By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA — An Abuja Chief Magistrate Court, yesterday, sentenced the self confessed spokesman of the Boko Haram Islamic sect, Ali Sanda Umar Konduga (a.ka Al-Zawahiri) to three years imprisonment without option of fine.
Konduga was convicted by the trial court on a two-count criminal charge bothering on criminal breach of public trust and intimidation through anonymous communication, after he had pleaded guilty to all the allegations levelled at him by the State Security Service, SSS.
Though Kondunga admitted guilt before the court on November 22, however, presiding Magistrate Oyebiola Oyewumi on that day deferred his sentencing, saying it will be handed to him when the culpability or otherwise of the first accused person, Ndume, who blatantly denied the allegation against him, is determined.
Nevertheless, following decision of the security agency on Monday to transfer the criminal case involving the embattled lawmaker to a court of higher jurisdiction, the lower court had no option, yesterday, than to rely on the provisions of section 318 of the Criminal Procedure Code, CPC, to sentence the 2nd accused person to three years imprisonment.
Meanwhile, a mild drama ensued immediately the court clerk called up the matter yesterday. A lady that identified herself as Ms Regina Okotie-Eboh sprang and challenged the powers of the lower court to subject the Boko Haram spokesman to trial on the basis of the First Information Report entered against him by the SSS.
Ms Eboh, who claimed to be a human rights activist, maintained that the court ought not have remanded the accused persons in custody in the first place since it was ab-initio bereft of the requisite jurisdiction to entertain such matter.
She, therefore, urged the court to not only abort its plans to sentence the second accused person, but to equally discharge the accused persons on the premise that it has no jurisdiction to try them.
Despite her spirited efforts to secure the release of the accused person, yesterday, presiding Magistrate Oyewumi ordered her to sit down, stressing that the court had become functus-officio (bound by its decision), adding that if the court must hear her, it must be via a written submission.
Having said that, Magistrate Oyewumi turned to Konduga who kept fidgeting in the dock and held that, “in view of the plea for leniency and the fact that Section 302 of the CPC provides for a maximum of five years imprisonment, the court hereby sentences you to three years of imprisonment, and by virtue of section 303 of the same code, the convict will be kept at the pleasure of the government.”
Shortly after the judgment, the prosecuting counsel, Mr Cliff Osagie, pleaded the court to allow the jailed Boko Haram spokesman to remain in the custody of the SSS, insisting that due to the sensitive nature of the matter and a vote of no confidence earlier passed on Konduga by his sect, it may be detrimental to remand him in prison custody.
Owing to the oral application, the presiding magistrate said she was persuaded to remand the convicted Boko Haram spokesman in custody of the SSS on the basis of what prosecuting counsel referred to as “the heightened security situation, as it relates to prison break in the country.”
Konduga insists he is sane
Meanwhile, Konduga who appeared relieved by the decision of the court, while responding to questions from journalists after the court proceeding, yesterday, denounced his father for saying that he is mentally unbalanced.
The Boko Haram spokesman while debunking such insinuation as arrant balderdash, said he personally resolved to surrender himself with a view to helping the Federal Government to find a lasting solution to the incessant and senseless bombings that he said were embraced by some radical members of the sect as the only means of driving home their demand for the entrenchment of Sharia law in the Northern part of the country.
He said: “I want the government to release our members that have been imprisoned as an incentive to bring the crisis to an end by laying down their arms…Even though my father has a big responsibility towards knowing me according to the holy Quran, I know myself and I know I’ve not been insane before. In fact, I’ve never been to a psychiatric centre before.”
… to testify against Ndume
In the meantime, indications emerged, yesterday, that the SSS might have concluded plans to convert the convicted Boko Haram spokesman to a prosecution witness that will testify against the embattled Senator Ndume who has already spent 16 days in detention.
A source that spoke to Vanguard on grounds of anonymity, hinted that Konduga would testify against Ndume who he said might be arraigned before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on a fresh four-count criminal charge, today or on Friday.
The fresh charge entered against Ndume at the high court reads: “That you, Mohammed Ali Ndume (m) on or about the 4th day of October, 2011 somewhere between Maiduguri and Abuja, being in possession of the mobile phone number of Ali Sanda Umar Konduga (alias Usman AI- Zawahiri), a terrorist spokesman of the Boko Haram sect which you know to be of material assistance in securing the apprehension of the said Ali Umar Konduga, did fail to disclose same information to a law officer as soon as reasonably practicable and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 7(1)(b) of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 and punishable under Section 7( 1) of the same Act.
“That you, Mohammed Ali Ndume (m) on or about the 4th day of October, 2011 somewhere between Maiduguri and Abuja, having received information from Ali Sanda Umar Konduga, a terrorist spokesman of the Boko Haram sect regarding planned attacks on judges of the Borno State Election Tribunal and the National Assembly, which you know to be of material assistance in securing the prosecution of members of the said Boko Haram Sect for an offence under the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011 did fail to disclose same information to a law enforcement officer as soon as reasonably practicable and you thereby committed and offence contrary to section 7(1)(b) of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011 and punishable under Section 7(1) of the same Act.
“That you, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume (rn) on or about the 4th day of October, 2011 somewhere between Maiduguri and Abuja, being the operator of MTN GSM telephone number 08035998045, did provide logistics to wit: telephone numbers of certain public officers including the Hon. Attorney-General of the Federation, to Ali Sanda Umar Konduga (alias Usman Al-Zawahiri), a terrorist spokesman of the Boko Haram sect, for the activity of sending terrorist text messages to them, which you know is connected with an act of terrorism and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 3(b) of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011 and punishable under Section 3 of the same Act.
“That you, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume (m) on or about the 4th day of October, 2011 somewhere between Maiduguri and Abuja did knowingly render support for an act of terrorism by supplying the telephone numbers of certain public officers, including the Hon. Attorney-General of the Federation, to Ali Sanda Umar Konduga (alias Usman AI-Zawahiri), a terrorist spokesman of the Boko Haram sect, for the purpose of communicating terrorist messages to the said public officers and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 4(1)(a) of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011 and punishable under Section 4 of the same Act.”