By Yusuf Alli ,Vincent Ikuomola and John Ofikhenua, Abuja 15/01/2012 02:12:00
THE Police appear to have recorded a breakthrough in their investigation of the Christmas Day bombing of St.Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, near Abuja.
They arrested yesterday a man suspected to be the mastermind of the attack in which over 40 people died. The Islamic Sect,Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the bombing.
His arrest was effected in an unlikely place:a Governor’s Lodge-that of Borno State in Abuja.
The suspect, Kabir Sokoto, was picked up in the company of a serving military officer whose name was not immediately disclosed.
The duo were being quizzed, sources told The Nation last night.
Also facing police inquisition in Abuja are two men accused of attempting to smuggle arms into Nigeria from Ghana.
Scores of worshippers and passers-by were injured in the Madalla bomb blast. Some of them are still receiving treatment in 12 hospitals in Abuja , Madalla, Suleija, Zuba, Kwamba and Kubwa.
Investigation by our correspondent confirmed that Kabir Sokoto was arrested at the Borno Governor’s Lodge in Asokoro District after weeks of trailing him .
It was gathered that the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Hafiz Ringim, has briefed President Goodluck Jonathan on the breakthrough.
A reliable police source said: “Following a tip-off, the suspect was arrested early on Saturday morning while in hiding at the Liaison Office in Abuja . He was said to be in transit to London .
“For weeks, we have been working on clues that the suspect was one of the masterminds of the Christmas Day bombing.
“He is being interrogated by a special team of senior officers on how St. Theresa’s Catholic Church bombing was perpetrated.
“The interrogation may also involve other security agencies since a serving military officer was with him when he was picked up.
“The IGP has submitted a preliminary brief to President Goodluck Jonathan on the latest arrest. The suspects are being kept in a police detention facility.
Another reliable source said: “The suspect left Maiduguri on Friday via Kaduna . On getting to Kaduna , he sought the assistance of a military officer to provide him escort to Abuja to catch a flight to London . “Aware that the security agencies had been on his trail, he could not get a safe place to sleep. He decided to go to Borno Governor’s Lodge to seek assistance to sleep overnight as an indigene of the state.
“Oblivious to the fact that he was a Boko Haram member, the Permanent Secretary in charge of the lodge decided to be magnanimous to give him free accommodation for a night. “But intelligence agents trailing the suspect on the phone succeeded in tracing him to the lodge through a GPRS device.
“This led to the storming of the Lodge in the early hours of Saturday leading to the arrest of the serving military officer and some staff on duty. “But after interaction with the staff of the Lodge, they were released by the police on bail pending the conclusion of a comprehensive investigation.”
A police source Saturday said Force Criminal Investigation Department is already handling the quizzing of the suspects.”
Kabir’s arrest came against the backdrop of police investigation of a serving governor in one of the northern states over alleged sponsorship of Boko Haram.
Security agencies have already raised a panel to confront him with the facts at their disposal.
But he is said to be evading contact with security operatives as he keeps citing one official engagement or the other.
Several other top politicians from the north are also said to be under security watch over their relationship with the group.
Some of them have reportedly fled to Niger Republic and Chad.
It was gathered in Abuja that security reports have indicted the governor for having a “deep” relationship with Boko Haram.
Only his immunity has prevented the security agencies from arresting him.