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The untold story of Taylor’s escape

Posted by By STEVE NWOSU, EMMA EMEOZOR (Lagos), and LUCKY NWANKWERE, Abuja on 2006/04/03 | Views: 752 |

The untold story of Taylor’s escape


The prompt arrest of fleeing former Liberian President, Mr. Charles Taylor by the Nigerian authorities has been attributed more to the imminent loss of face which stared President Olusegun Obasanjo in the face than any extra vigilance on the part of the country’s security operatives.

How he was betrayed, by spiritual adviser

The prompt arrest of fleeing former Liberian President, Mr. Charles Taylor by the Nigerian authorities has been attributed more to the imminent loss of face which stared President Olusegun Obasanjo in the face than any extra vigilance on the part of the country’s security operatives.

Also, Taylor’s spiritual adviser, Kilari Anand Paul, says the former Liberian leader was encouraged to flee by Nigerian security agents, who also helped him to the border before being abandoned.
Taylor was reportedly arrested as he tried to sneak out of Nigeria through the main border post with Cameroun in Borno State.

However, Daily Sun exclusively gathered that extra effort to recapture Taylor was informed by the fact that President Obasanjo was on the verge of returning from his on-and-off US trip with the bruised ego of not being allowed to see President George W. Bush as a result of the Taylor debacle.
The US authorities had insisted that the Nigerian leader would not meet with his US counterpart unless he produced the former warlord who was wanted to answer to charges of crimes against humanity in the UN-backed tribunal in Sierra Leone.

According to a security source, soon after Obasanjo arrived Washington from his engagement at the UN headquarters in New York, preparatory to the session with Bush, a senior State Department official whose name was given as Jim – in company of another top official – visited the Nigerian leader in his hotel. In no unclear language, the officials were said to have told Obasanjo that he would not see Bush unless he produced runaway Taylor.

The Americans, Daily Sun gathered, were acting on the theory that the Nigerian authorities could not deny knowledge of how Taylor left Nigeria without assistance. This was backed by another security report that agents of the government had actually provided Taylor with about $250,000 with which he was supposed to bribe his way and live in appreciable comfort wherever he would flee to.

With this in mind, and against the backdrop of the allegation that Obasanjo had promised Taylor that he would not give him up, the US government had seemingly concluded that Aso Rock had a hand in the escape and decided not to have anything to do with the Nigerian leader who had gone to Washington hoping to use the meeting with Bush to shore up his declining local profile.

So, torn between packing his bag and baggage and leaving Washington without seeing Bush - to come home to meet the snigger of ‘sadistic’ detractors - or handing over Taylor and returning as a global statesman, Obasanjo settled for the latter.

The frantic efforts thereafter eventually led to the reported arrest of Taylor at the Nigerian side of the border with Cameroun, even though other sources told Daily Sun that the former warlord had actually crossed over but was still being escorted by Nigerian details.
Taylor, on Monday not only pleaded not guilty to the 11 charges brought against him, but also said he does not recognize the jurisdiction of the court.

Dressed in a dark suit and a red tie to match, the former Liberian warlord told the judge, Justice Richard Lussick, “I do not recognize the jurisdiction of this court.”
Taylor was arraigned before the UN-backed Special Sierra Leone Court sitting in Freetown. He is facing 11-count charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The charge centre on his role in promoting terror in Sierra Leone’s civil war, which lasted from 1991 to 2002.

According to reports, after the charges were read to him, Taylor was asked whether he understood them. “Yes, I do,” he replied, adding, however: “I think that this is an attempt to continue to divide and rule the people of Liberia and Sierra Leone and so most definitely, I am not guilty.”
Taylor met with his lawyers on Monday for the first time. Earlier, he told the court that he could not enter a plea because he did not recognize its right to try him. As if to further plead his innocence, Taylor told the judge, “I did not and could not have” committed the atrocities that allegedly occurred during Sierra Leone’s civil war.

The court adjourned without fixing new date for his next appearance.
Meanwhile, six days after his dramatic capture in Gambouru-Ngala, Borno State, Taylor has accused President Olusegun Obasanjo of double-dealing, saying his once ‘amiable’ host, betrayed him after encouraging him (Taylor) to flee Nigeria in order to escape arrest. Nigeria denied the allegation.

Speaking through his spiritual adviser, Indian Evangelist Kilari Anand Paul, Taylor revealed that Nigerian security forces did not only encourage him to flee, but also helped him to get to Gambouru-Ngala, adding that to his utter disbelief, the same agents turned round and arrested him in a double cross.
Paul, who resides in Houston, U.S., said Taylor revealed to him details of what transpired in a telephone call from his cell in Sierra Leone at the weekend. Recounting what Taylor told him, the spiritual adviser said men of the Nigerian State Security Services (SSS) brought two vehicles to the villa where Taylor lived in Calabar on the night of March 28.

Paul said the security agents then escorted Taylor north and released him “in the middle of nowhere.” When Taylor asked, “Where are you guys going?” the security agents told him (Taylor) that they received instructions to leave him and they left.
Though dazed, Taylor was not discouraged. While he was making efforts to cross into Cameroon, the same security agents “turned up and arrested him,” Paul said, adding that Taylor was asked to surrender and he obeyed because “they had guns.”

According to CNN, when the authorities in Abuja were asked to react to Taylor’s story, President Obasanjo’s Special Assistant on Public Affairs, Femi Fani-Kayode, denied the allegation. Fani-Kayode, who spoke with the Associated Press (AP), said: “The story is a far-fetched figment of his jaundiced imagination.” He described Taylor as a man who “must have been reading too many James Bond novels.”

The presidential aide said throughout the Taylor episode, the president and the Federal Government behaved in a responsible, responsive and decent manner by honouring all obligations, adding “we did the right thing at the right time. We did not betray anybody, neither do the Nigerian people nor the Federal Government nor their president betray people”.

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