BY IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI, Abuja
Mastermind of the Christmas day bomb blast that killed about 44 persons and wounded 75 others at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State, in 2011, Kabiru Umar, alias Kabiru Sokoto, was yesterday, sentenced to life imprisonment by a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.
Delivering his judgement, the presiding judge, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, said he was satisfied that the Federal Government, successfully established the culpability of the convict beyond every reasonable doubt, noting that Umar had in two earlier separate confessional statements, admitted that he had prior knowledge of the attack.
Besides, the court stressed that the accused person, throughout the trial, never showed any remorse for his actions, describing him as “a pathological liar with no regards for the truth.”
The court observed that the convict had in a statement he voluntarily made on January 14, 2012, shortly after he was arrested, confessed that he was a key member of the Boko Haram terrorist group.
Justice Adeniyi read a portion of the said statement where the convict stated thus, “here in Abaji, nobody knows that I am a Boko Haram member, much so, I have about 500 children that I teach Quran”, adding that ‘Sokoto’, on page four of his statement, confessed that under his supervision, “the Madalla church bombing was carried out by one Bashir Mohammed, Muhktar Kafanchan and others who I cannot remember their names now.”
The court further noted that one of the eight Boko Haram members the accused gave AK-47 rifles and directed to bomb police stations and other government agencies in Sokoto State, exposed the operations of the sect and fingered ‘Kabiru Sokoto’ as the person in charge of the coordination of bomb attacks after he was caught by a team of policemen during a shoot out.
Likewise, the Judge, observed that Umar, had in his evidence before the court, admitted that he not only obtained four credits in the West African School Certificate Examination, WASCE, but was also a laboratory technician by profession, but feigned that he did not understand the English Language during trial.
“This court finds that the accused person was economical with the truth right from the beginning of this trial when he claimed that he does not understand English. The accused person was not a credible witness.
“The prosecution has proved its case beyond every reasonable doubt. Accordingly, the accused person is guilty as charged under count one of the amended charge. This court states categorically that going by the confessional statements of the accused person, his testimony before the court and that of the witnesses, he was the mastermind of the terrorist attack at St Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla, Niger state.
“The evidence against him was unequivocal, positive and direct. This attack was carried out on a Christmas day, a day both Christians, Muslims and even Jews celebrate all over the world. For a person to have a sinister motive on that kind of day is highly condemnable.
The accused person showed no remorse throughout the trial. I also take cognizance of the fact that his character did not depict a person who is sincere to the truth.
“In the final analysis, I find you Kabiru Umar alias Kabiru Sokoto, guilty and I hereby sentence you to life imprisonment in count one and 10 years in count two. Both sentences are to run consecutively, one after the other,” the judge held.
Meanwhile, the court, yesterday, directed the police to forthwith, conduct an in-depth investigation with a view to ascertaining who the convict went to see at the Borno State Governor’s lodge on the day he was eventually arrested by undercover police men.
“Judicial notice should be taken that members of the organization have infiltrated various organs of government. The police should investigate circumstances that surrounded his visit to that lodge. Police owe a duty to Nigerians to investigate and arrest whoever was involved in sponsorship of acts of terrorism regardless of who such person is or his status in the society,” the judge added.
Earlier in his allocutus, ‘Sokoto’ had through his lawyer, Mr. Hassan Lukman, asked the court to temper justice with mercy, as he had aged parents, a wife and two children that depended on him for their living.
Lukman told the court that prior to the trial, his client, was never arrested or charged before any court in Nigeria, adding that he had been under detention for over two years and “never had the opportunity of seeing his aged parents, siblings and most importantly his wife and children.” His plea was however ignored by the court.
Meantime, Sokoto, who had earlier filed a N300million suit against the government over alleged torture, through his team of lawyers, has vowed to appeal against the judgement.
The convict was on May 20, 2013, arraigned before the court on an amended two-count terrorism charge.
Aside allegations that he trained over 500 men on how to manufacture and detonate Improvised Explosive Devices, IEDs, the Federal Government, alleged that he had prior knowledge that the sect planned to bomb the church on Christmas day but failed to disclose it to any law enforcement officer as soon as reasonably practicable.
He was said to have between 2007 and 2012, at Mabira Sokoto, Sokoto State, facilitated the commission of terrorist acts including planting bombs at the police headquarters and some government organizations in the state. He was charged under Section 15(2) of the EFCC Act, 2011, and Section 17 of the Terrorism Prevention Act, 2011.
The government told the court that the accused person instituted his terrorist training camp at Abaji, a suburb town in Abuja.
Though he was previously arrested by the police in Abuja on January 14, 2012, Sokoto was declared missing two days later.
His mysterious escape from custody culminated to the sack of the erstwhile Inspector General of Police, Mr. Hafiz Ringim and former Commissioner of Police in-charge of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Mallam Zakari Biu who was out rightly dismissed from the force. However, he was subsequently re-arrested on February 10, 2012.
The last prosecution witness, told the court that ‘Sokoto’, confessed that one of the recognized leaders of the sect, Shekau, told him that only members of the sect initiated into the “Shurah” cadre, were allowed to know the ideology behind the current insurgency in the northern part of the country.
The masked witness told the court that Sokoto disclosed that whereas members of the “Shurah” which he belong to, plan and mastermind attacks, other lay members were recruited to execute terrorist agenda of the sect.
However, Sokoto, through his lawyer, faulted the testimony of the masked witness, maintaining that in his confessional statement, he repeatedly used the Hausa word “Anche,” a word he said means “they said.”
He told the court that he was only referring to what he was told by those affiliated to the sect.
One of the six witnesses that testified in the matter also narrated how a donation of N40million divided the sect.
According to the witness, Sokoto had in a statement he made on January 14, 2012, confessed that out of the said N40million which he said was received from another terrorist group in Algeria, he got N500, 000, as the recognized governor of Sokoto State in the hierarchy of the group.
He told the court that the convict also admitted that he used his share of the money and bought Quran and other Islamic religious books, even as he allegedly volunteered the names of two members of the sect that bombed the St Theresa’s Catholic Church,Madalla, on Christmas day.
The witness who was simply identified as “Mr. ABC” testified that the accused person confessed that it was not suicide bombers that attacked the church, but that the bombs were detonated from a car that was parked near the church.
Furthermore, another witness, “Mr. DEF”, narrated how Sokoto hid behind a wardrobe on February 10, 2012, a day he was re-arrested at Sabongida in Taraba State, few days after he escaped from police custody in Abuja.
The witness who is an operative of the Department of State Services, DSS, told the court that upon his arrest, Sokoto was found with a Nokia phone and six different SIM cards.
The court had on May 2, 2013, declined to either discharge and acquit the accused person, or quash the charge against him, maintaining that a prima-facie terrorism charge was successfully established against him.