• 220 detainees to be released
By Tobi Soniyi in Lagos
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) will on Monday, October 9, 2017, begin the prosecution of 2,321 suspected members of Boko Haram.
A statement issued yesterday by Mr. Salihu Isah, Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to the minister said the suspects were being detained in various detention facilities across the country.
While there are 1,670 detainees held at a detention facility in Kainji another 651 detainees are in detention in Maiduguri.
Isah also said that 220 detainees have been recommended for release and will participate in the deradicalisation programme for want of evidence.
In order to fast-track the prosecution of the cases, he said the justice minister had approved a list of prosecutors to handle the cases, adding that the Legal Aid Council had equally agreed to provide counsel to represent accused persons that cannot afford lawyers.
He said four judges had been designated by the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to hear the cases at Kainji and dispose of them expeditiously.
According to him, 13 cases had been concluded, with nine convictions secured while 33 cases were on trial at various Federal High Court divisions.
Another 116 cases have been filed but the suspects were yet to be arraigned.
He said the trial of those detained in Kainji would start first to be followed by those detained in Maiduguri.
However, not all the 1670 detainees in Kainji would face prosecution. They will either be recommended for trial or for the deradicalisation programme.
International donor agencies have expressed concern at the slow pace or non-existent prosecution of those arrested for complicity in the atrocities committed by the insurgents.
Amnesty International has also condemned the prolonged detention of suspects without trial.
The AGF’s spokesman explained that the prosecution was slow because most of the cases were poorly investigated with confessions being the only evidence.
Isah said lack of forensic evidence and absence of cooperation between investigators and prosecutors at pre-investigation stages also contributed to the difficulty in establishing prima facie cases against some of the suspects.
Other factors which he said contributed to government’s inability to effectively prosecute the suspects were: poor logistic facilities to transport defendants from detention facilities to courts for trial; scarcity of skilled/trained forensic personnel to handle investigations of complex cases; inadequate security for counsel handling terrorism cases; and converting military intelligence to admissible evidence.
The statement said: “It is expected that the special prosecutions will start with the detainees in Kainji followed closely by the disposal of cases of the detainees in Giwa Barracks, Maiduguri until the cases are exhausted.
“The Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), as the coordinator of terrorism matters, is expected to assist the court by providing the relevant detainees access to deradicalisation programmes where necessary.
“This is the report of an on-the-spot assessment of the facilities and other incidentals preparatory to the commencement of trial of the over 1,600 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, Federal High Court and Office of the 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 the relevant authorities and organisations on final preparations for the all-important national assignment,” it read.
The statement categorised the suspects into four 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 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 handing 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 attorney-general found prima facie cases against 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 lesser sentences.
“The other category is made up of suspects whose case files are either recommended for further investigations or that have no investigations conducted on them at all, hence they do not have case files that will warrant the Attorney General of the Federation to form any opinion in respect of their cases.
“The fourth category is made up of suspects whose cases were reviewed and prima facie cases were found and may be willing to opt for a full trial.”