporter wondered why such potentially dangerous youths would be kept in detention for years, some as many as four years, without being brought to trial. But it is not as cut and dry as it appears, it seems. Even our security source at the camp balked when asked why the detainees had not been charged. He did not provide an answer.

But another security source, who is also a lawyer, who does not want to be named, said there is no legal obstacle preventing the military or security agencies from charging them to court, reasoning that there are a plethora of charges that can be brought against them.

“Basically you have something like knowingly attempting to provide material support and resources to a terrorist organization in the form of personnel — namely, himself, monies and so on,” he observed.

Even then, he added that ‘”a wide range of activities is criminalized under the Terror Act, including supplying weapons, money, personnel or training to providing things like humanitarian relief, conflict-resolution training and other expert advice or assistance.”

It is not known precisely how federal authorities arrived at its targets and under what laws some of these semi-juvenile detention facilities are run. In all, it was discovered that there are four facilities – one in Borno and Plateau states and two in Abuja – all catering to some 1,000 individuals aged between 15 and 30.

The National Security Adviser’s Office would not speak officially. The Department for State Security too said it is not aware of the existence of these facilities.

Similarly, the military appeared unwilling or unable to offer any information. The publication of this report was held up for several weeks in order to get the defence spokesman, Chris Olukolade, a Major General, to speak on the detention camps but it was difficult getting him until last week.

When confronted with our findings last week, Olukolade stated that he was not aware of any detention camp where young Boko Haram financiers or supporters were being held,

He however, promised to find out and react appropriately later. Until the time of going to press, Olukolade had not been able to provide any information on the matter.

The, however, learnt that investigation of many young people at various stages of radicalization is still ongoing. Also, agents are gathering intelligence and setting traps for unsuspecting targets like Ismaila.

This investigation was supported by Ford Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting