By Ikechukwu Nnochiri & Ifeoluwa Mic-Braimoh
ABUJA – The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Tuesday, struck-out the four-count terrorism charge the Federal Government preferred against Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume.
The court held that FG could not prove that it was Ndume that hitherto sponsored activities of the Boko Haram sect.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole stressed that FG was unable to establish a prima-facie case against the defendant to warrant him to enter his defence to allegations that were levelled against him in the charge.
Consequently, the court upheld a no-case-submission that Ndume filed through his lawyer, Chief Ricky Tarfa, SAN.
Ndume who is currently representing Borno South Federal Constituency in the Senate, had contended that totality of evidence FG tendered against him were not sufficient to warrant the court to compel him to enter his defence to the charge dated November 30, 2011.
He told the court that he actually made contacts with members of the Boko Haram sect owing to his position as a member of a Presidential Committee that was set up to look into security challenges in the North East.
Ndume told the court that he duly briefed the then Vice President, Namadi Sambo and then Director General of the Department of State Service, DSS, about his interactions with members of the sect.
Meanwhile, in his ruling, Justice Kolawole noted that FG failed to discharge the burden of proof that was placed on it by section 131(5) of the Evidence Act, 2015.
The Judge observed that FG failed to produce some vital witnesses, including the former Vice President, Sambo and the then DSS DG.
Justice Kolawole equally noted that FG failed to produce convicted self-acclaimed spokesman of the Boko Haram sect, Ali Konduga, who Ndume admitted made contacts with him in the course of his assignment as a member of the Presidential Committee.
According to the court, evidence of the aforementioned persons FG failed to call as witnesses would have helped it to establish a link between Ndume and the sect.
He held that Konduga would have confirmed if the interactions he had with the defendant was before or after his appointment into the Presidential Committee.
The court held that none of the nine witnesses that testified in the matter gave valuable evidence nailing the defendant to the charge.
“There is no piece of evidence by which the defendant was linked with providing Boko Haram with any equipment to aid it to perpetuate terror”, the Judge added.
He said that where doubt arise in a criminal trial, it must be resolved in favour of a defendant.
Therefore, the court struck out the charge and ordered that Ndume’s international passport should be returned to him immediately.
FG had through its lawyer, Mrs. G. N. Okafor, urged the court to dismiss Ndume’s no-case-submission, even as it insisted that the defendant had a criminal case to answer.
It will be recalled Ndume was docked before the high court on December 12, 2011, while his trial commenced on July 3, 2012.
FG alleged that he was the one that hitherto furnished the Boko Haram sect with information that aided their terrorist operations in Nigeria.
He was among other things, alleged to have furnished them with the telephone numbers of top government officials and Judges, among which included the phone number of the then Attorney General of the Federation.
The sect was said to have called some of those whose numbers were given to them and threatened to visit them with ‘fire and brimstone’.
FG alleged that though the sect notified the defendant of their intention to attack judges of the Borno State Election Petition Tribunal and the National Assembly, he failed to disclose the information to security agencies, adding that he used an MTN GSM line, 08035998045, to send telephone numbers of certain public officers including the AGF, to the Boko Haram spokesman for the purpose of sending terrorist text messages to them.
The prosecution earlier tendered a proof of evidence that indicated that Ndume made contacts with the Boko Haram sect 73 times.
Though some call logs and three digital video discs (DVDs), containing call-data records, as well as documents containing findings based on investigations carried out by a Special Investigation Panel (SIP) set up by the Department of State Security, DSS, were previously admitted into evidence by the trial court, it was subsequently expunged from the trial record on the order of the Appeal Court in Abuja.
An alleged accomplice of the lawmaker and self confessed spokesman of the sect, Konduga, was previously jailed for three years after he pleaded guilty to terrorism charges filed against him by the government.
Konduga was said to be the middleman between the sect and Ndume.
Among evidence the court earlier admitted into evidence in the matter include a Nokia E7 phone which Ndume allegedly used in communicating with Konduga, as well as another Nokia 2700 that belonged to the convict.