Senator Aliyu Mohammed Ndume
By Tobi Soniyi
Trial of Senator Aliyu Mohammed Ndume on charges of financing terrorism finally took off Tuesday at a Federal High Court in Abuja.
The trial which had suffered delay since the senator was first arraigned last December, commenced with the prosecution team led by Mrs. I. I. Idera, calling their first witness.
The witness, Mr. Abdulkareem Farouk Dauda, a security investigator with the State Security Service (SSS), told the court how the embattled senator was invited to the headquarters of the security agency following the mentioning of his name by a suspected terrorist, Umar Ali Konduga, during investigations and how he was directed by his superior officer, Mr. James Eneh Izi, on November 21, 2011, to interview and take the senator’s statement.
He told the court that Ndume made three statements on that day and another one on November 24, 2011.
The witness also told the court that he was part of the team which visited the home of the senator on November 23, 2011, at the Apo Legislative Quarters in Abuja to execute a search warrant.
During cross examination of the witness, Ndume’s lawyer, Mr. Rickey Tarfa (SAN) attempted to cast doubts on his qualification and competence to handle terrorism-related matters but the attempt hit a brick wall as he reeled out specific terrorism-related training courses he had attended since his graduation from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, both within and outside the country which were conducted by both the American CIA, British MI5 and MI6 as well as the SSS.
On his membership of the Special Investigative Panel formed by the SSS in the wake of the terrorist acts by Boko Haram sect, the witness told the court that he was conscripted into the panel upon his completion of a course in Arabic Language at the Nigerian Army School of Education in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.
He told the court that he was deployed to team D composed of four officers of the agency.
Tarfa sought to know if the team investigated the contents of the senator’s statements to ascertain their veracity or otherwise but the witness stated that it was not part of his schedule to investigate such and that it was the duty of the Service to do so and that information regarding operations in the Service were strictly on the need - to -know basis.
Ndume had alleged in his statements that he handed over some materials he obtained in the course of his job as a member of the Presidential Task Force on Insecurity in the North-east to both the Vice-President, Namadi Sambo, and the Director General of the SSS, Mr. Ita Ekpeyong.
Tarfa sought to know if the investigative panel conducted an investigation into that allegation to ascertain whether indeed the embattled senator did so but the witness insisted that he had no knowledge of such.
The defence counsel also wanted to know whether it was only his client’s name that was mentioned by Umar Ali Konduga and why others were not also on trial. The witness told the court that the senator and one other person were named by Konduga.
but that the other person how died.
Upon the completion of the cross examination, the trial judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, adjourned further proceeding to Tuesday 10th July.
It will be recalled that the former spokesman of the sect, Kunduga, who implicated the senator had owned up to his crimes and was subsequently sentenced to a three year jail term by an Abuja Chief Magistrate Court.
Ndume, however, denied any involvement with the group in spite of records of telephone communication which the SSS claimed to have linked him to the group.
Ndume was alleged to have been in possession of a telephone number which he knew to be important to law enforcement officials in the unraveling of the persons behind the Boko Haram menace, but did not oblige same to law enforcement agencies.
This is said to be an offence contrary to the provisions of Section 7 (1) of the Terrorism Prevention Act.
He is also alleged to have run foul of Section 3(b) of the Act for being the possessor and operator of a phone number which provided logistics and phone numbers of government officials, including those of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN to Kunduga, former Spokesman of the dreaded Boko Haram Sect.
Ndume was also alleged to have received information from Kunduga regarding planned terrorist attacks on members of the Borno state Election Petition Tribunal judges but failed to disclose such to law enforcement agencies as well as rendering support to acts of terrorism through the provision of information to the sect through Kunduga.