The Federal Government said it is set to continue the trial of suspected terrorists in October.
Trial of various cases of alleged terrorism were suspended since the annual vacation of judges across the country began in July.
But yesterday, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Shehu Malami, said the trials will now begin on October 9.
“All is now set to begin the arraignment of suspected Boko Haram suspects in various detention facilities in the country,” he said through a statement by his media aide, Salihu Isa.
“It is slated to kick-start tentatively on Monday, October 9, 2017.”
According to the statement, Malami has approved a list of prosecutors to handle the cases, while the Legal Aid Council has also released a list of defence counsel to stand in for the detainees/defendants.
“The proposed prosecutions of over 1,600 detainees held in Kainji will commence by early October, 2017 after the opening of the new legal year.
“Currently, four (4) judges have been deputed by the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to sit on the cases at Kainji and dispose of them expeditiously.
“It is expected that the special prosecutions will start with the detainees in Kainji followed closely by the disposal of the cases of the detainees in Giwa Barracks, Maiduguri until the cases are exhausted”.
The statement added that 13 terrorism cases had so far been concluded, from which nine convictions were secured.
The statement said there were 33 terrorism cases already taking place in courts across the country.
The statement said 33 cases are ongoing trials at various Federal High Court divisions, while 116 charges had been filed and are awaiting trial in Kainji.
It said 220 detainees had been recommended for release and deradicalisation for want of evidence.
“Detainees profiled at the Kainji detention facility awaiting judicial proceedings and deradicalisation programme are 1,670.
“Detainees remanded at the Federal High Court, Maiduguri and transferred from Giwa Barracks to Maiduguri Prisons are 651.”
The statement highlighted the challenges of the trial to include poorly investigated case files due to pressure during the peak of conflict at the theatre, over reliance on confession-based evidence, lack of forensic evidence, and absence of cooperation between investigators and prosecutors at pre-investigation stages.
Other challenges mentioned were “poor logistical facilities to transport defendants from detention facility to court for trial, scarcity of skilled/trained forensic personnel to handle investigation of complex cases, inadequate security for counsel handling terrorism cases and converting military intelligence to admissible evidence.”
According to the statement, the Office of the National Security Adviser is expected to help by providing the deradicalisation programmes where necessary.
“This is the report of the on-the-spot assessment of the facilities and other incidentals preparatory to the commencement of trial of the over 1600 suspected Boko Haram terrorists detained in a military detention facility located in Wawa Barracks, Kainji, New Bussa, Niger State following successes recorded by the Nigeria Army and other security agencies in the fight against terrorism in Nigeria.
“A team comprising representatives of the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), Federal High Court and the Office of the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation were dispatched to Kainji from the 12th to 14th of September, 2017 to carry out the assessment and to discuss with relevant authorities and organisation in final preparation of the all-important national assignment.”
According to the statement, the various suspects have been categorised into four different groups.
“Boko Haram suspects who were hitherto investigated by the Joint Investigation Team set up by the Defence Headquarters otherwise known as DHQ/JIT and case files transmitted to the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and after a careful review of the cases based on their individual merit, it was discovered that they have no prima facie cases that will sustain a charge against them in any court of law, hence were recommended for release and handed over to the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) for rehabilitation and/or de-radicalisation.
“The second category is the set of suspects that the Honourable Attorney-General found prima facie cases against them and charges already filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja Division who are also mostly in the detention facility under reference and may be willing to plead guilty for a lesser sentences.
“The other category are the suspects whose case files are either recommended for further investigation or that have no investigation conducted on them at all hence they do not have case files that will warrant the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation to form any opinion in respect of their case.
“Lastly, the fourth category is the suspects whose cases were reviewed and a prima facie were found and may be willing to opt for a full trial.”
… as frustrated IDPs ask to trek home
The Bama Initiative for Human Development, an NGO, yesterday in Maiduguri staged a peaceful demonstration demanding the return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to their respective communities in Bama.
The group’s chairman, Muhammad Hassan, said that the IDPs want to return and continue their normal activities in view of the prevailing peace in the state.
Hassan noted that about 70 per cent of the reconstruction and rehabilitation projects had been completed in the area, saying that they were tired of living as displaced persons.
“We are in Maiduguri for more than three years without meaningful means of livelihoods. The condition of our people is pathetic.
“The elongation in the process of returning displaced persons to their homes is moving at a snail pace and exposed them to unbearable conditions.
“We could no longer send our children to school; many have died of hunger and starvation. Most of us live in host communities and no one is supporting us,” Hassan stated.
He said that most of them were traumatised worsened by serious neglect and poor living condition, adding that they are ready to trek back to Bama.
The police, however, stopped the demonstrators from embarking on the trek and urged them to drop the idea because of safety.
The Police Commissioner in the state, Damian Chukwu, said that the group had not notified the command over their planned return to Bama.
He advised the IDPs to dialogue with the state government and other stakeholders over their demand so that adequate preparations would be made.
“The police have a duty to protect you and we will not allow you to gather people and expose them to danger in the name of home return.
“Also, there is massive reconstruction and rehabilitation works going on in the town, executed by the Federal and State Government under the Bama Initiative.
“We will not allow you to go because of your safety, you better go back and wait for the time when government will permit your return to the town,” he said.
In his reaction, Governor Kashim Shettima urged the IDPs to cooperate with government to fast-track the completion of rehabilitation projects in the town.
Isa Gusau, the Special Adviser to the Governor, Communication and Media Strategy, made this known in a statement issued in Maiduguri.
“It is to the government’s advantage if IDPs return home because their return will lessen economic burden of supporting them as displaced persons.
“The greatest wish of the governor is the safe and dignified return of all IDPs to their communities. Much as he wants the IDPs to return, he is also concerned about their safety.
“Gov. Shettima is consistently committed to the ongoing rebuilding of private homes, police stations, hospitals, schools, water facilities, markets, council secretariats and other essential services in communities across 15 local government areas of the state,” he said.
Gusau explained that government had constructed 20,000 housing units in Bama and provided modern health facilities, schools and police stations in the area.
He added that the federal government was currently training a special Anti-Terrorism Squad and Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) to be deployed to the town under the Bama Initiative.