Federal High Court, Lagos
Journalists were Thursday barred from covering proceedings at the Federal High Court, Lagos when the 17 alleged members of the Boko Haram sect were brought to court for arraignment.
The suspects were charged with an eight-count charge of belonging to the proscribed organisation and for being in possession of explosives and dangerous weapons.
They were brought to the court presided over by Justice Musa Kurya at about 9.45a.m. by a combined team of riot policemen and State Security Service (SSS) officials, who were armed with sophisticated weapons.
As proceedings were to begin, an SSS official asked everyone who was not a lawyer to leave the courtroom.
When the court reporters identified themselves and explained why they were in court, the security agent said the press had been barred from covering the case.
He said the SSS got a directive from the presidency not to allow any journalist cover the proceedings.
When the journalists complied and stood outside the courtroom, another armed SSS officer asked them to leave and not stay anywhere around the corridor.
“I give you five minutes to leave this place, or you will be handcuffed,” the security agent threatened.
Earlier, a lawyer who was caught taking photographs of the accused persons with his mobile phone as they marched into the court, had it seized.
When the proceedings ended at about 11.58a.m., journalists approached the prosecutor, Mrs E. I. Alakija of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) in the Lagos State Ministry of Justice to get details of what transpired in court, but she was unwilling to speak to the press.
She directed the journalists to ask the court officials for a copy of the charge, saying she had none to spare.
Alakija added that she had only one copy, but did not release it to be photocopied when asked.
One of the lawyers in the prosecution team told the journalists to be “patient” as “the case is very sensitive.”
It was, however, learnt that the arraignment could not go on because the first to fifth accused persons had no legal representation.
Two lawyers were said to have represented the rest.
From the charge numbered FHC/L/299/13, the accused persons include: Ali Modu, Adamu Karumi, Ibrahim Ali, Ibrahim Bukar, Mohammed A. Mohammed, Bala Haruna and Idris Ali, Mohammed Murtala.
Others include, Kadri Mohammed, Mustapha Hassan, Abba Duguni, Sanni Adamu, Danjuma Yahaya, Musa Bala, Bala Daura, Faruk Haruna, Abdulaziz Zuladaini.
The charge stated that the suspects were arrested at three different locations in Lagos on March 21, namely Plot 5, Road 69, Lekki Phase 1 Housing Estate;