A Nigerian journalist,Ahmad Salkida,known to have access to the leadership of Boko Haram, says Aliyu Tashaku, the insurgent commander, captured in Benue state, once shared a cell with Mohammed Yusuf, founder of the sect.
The army arrested Tashaku, who is head of Benue livestock guards, the group enforcing compliance of the anti-grazing law in the state, on Friday.
He was accused of masterminding some of the deadly attacks recorded across the state from January 1.
Three months before Tashaku’s arrest, Salkida alerted the public that the insurgent leader escaped from Boko Haram camp.
In an article entitled ‘The Nigerian killing fields’, the journalist said the leadership of the sect accused the head of Benue vigilante group of disappearing with Boko Haram’s arms budget.
“Curiously, Benue state is host to self-help militias in north-central Nigeria, where a self-confessed member of the Boko Haram sect, Aliyu Tashaku, is now recognized by the state as a leader of a vigilante group. His militia is saddled with the responsibility of protecting the people of the state against what is widely known as armed Fulani herdsmen who have been on the loose killing and maiming,” Salkida wrote.
“By the way, Tashaku was detained for several months at the police headquarters in Abuja for unstated reasons. The leadership of the Boko Haram, sometimes in 2011, had accused him of eloping with their arms budget in 2009. Many criminals apparently are working hand in hand with those in power across the country.”
Salkida had said there was a growing incidence of senior members of Boko Haram deserting the group after falling out with its leaders.
In a brief statement after Tashakau was arrested, Salkida said the late Yusuf briefly shared a cell with the Benue militia leader.
He added that after preaching to detainees in the cell in Abuja, Tashaku was one of the converts Yusuf won during that period.
“Late Mohammed Yusuf was detained briefly in a cell with Aliyu Tashaku in Abuja and Yusuf preached to all the detainees and Tashaku was amongst the few that accepted Islam at the time,” the statement read.
“He was released before late Yusuf and was told in the cell by late Yusuf to specifically find Journalist Ahmad Salkida to write more about his incarceration Tashaku met me in Maiduguri, I was a reporter with the Daily Trust then and I wrote about Yusuf’s detention and introduced Tashaku to two other journalists at his insistence.
“I have not seen Tashaku since then, but know and met people that have either worked with him or lived with him.”
Following a Boko Haram uprising in 2009, the military captured Yusuf and transferred him to the custody of the police. The police executed Yusuf in public view outside their headquarters in Maiduguri, capital of Borno.
His death marked the beginning of the violent campaign of Boko Haram.