Over 3,000 Boko Haram cases stall in courts

Sunday Trust - - FEATURE - By John Chuks Azu

Over 3,000 Boko Haram case files are pend­ing in var­i­ous courts across Nige­ria, a source at the Of­fice of the At­tor­ney-Gen­eral of the Fed­er­a­tion (AGF) has told Daily Trust on Sun­day. Many of such cases bor­der on the en­force­ment of fun­da­men­tal rights of de­tainees, who claim to have been er­ro­neously held by the se­cu­rity agen­cies with­out trial. Ac­cord­ing to our source, at least 1,000 core ter­ror­ism tri­als are among those that are pend­ing. For in­stance, the cases in­volv­ing Mo­hammed Nazeef Yunus, a lec­turer in Kogi State Univer­sity; Salami Ab­dul­lahi, busi­ness­man; and Musa Umar, who are charged with at­tempt­ing to un­leash ter­ror in Kogi State in 2014, are still on, with all the de­fen­dants now on bail on health grounds.

The case in­volv­ing Aminu Og­wuche, who al­legedly mas­ter­minded the April 2014 Nyanya mo­tor park bomb­ing, along­side Ahmed Abubakar, Mo­hammed Ishaq, Ya’u Saidu, alias Ko­far Rama; Anas Isa, and Adamu Yusuf, is still on­go­ing.

Again, the case of five per­sons im­pli­cated in the Oc­to­ber 2, 2015 Kuje and Nyanya bomb blasts - Ab­du­lazeez Mu­hazab, Ishaku Sal­isu, Mo­hammed Ji­moh, Ab­dul­wa­heed Nasiru, Ab­du­lahi Nasiru and two oth­ers at large - are on­go­ing. Some of the sus­pects ini­tially pleaded guilty to the charges but later re­canted af­ter their lawyers protested, sug­gest­ing that they were ei­ther ca­joled or did not un­der­stand the charge.

Also on­go­ing is the case on the killing of 11 for­eign­ers in north­ern Nige­ria, in­volv­ing Mo­hammed Us­man, alias Khalid Al­bar­nawi, who al­legedly leads a Boko Haram splin­ter group, Jama’atu An­sarul Mus­lim­ina Fi Bi­ladis Su­dan, also known as An­saru. Oth­ers are Mo­hammed Bashir Saleh, Umar Bello (Abu Az­zan); Mo­hammed Sal­isu (Datti); Yakubu Nuhu (Bello Maishayi), Us­man Abubakar (Mu­gi­ratu), and a lady, Hal­ima Aliyu. Abubakar was dis­charged af­ter the of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­eral of the Fed­er­a­tion (AGF) in­tro­duced Mo­hammed Sani and Abubakar Habib as new de­fen­dants.

The case of Ab­dul­lahi Mustapha Berende and Saidi Adewumi, who are ac­cused of re­cruit­ing new mem­bers for an Iran-based ter­ror or­gan­i­sa­tion, is still pend­ing be­fore a Fed­eral High Court in Abuja.

A se­nior of­fi­cial in the Min­istry of Jus­tice in­formed Daily Trust on Sun­day that there could be about 5,000 sus­pects be­ing held on ac­count of the Boko Haram in­sur­gency. This has swelled the reg­u­lar pris­ons, where out of at least 68,288 in­mates, 46, 351 are await­ing trial, ac­cord­ing to the Comp­trol­ler Gen­eral of Pris­ons, Ja’afaru Ahmed. He said this had stretched the fa­cil­i­ties of se­cu­rity agen­cies be­yond limit.

Out of the over 1,000 cases in­volv­ing the Jama’atu Ahli Sunna Lid­daawati­walJi­had, oth­er­wise known as Boko Haram, pend­ing in the courts, only a hand­ful have been con­cluded, the At­tor­ney-Gen­eral of the Fed­er­a­tion and Min­is­ter of Jus­tice, Abubakar Malami, a Se­nior Ad­vo­cate of Nige­ria (SAN), has said. Their fate has been hang­ing in the bal­ance, cour­tesy of Nige­ria’s crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.

The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment recorded the first con­vic­tion against a for­mer spokesman of the sect, Ali Sanda Kon­duga on De­cem­ber 6, 2011. Stand­ing trial be­fore an Abuja Mag­is­trates Court, he pleaded guilty to cir­cu­lat­ing threat­en­ing text mes­sages to politi­cians, in­clud­ing Se­na­tor Ali Ndume of Borno State, who was re­cently ac­quit­ted of al­le­ga­tions of links with the sect.

One of the cases con­cluded was that of Kabiru Umar, alias Kabiru Sokoto, who is the master­mind of the De­cem­ber 25, 2011 bomb­ing of the Saint Theresa Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State. He bagged life im­pris­on­ment on De­cem­ber 20, 2013 with two oth­ers when Jus­tice Adeniyi Ade­mola of the Fed­eral High Court, Abuja found him guilty on the two counts of ter­ror­ism brought un­der Sec­tion 15(2) of the Eco­nomic and Fi­nan­cial Crimes Com­mis­sion (EFCC) Es­tab­lish­ment) Act, 2004 and Sec­tion 71 of the Ter­ror­ism Preven­tion Act, 2011. Sim­i­larly, on Novem­ber 15, 2013, Mustapha Umar was found guilty by the same Fed­eral High Court, Abuja, over the April 26, 2012 bomb­ing of the SOJ Plaza on Kon­tan­gora Road, Kaduna, jointly oc­cu­pied by This­day, The Sun and The Mo­ment news­pa­pers. The court up­held the pros­e­cu­tion’s claim that Umar and oth­ers rammed a bomb-laden Honda Academy car with regis­tra­tion num­ber AL 306 MKA into the op­er­a­tional premises of the news­pa­pers.

Also, the mas­ter­minds of the April 2011 bomb­ing of the INEC of­fice in Suleja, Niger State - Shuaibu Abubakar, Sal­isu Ahmed, Umar Baba­gana-Umar, Mo­hammed Ali, Musa Adam and Umar Ibrahim - were sen­tenced by Jus­tice Blik­isu Aliyu of Fed­eral High Court, Abuja on July 9, 2013.

In some of the con­cluded cases, the ac­cused per­sons were not con­victed. For in­stance, a Fed­eral High Court dis­charged and ac­quit­ted five po­lice of­fi­cers who were ac­cused of mur­der­ing a Boko Haram leader, Mo­hammed Yusuf, his fa­ther-in-law, Baba Fugu, and ma­jor financier of the sect, Buji Foi, in 2009. On De­cem­ber 17, 2015, Jus­tice Evo Chukwu, now late, dis­charged as­sis­tant com­mis­sion­ers of po­lice, John Abang and Mo­hammed Akeera Yoonus, CSP Mo­hammed Ah­madu, ASP Mada Buba and Sergeant Adamu Gado, for want of ev­i­dence against them. He up­held the sub­mis­sion of the de­fence, that even if the de­fen­dants were charged with mur­der, none of the wit­nesses or the po­lice re­port pre­sented in court proved that any of them was in­volved in the shoot­ing in­ci­dent.

Also, on June 6, a Fed­eral High Court in Abuja dis­charged Us­man Abubakar, who was charged over the killing of 11 for­eign­ers in the North. His name was struck out by the pros­e­cu­tion.

Since the war on in­sur­gency be­gan, there has been mass ar­rest of sus­pects, which gave rise to many de­ten­tion cen­tres in Maiduguri, Abuja, Niger, Kogi, La­gos and other places. There are claims that at least 10,000 sus­pects are still be­ing held in the var­i­ous cells op­er­ated by the Nige­rian Pris­ons Ser­vice, Nige­rian Army and the De­part­ment of State Se­cu­rity (DSS).

The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment, through the Min­is­ter of In­te­rior, Ab­dul­rah­man Dan­baz­zau, has an­nounced plans to build new pris­ons, but this has been crit­i­cised by hu­man right or­gan­i­sa­tions, which said there was the need to first re­form the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.

“We have had few con­vic­tions in courts in Abuja, Jos and Bauchi. The at­tor­ney­gen­eral is plan­ning a pro­gramme to deal with Boko Haram cases. Many de­tainees who have no case will be dis­charged. We are not in­ter­ested in per­se­cut­ing any­body,” an of­fi­cial of the Min­istry of Jus­tice said.

The Nige­rian In­sti­tute of Ad­vanced Le­gal Stud­ies (NIALS), in a study in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Nige­rian Sta­bil­ity and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Pro­gramme (NSRP), which was funded by the De­part­ment for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment (DFID), iden­ti­fied lack of ev­i­dence, le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion for de­fen­dants, ab­sence of pros­e­cu­tors, among other things, as causes of the stag­na­tion of 939 Boko Haram cases in courts. The study, which was ti­tled, Deal­ing with the Past: Jus­tice, Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and Heal­ing in the North-East of Nige­ria, was con­cluded in July, 2017.

Dur­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion of the min­istry’s re­port for the 2016/2017 le­gal year on Au­gust 29, the At­tor­ney-Gen­eral of the Fed­er­a­tion (AGF) and Min­is­ter of Jus­tice an­nounced plans to pro­file some 1,000 Boko Haram sus­pects, in­clud­ing those in cus­tody and those whose cases are not be­ing pros­e­cuted.

But the Deputy Di­rec­tor, Le­gal, Nige­rian Army, Col. T.S. Nurse­man, dur­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion of NIALS/NSRP re­port, called for more ac­tion from the AGF and Min­istry of Jus­tice. He pointed out that while serv­ing, mil­i­tary per­son­nel ac­cused of mis­con­duct in the front­lines of the con­flict are sum­mar­ily tried, but in­sur­gents can only be pros­e­cuted through the reg­u­lar courts.

“The Min­istry of Jus­tice should do their work. The AGF has not ar­tic­u­lated any pol­icy to ex­pe­di­tiously pros­e­cute some of these Boko Haram or crime sus­pects,’’ he said.

In a re­ac­tion, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Solic­i­tor-Gen­eral of the Fed­er­a­tion, Ti­janni Gaza­lli, iden­ti­fied lack of syn­ergy and in­ad­e­quate ev­i­dence from the army against the sus­pects as some of the rea­sons for the stag­na­tion of cases of Boko Haram sus­pects. The lack of syn­ergy in pros­e­cu­tion is be­lieved to have in­flu­enced the re­cent an­nounce­ment by the AGF to set up a co­or­di­nat­ing cen­tre and in­ves­ti­gat­ing unit for all crim­i­nal prose­cu­tions in the coun­try. He an­chored this on the con­sti­tu­tional pow­ers con­ferred on him as the chief law of­fi­cer of the fed­er­a­tion and by virtue of Sec­tion 105 (1) and (3) of the Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Act.

The in­sti­tu­tions ex­pected to come un­der the purview of the AGF’s con­trol in­clude the DSS; Nige­ria Po­lice Force; the In­de­pen­dent Cor­rupt Prac­tices Com­mis­sion (ICPC); the Eco­nomic and Fi­nan­cial Crimes Com­mis­sion (EFCC); the Na­tional Agency for the Preven­tion of Traf­fick­ing in Per­sons (NAPTIP); the Na­tional Drugs Law En­force­ment Agency (NDLEA); the Direc­torate of Mil­i­tary In­ves­ti­ga­tion (DMI); the Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Agency (NIA) and the Code of Con­duct Bu­reau (CCB).

“The prob­lem we are hav­ing with some of these Boko Haram cases is that the files are mostly con­fes­sional state­ments: no in­de­pen­dent, cor­rob­o­ra­tive ev­i­dence, and that causes de­lay in courts.

“There are guide­lines for pros­e­cu­tors and code of con­duct for pub­lic pros­e­cu­tion. Un­der the guide­lines we will not charge any case to court un­less there is rea­son­able prospect of con­vic­tion. If there is in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence, we won’t go to court,” a for­mer Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Prose­cu­tions of the Min­istry of Jus­tice, Akin­lolu Ak­in­tewe said.

Kuje bomb­ing sus­pects

Gen­eral Tukur Bu­ratai, Chief of Army Staff

Abubakar Malami (SAN) new pic­ture

Kabiru Sokoto

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