Family members of six Nigerians jailed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for allegedly funding Boko Haram say they were framed up.
In April 2019, the Abu Dhabi federal court of appeal sentenced Surajo Abubakar Muhammad and Saleh Yusuf Adamu — two of them to life imprisonment followed by deportation — while Ibrahim Ali Alhassan, AbdurRahman Ado Musa, Bashir Ali Yusuf and Muhammad Ibrahim Isa, — the four others — were each sentenced to 10 years in prison, and also followed by deportation.
The court found them guilty of setting up a Boko Haram cell in the UAE to raise funds and material assistance for the insurgents in Nigeria.
In December 2019, a UAE federal supreme court also turned down an appeal by the six Nigerians, upholding the ruling of the appeal court.
They were said to have transferred up to $800,000 in favour of Boko Haram between 2015 and 2016.
But the family, speaking with Daily Trust, said the Nigerians were into bureau de change business and had been doing their business legitimately both in Nigeria and in the UAE.
“Families of those affected told our correspondents that their relatives were most likely deceived in the course of their routine bureau de change transactions to the extent that some of the transactions they facilitated turned out to be for proceeds meant for Boko Haram activities,” the newspaper reported.
“It was gathered that one of the Boko Haram couriers, Alhaji Sa’idu, would arrange an unidentified or vaguely identified Arab person on a visit to Dubai from Turkey to hand over an amount of money in US Dollars to one of the convicts who would, in turn, advise his Nigerian-based business partners to hand over the Naira equivalent of the amount to him (Alhaji Sa’idu).”
A source within the family was quoted to have said, “Alhaji Sa’idu is just Nom de guerre who used the gullibility of the victims to achieve his aim. They were into bureau de change business, receiving and sending monies on behalf of others.
“From what I understand, they have been doing the business for long and along the line, they fell into a trap. I am not siding with them or trying to indict them but generally, there is ignorance on their side.”
The family said they tried to seek help from the Nigerian authorities, but nothing was forthcoming.
The newspaper reported that Abubakar Malami, Nigeria’s attorney-general, said the government had reached out to the UAE but that the country was yet to respond.
“Nigerian government has written firstly for copies of the proceedings, which will give us the opportunity to see whether justice was done or not. And on whether they have committed the crime, we requested to know who and who are involved so that the Nigerian government will know what to do next,” the AGF was quoted.
“Nigerian government is working but it doesn’t have the exclusive control, it has to rely on the information provided by UAE. So, it is not in control of the speed of response or action.
“We are working on both the issues that they did not receive a fair hearing and that they were alleged to have supported Boko Haram activities.”
For a decade, Boko Haram insurgents have continued to terrorise the north-eastern part of Nigeria. It is not clear where the insurgents get funding for their activities in the region.