By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, said the Federal Government would on October 9, kick-start the trial of over 1,600 suspected Boko Haram terrorists currently held in various detention facilities in the country.
Malami, SAN, in a statement he made available to Vanguard on Sunday, disclosed that out of a total of 1,670 members of the terrorist sect that were profiled at the Kainji detention center, in Niger State, 220 of them were recommended for release/deradicalisation programme, owing to the absence of evidence to prosecute them.
He said that FG has so far concluded 13 trials involving members of the extremist sect, out of which it secured nine convictions.
The AGF equally revealed that 651 Boko Haram members that were remanded on the order of the Federal High Court in Maiduguri had since been transferred from Giwa Barracks to Maiduguri Prisons.
He said that whereas 33 trials involving apprehended members of the sect are currently ongoing at various divisions of the Federal High Court, a total of 116 charges that were filed by FG are awaiting trial in Kainji.
According to Malami, SAN, some of the challenges FG faced in prosecution of the alleged Boko Haram terrorists, included “Poorly investigated case files due to pressure during the peak of conflict at the theatre.
“Over reliance on confession based evidence, lack of forensic evidence, absence of cooperation between investigators and prosecutors at pre investigation stages”.
As well as, “Poor logistical facilities to transport defendants from detention facility to court for trial. Scarcity of skilled/trained forensic personnel to handle investigation of complex cases. Inadequate security for counsel handling terrorism cases and converting military intelligence to admissible evidence”.
Nevertheless, the AGF said he has approved a list of prosecutors to handle the cases, adding that the Legal Aid Council had also released a list of defence counsels to stand in for the detainees/defendants.
“The proposed prosecutions of over One Thousand, Six Hundred (1600) detainees held in Kainji will commence by early October, 2017 after the opening of the new legal year.
“Currently, four judges have been deputed by the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to sit on the cases at Kainji and dispose of them expeditiously.
“It is expected that the special prosecutions will start with the detainees in Kainji followed closely by the disposal of the cases of the detainees in Giwa Barracks, Maiduguri until the cases are exhausted.
“The Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) as the coordinator of terrorism matters is expected to assist the court by providing the relevant detainees access to deradicalisation programmes where necessary.
“This is the report of the on-the-spot assessment of the facilities and other incidentals preparatory to the commencement of trial of the over 1600 suspected Boko Haram terrorist in detained in a military detention facility located in Wawa Barracks, Kainji, New Bussa, Niger State following successes recorded by the Nigeria Army and other security agencies in the fight against terrorism in Nigeria.
“A team comprising representative of the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), Federal High Court and the Office of the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation were dispatched to Kainji from the 12thto 14th of September, 2017 to carry out the assessment and to discuss with relevant authorities and organisation in final preparation of the all-important national assignment”, the AGF further disclosed in the statement that was signed by his media aide, Mr. Salihu Isah.
The AGF said his investigations revealed that there were four categories of suspects at the Kainji detention facility.
He gave the categorisation as: “Boko Haram suspects who were hitherto investigated by the Joint Investigation Team set up by the Defence Headquarters otherwise known as DHQ/JIT and case files transmitted to the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and after a careful review of the cases based on their individual merit, it was discovered that they have no prima facie cases that will sustain a charge against them in any court of law hence were recommended for release and handed over to the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) for rehabilitation and/or de-radicalisation.
“The second category is the set of suspects that the Honourable Attorney-General found prima facie cases against them and charges already filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja Division who are also mostly in the detention facility under reference and may be willing to plead guilty for a lesser sentences.
“The other category are the suspects whose case file are either recommended for further investigation or that have no investigation conducted on them at all hence they do not have case files that will warrant the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation to form any opinion in respect of their case.
“Lastly, the fourth category is the suspects whose cases were reviewed and a prima facie were found and may be willing to opt for a full trial.
“From the above categorisation, it is important to state that the number of the suspects affected by any of the aforementioned categories would only be determined when the trial has commenced”, the AGF added.