Kabiru Umar Sokoto, the convicted Boko Haram bomber, was hatching a plot to kidnap the children of Kashim Shettima, then-governor of Borno state, when he was arrested in January 2012, a confidential memo has revealed.
Sokoto was the mastermind of the Christmas Day bombing of St Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, Niger state, which killed at least 37 people and injured 57 others.
He was initially arrested at the Borno governor’s lodge in Asokoro, Abuja, on January 14, 2012 before he escaped from police custody and was re-arrested a month later in Taraba state.
In a confidential security memo dated Thursday, June 14, 2012, that is just coming to light, Sokoto was reported to have infiltrated the Borno governor’s lodge in a plot to kidnap the children of Shettima, who had relocated them from Maiduguri, Borno state, to Abuja for safety reasons.
According to the memo, which was submitted to the presidency, Shettima — who had spent barely eight months as governor — had been warned that Boko Haram was plotting to kidnap his children for ransom.
Shettima, who is now the vice-presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), decided to relocate them — two girls and a boy — to Abuja and enrolled them at Turkish and British schools in Wuse II and Gwarimpa.
‘DISGUISED AS BORNO MAN’
The memo, signed by a senior security official, alleged that Sokoto, whose identity was yet to be made public after the Madalla blast, disguised as a “Borno man” to gain access to the lodge — where Shettima’s children were staying.
He reportedly sneaked into the lodge on the weekend of January 14, 2012 when there was less traffic.
In what was described as a “major security breach”, he allegedly pleaded with a guest at the lodge to help him pass the weekend as he claimed to be stranded.
The guest, whose identity was not revealed in the memo, had been officially allocated accommodation at the lodge for one night on the directive of Ahmed Sanda, then-permanent secretary in charge of the governor’s lodge and the Borno liaison office, both in Asokoro.
‘TO BE KIDNAPPED FOR N1 BILLION RANSOM’
The memo suggested that Sokoto was planning to kidnap the children on Monday, January 16, 2012, on their way to school.
He was arrested by the police after spending a night at the lodge.
Shettima had moved the children, all below 10 years old at the time, to Abuja in December 2011 — about two weeks before the foiled kidnap.
He had relocated them from Maiduguri on the advice of security officials and there were suggestions after Sokoto was arrested that some of them might have links with Boko Haram and were obviously passing information to the terror group.
Boko Haram was said to be planning to demand a ransom of N1 billion, which was valued at $6.3 million at the time.
‘ONLY ONE SECURITY ESCORT’
The children were living at the governor’s lodge under the care of two aunties and an uncle, while Nana, their mother, frequently shuttled between Abuja and Maiduguri to run her office as first lady.
The report faulted the fact that only one security detail was escorting the children daily which made them highly vulnerable to kidnapping.
Shettima later beefed up security at the lodge and moved his children to boarding schools.
A senior security official contacted by TheCable denied knowledge of the 2012 memo but said the alleged plot was consistent with how Boko Haram carried out its operations.
Shettima later became a target for assassination by the terrorists who kidnapped hundreds of Chibok schoolgirls in April 2014.
“I am not aware of this memo but I know Kabiru Sokoto was arrested at the lodge. He later escaped from custody while being taken for a house search and was re-arrested,” the official said.
“Some officials in charge of the lodge were invited and questioned. There was a terror investigation. The truth, however, is that nothing was established against them. It was just lax security and poor judgment which could have been disastrous. Otherwise, they would have been charged to court.
“Remember that President Goodluck Jonathan was not on good terms with Shettima and if anything untoward was found against the governor, it would have been made public or leaked to the media. He was an opposition governor.
“It was simply a case of stupidity that someone could so cheaply gain access to a governor’s lodge, even if the governor was not there at the time.”
On December 20, 2013, Sokoto was convicted by a federal high court in Abuja and sentenced to life imprisonment for the Madalla bombing.
Source:- The Cable