A Nigerian senator was charged in court alongside a suspected member of militant Islamist sect Boko Haram, fanning suspicions the group has strong political links.
Senator Ali Ndume pleaded not guilty to charges of passing classified information to an unauthorised person and of “criminal intimidation”.
At the same hearing, Ali Sanda Umar Konduga, who Nigeria’s security service said on Monday was a Boko Haram member, pleaded guilty to “criminal intimidation”, which carries a maximum sentence of nine years in prison, Reuters reports.
Nigeria’s state security service (SSS) said on Monday politicians were funding Boko Haram members, held responsible for a string of atrocities in the north and capital of Africa’s most populous nation.
Ndume is a member of the ruling People’s Democratic Party representing Borno state, a poor region bordering Chad, Cameroon and Niger which has seen nearly daily attacks by Boko Haram.
Boko Haram, meaning “Western education is forbidden”, has focused its attacks on government and religious figures.
Security analysts say there are fears Boko Haram has ties with groups outside Nigeria, including al Qaeda’s north African wing.
Parts of the sect say they want Islamic law more widely applied across Nigeria and have threatened international targets, but other factions have also focused on local issues.
The SSS, Nigeria’s intelligence agency, said in a news briefing they arrested Konduga earlier this month and he admitted to being one of the spokesmen for Boko Haram, using the name Usman al-Zawahiri.
“His arrest further confirms the Service position that some of the Boko Haram extremists have political patronage and sponsorship. This is more so as al-Zawahiri has so far made valuable confessions in this regard,” said Marilyn Oga, an SSS spokeswoman, at the briefing on Monday.
Boko Haram carried out two bombings in the capital Abuja this year, the latest in August when a suicide bomber smashed a car full of explosives into the United Nations headquarters, tearing off the side of the building and killing 24 people.
The court said it would delay the sentencing of Konduga until next month.