The Nigerian government may have knowingly, in a bid to stem growing international outcry, misled the public into believing that rearrested Boko Haram suspect, Kabir Sokoto, was the mastermind of the Christmas day bombing that killed dozens in Madalla, according to highly classified details available to Premium Times.
The killings, one of the group’s deadliest before the recent Kano attacks, drew wide international attention which in a way fostered government’s crackdown that led to Mr. Sokoto’s arrest in Abuja weeks later, supposedly, as the brain behind the plotting and the execution of the blast.
But the new details, provided by multiple security sources who are well-informed about operations that have targeted the extremist Islamic sect’s members, and feedbacks passed onto key government officials, cast serious doubt on the administration’s position pinning Mr. Sokoto as the central character behind the attacks.
In all, the details shed light on the high-wired intrigues that surround the Jonathan administration’s dilemma at contending an elusive and deadly radical group that has proven unbeatable, and at the same time winning a diminishing public trust that becomes further alienated with each wave of new attacks.
Mr. Kabiru, acknowledged by the sources as a sponsor of known members of the sect and by extension, a member himself, is only identified in security circles/records as a Boko Haram militant that operated from Kogi State flank.
In the months preceding the Madalla bombings, officials believe that he masterminded some robbery operations in Kabba, Kogi state and led a daring assault on the police station there killing, and carting away ample quantity of arms and ammunition.
He is also known to be the sponsor and host of a certain Suleiman Gambo, alias Babangida, a well marked member of the group who was arrested last year during a joint police operation in Sokoto State.
But besides those connections, no security record or operation has firmly established any link between Mr. Sokoto and the killings at St. Theresa Catholic church, the officials who all spoke under anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, say.
“Although the guy himself is a notorious member, there is no report seen of him that cites him as that mastermind,” one official said. “The police knows that, and the government knows that too; but it seems government was desperate to find a face for the crime.”
The church car bomb just outside Abuja, which claimed 44 lives and left many more injured on a Sunday morning millions of Christians across the country were attending church service marking Christmas, startled the nation and sparked global condemnation.
It turned out to be the most widely reported, and known of the group’s attacks across the world, fetching the country and the government in particular, an intense dose of international attention.
In the days that followed, according to the sources, implementing a soothing response would prove intricate for government operatives and policy makers fighting a murky organization with declared targets and tactics, but no known faces, as President Goodluck Jonathan has recently affirmed.
More so, the reliable government’s list of suspects for that crime, compiled from testimonies of captured suspects, targeted intelligence and informants, included just four names that clearly remained outside the radar of law enforcement agents.
Those mentioned were one Suleiman(different from Suleiman Gambo, who is already in police custody), Muhtari Kafanchan, Mohammed, and Bashar.
As of yet, none of the four has been captured.
Any arrest such as that of Mr. Sokoto therefore, would put an identity to the atrocity and help the Jonathan administration ward off mounting pressure that criticized its approach to the crisis, the sources said.
As it turned out, Mr. Sokoto’s initial arrest in January after operatives trailed his mobile phone signal to the Borno state lodge, and his subsequent escape, served a purpose more than envisaged.
For one, it proved the authorities were at work and progress against the sect was being made. However, with the lead actor in the crime at large, investigators could easily proffer justification why a conclusive probe of the case could not be actualized.
Then more importantly, the sacking of the police Inspector General, Hafiz Ringim, and the decision to punish Assistant Commissioner Zakaria Biu - both in connection with the escape- stood to demonstrate the administration’s steadfastness at acting when necessary.
Calls to the police force spokesperson, Olusola Amore, on Tuesday were not answered. He also did not respond to a text message sent to him seeking comments.