By IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI
ABUJA—Six alleged kingpins of the Boko Haram sect in Niger State, who were apprehended while on their way to Kaduna State to attack the venue of an event that was attended by Vice President Namadi Sambo in Kaduna on July 28, 2011, yesterday, challenged the powers of the Federal Government to prosecute them. They include Shuaibu Abubakar, Salisu Ahmed, Umar Babagana-Umar, Mohammed Ali, Musa Adam and Umar Ibrahim.
The States Security Service, SSS, which recommended their trial, had maintained that its investigations revealed that it was the accused persons that masterminded the explosion that rocked office of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in Suleja, Niger State, prior to the April 16, 2011, presidential election.
A senior Army officer who led the team of soldiers that caught the suspects at Gummel Junction at Kachia Kaduna on July 27, 2011, had in his evidence-in-chief told the trial court that a text message found in the in-box of a mobile handset confiscated from one of the suspects, revealed that each of the accused persons was promised an inheritance of 72 virgins in paradise, assuming they succeeded in bombing the event that was attended by the Vice President and some Northern governors.
Similarly, the high court had on December 20, 2012, admitted into evidence, 250 different explosive making devices that were allegedly recovered from the accused persons.
A representative of the Nigerian Army, whose identity was masked by the Federal Government, owing to the sensitive nature of the case, while tendering evidence in court, warned that the dangerous components of Improvised Explosive Device, IED, they were caught with could bring down the whole of the high court building in seconds.
Consequently, trial Justice Bilkisu Aliyu declined to take custody of the evidence comprising IEDs and bundles of connector wires, even as she granted the SSS leave to take them away for safe keeping pending when it would be needed for examination by the court.
Meanwhile, at the resumed hearing on the case yesterday, the accused persons, through their counsel, Mr Nureni Sulaiman, contended that the Federal Government failed to establish a nexus between them and the alleged crime, just as they expressed intention to make a no-case submission on the charge against them.
Basically, a no-case submission is made when an accused person believes that the prosecution has failed to prove the ingredients of the offence for which he is charged or that the evidence adduced in court was such that a judge cannot rely upon to pass a sentence.
Even though the accused persons made frantic efforts to make the application orally, trial Justice Aliyu declined to hear them, directing that they should file a formal application to that effect.
Meantime, the court yesterday admitted into evidence a black Honda Civic with registration number AG-94-NMG in which three of the suspects were arrested, even as the suspects conceded before the court that the car actually belonged to them.
Adjourning further hearing on the case till February 6 and 7 to enable the accused persons to enter a no-case-submission, Justice Aliyu ordered the defense counsel to file and serve the application on the prosecution within 14 days.
The six accused persons are standing trial over alleged multiple bombings and killings in Suleja, Madalla and environs.
The SSS had alleged that its undercover investigations revealed that they participated in various terrorist attacks that killed 28 persons between March and July.
However, though they had on September 30, 2011, pleaded not guilty to a 5-count charge that was preferred against them by the Federal Government, they have since remained at Kuje prisons from where they attend their trial.
The prosecution had alleged that six of them , “between June 4 and July 12, (both dates inclusive) at various locations in Suleja, Niger state, Azare, Nasarawa state and the FCT, did engage in an act of terrorism by encouraging through training persons now at large, the use of arms and ammunition, and the preparation, planting and detonation of improvised explosive devices for the purpose of terrorism and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 15 (2) of EFCC Act 2004 and punishable under the same section of the Act.”
They were said to have supervised the bombing of a village, Dakna, in Bwari, Abuja, on May 23; an incident SSS said resulted in the death of three Peace Officers, as well as detonated an improvised explosive device at a political rally in Suleja which resulted in the death of three persons too.
If convicted, the offence for which the accused persons are answering to attracts a punishment of life imprisonment.