Tukur Mamu, the Kaduna-based publisher was arrested on Tuesday by security operatives in Cairo, Egypt for his alleged involvement in collecting ransom and taking same to terrorists in exchange for kidnapped victims, Daily Trust gathered from reliable security sources.
Some of the security sources said beyond his relationship with insurgents in Nigeria, Mamu was also arrested because of his “Strong ties with a terror group in Sinai area in Egypt”.
Sinai Peninsula is the northeastern extremity of Egypt and adjoins Israel and the Gaza Strip on the east. Like in Nigeria, despite the decrease in the frequency of attacks in recent years, militants remain active and pose a serious threat to Egyptian security operatives and other symbols of Sinai.
Mamu denied wrongdoing saying he was on a legitimate journey to Saudi Arabia.
The Kaduna publisher, who was involved in the controversial negotiations that led to the release of several abducted passengers of the March 28 Abuja-Kaduna train attack, was arrested together with his family by operatives of the Department of State Services (SSS) shortly after he was repatriated to Nigeria from Egypt.
He was arrested and whisked away by security operatives shortly after the Egypt Airline, which returned him from Cairo touched down at the Malam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA) at 1:55pm.
Family sources said Mamu, who was on his way to Saudi Arabia for lesser Hajj was travelling alongside his two wives; Fatima Bashir Mamu and Aisha Salisu Mamu as well as his eldest son, Faisal Tukur Mamu, and his brother-in-law Ibrahim Hassan Tinja.
Nigerian authorities have been accused of not doing enough to secure the release of kidnap victims whenever such incidents occur, a development that makes it necessary for desperate families to devise other means, including ransom payments to liberate their loved ones for fear of being killed.
And this is what brought Mamu to the limelight as he openly and severally declared that he secured the release of most of the train victims even though he persistently denied collecting ransom from families of the victims and taking them to the terrorists.
He’s in our custody – DSS
The Department of State Services (DSS) said yesterday that Mamu is in its custody. Peter Afunanya, the spokesman for the agency confirmed this in a statement.
“The DSS has been inundated with enquires in respect of the arrest or otherwise of Tukur Manu, the self-acclaimed Kaduna train hostage negotiator. This is to confirm that Manu, as a person of interest, was intercepted by Nigeria’s foreign partners in Cairo, Egypt on 6th September 2022 while on his way to Saudi Arabia. He has since been returned to the country, today, 7th September 2022 and taken into the Service’s custody.
“The act followed a request by Nigeria’s military, law enforcement and intelligence community to their foreign partners to bring back Manu to the country to answer critical questions on ongoing investigations relating to some security matters in parts of the country. The public may wish to note that the law will appropriately take its course,” he said.
However, in a statement last night, the management of Desert Herald condemned the arrest of its publisher, Mamu, alongside some of his family members.
The statement issued by the Head, Special Operations and Production Manager, Ibrahim Mada, alleged that the security operatives only acted on an order by the Nigerian government to arrest Mamu and his family who were on their way to Saudi Arabia to perform lesser hajj and were billed to return on September 20.
“The allegation according to some sources that he was arrested by security operatives in Egypt for fleeing the country is unfounded and baseless. We hereby demand for their immediate and unconditional release,” he said.
‘Mamu on international watch list’
A source in one of the intelligence outfits in Nigeria said Mamu’s arrest was beyond his activities in Nigeria.
“He was arrested in Egypt based on Advance Passenger Information (API) because he came under international security scrutiny following his activities here at home and beyond the shores of Nigeria shortly after the Kaduna train attack,” he said.
“I can assure you that Mamu has high linkage with terror groups in Egypt, especially in Sinai and by extension Libya, the Sahel and other parts of West Africa on this side, and the middle- east on the other side.
“He has collected over N2bn in ransom for terrorists with some of the payments made in US dollars by desperate families and negotiated the release of their loved ones…We have been monitoring all his activities and evidence abound to hold him to account,” he said.
When told that Mamu had shortly before his repatriation from Cairo said there was an attempt to treat him like Nnamdi Kanu, the source said, “Egyptian authorities are not subordinated to the dictate of Nigerian authorities. They deported him based on the facts at their disposal and based on global standard.”
Another source said they monitored Mamu’s activities for long before he was flagged both at home and abroad. “Can he tell the world his legitimate source of income to justify his lifestyle? Had it been we wanted, we could have picked him in his house in Kaduna but because what he is doing has global implications, we allowed the international law to take its cause.”
Yet, another security source with knowledge of the situation told our reporters that Mamu was intercepted because of an intelligence report over a scheduled meeting with some persons believed to be leaders of the terrorists who conducted the Kaduna train attack.
“He scheduled many things in his itinerary including a medical check-up and lesser hajj but we believed it was just a decoy for him to carry out nefarious activities. He plans to end up in Dubai where he has made a rendezvous with those people,” he said.
The source, who asked not to be named for lacking authority to speak on the operation, said communication between Mamu and the suspected terrorist leaders have been intercepted, adding that there was fear over what could be the outcome of the planned meeting.
Aside from this, he said, there are many allegations against the negotiator around the ransom paid to secure the release of the train passengers.
“There are reported inconsistencies between monies paid and what was actually remitted to the kidnappers. He is also seen as pandering too much to the side of the terrorists than the people and government. What pained us was the recent move to pay N25 million to secure the release of the remaining 23 persons but at the last minute, he thwarted the arrangement insisting on a much higher figure.”
However, Mamu told Daily Trust that after he was investigated by the Egyptian security agencies: “I don’t have anything to hide and I am not afraid of them (DSS). I swear to God, I am not afraid of them. I just want the world to know what is happening.”
Release of our loved ones threatened – Relatives
Some relatives of the abducted train accused the Nigerian government of being too hasty in the arrest of Mamu saying the arrest could jeopardise the release of their loved ones.
Two of the relatives who spoke with Daily Trust correspondent in Kaduna on the condition of anonymity said the government should have ensured the release of all abducted passengers before any attempt to arrest Mamu.
“The Nigerian government should have allowed him to continue in his capacity as a negotiator to ensure the release of the remaining 23 passengers who are still in captivity. Why arrest him now when many people are in captivity and we all know that Mamu has played a vital role in the release?” he asked.
Another passenger who was released through the intervention of Mamu said: “All he did was to negotiate our release, but he was not responsible for the delivery of ransom to our captors, my brother did that.”
How Mamu, family were picked
Daily Trust correspondent who was at the Malam Aminu Kano International Airport reports that operatives of the DSS were stationed at the entrance of the international wing of the airport moment before the aircraft landed. It was observed that the heavily armed operatives who were also in the company of others dressed in mufti, were on guard at the entrance of the arrival section of the international wing while three vehicles with Kano number plates (two Hilux and one Hiace) packed by the entrance.
Our correspondent reports that as soon as passengers began to come out from the arrival section, one of the Hilux moved forward while luggage, presumably of Mamu and his family members, was loaded in one of the other two vehicles. It was observed that the two vehicles later moved forward and the Hiace bus moved into the tarmac area before it later zoomed off to join the other two. It was later gathered that Mamu and his family were conveyed in the Hiace bus.