The Federal Government on Monday resumed the trial of suspected Boko Haram members in the Kainji Prosecution Project Phase IV in Abuja.
Speaking at the opening of the court session, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), said the first phase commenced in 2017.
Fagbemi said that the Federal Government, in the 2017 trial, secured a total of 366 convictions, while 896 others were discharged for lack of evidence and 61 other cases were subsequently adjourned for further hearings.
He said the resumption of the prosecution of terrorism suspects marked yet another step forward in the journey of ensuring the security and safety of Nigeria and Nigerians.
According to him, security is a duty that is of utmost importance to all Nigerians, as it is the primary duty of the government to ensure the security and welfare of its citizens.
“I must acknowledge the fact that we have come a long way in this initiative.
“The first phase of the Kainji Prosecution Project commenced in October 2017 with remarkable achievements.
“We recorded a total of 366 convictions, 896 others were discharged for lack of sufficient evidence and 61 other cases were adjourned for further hearing.
“There have been three phases of the exercise so far, spanning between October 2017 and July 2018.
“I must, at this point, challenge all stakeholders to ensure that the momentum is sustained, seeing how important this assignment is to the wellbeing of our beloved country and its people,” he said.
Fagbemi said that prosecution is one of the end processes of criminal justice administration, assuring Nigerians that the Federal Government would continue to commit to deploying resources towards the enhancement of its prosecutorial capacities.
He said the ministry would also continue to support efforts towards deradicalisation and reintegration of deserving terrorists.
“We have made tremendous efforts to ensure that the trials are conducted with due regard to the provisions of the constitution regarding openness, as much as can be permitted and in the circumstances provide the suspects with adequate opportunities to make their defence.
“I would like to urge the prosecutors and defence counsel to continue to maintain the highest levels of professional standards in this national assignment,” he added.
On his part, the Director, Criminal Justice, Legal Aid Council, Mr Abdulfattah Bakre, said they had the consent of the defendants to represent them in the case.
Bakre promised to cooperate with the government while representing the defendants to ensure quick dispensation of justice in the case.
“We are happy that this trial is resuming after such a long time and we are glad that the defendants will have the opportunity to be heard.
“We are representing them based on their trust and not on the instruction of the Federal Government.
“We were in Kainji some years ago and also recently we were also in Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri where we interacted with them and we have been fully instructed to represent them,” he said.
On his part, the representative of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said the commission would ensure that the defendants’ rights were respected while the trial lasted.
The Attorney General personally commenced the prosecution of the suspects at the resumed hearing on Monday.
The trial is being presided over by Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court.
The National Security Adviser (NSA), Nuhu Ribadu, said the resumption of the trial was in line with Nigeria’s commitment to the rule of law and human rights-based approach to countering terrorism.
Ribadu said his office had ensured the full participation of the Armed Forces of Nigeria and other law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies towards the successful prosecution of all persons suspected of terrorism under the Terrorism Prevention Act.
According to him, efforts have been made through training and capacity building of investigators and prosecutors towards an evidence-based trial and witness protection.
He called on all stakeholders to commit to the identified timeline for the completion of the trials, assuring them of the full support of President Bola Tinubu to strengthen Nigeria’s countering terrorism strategies within a human rights framework. (NAN)