By Ndahi Marama, Maiduguri
The Borno High Court sitting in Maiduguri has sentenced 17 persons to six years each for cultism and conspiracy in the state.
They were sentenced to six years each for the two-count charges, which will run concurrently.
All the convicts testified that there were arrested at Bagani hotel during their meeting, in which each of them had to cut off his finger and leak his own blood, before taking some red liquid substances in a 25-litre Jerrican at the meeting.
The convicts, including students of the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) and Ramat Polytechnic, were arrested by the police on September 21, 2019, at Bagani Hotel, Abujan Talaka, Maiduguri for being members of an unlawful society, Neo Black Movement (NBM) a.k.a The Black Axe, and in possession of some exhibits.
The convicts are Mr Arnold Augustine, Onu Chidubem, David Emmanuel, Awuto Abayomi, Mustapha Abdulkadir, Levi Ephraim and Onuegbu Godspower Chibuzor.
Others include; Mohammed Adamu, Calvin Ijafiya, Henry Ujah, Chris Kallu, Totsi Samuel, Onwuka Ugochukwu, Audi Yohanna, Samuel Talba, Donald Ornguze and Joseph Olaiya.
While reading out charges on Wednesday against the accused persons at Court 13, Gidan Madara, Maiduguri, Justice Umar Fadawu said: “There is evidence before this honourable court that showed; each of the accused persons has committed the offences of conspiracy and management or membership of an unlawful society”.
He said that the convicts were charged under Section 97 subsection B of the Penal Code, explaining that they were charged for initiating other members into the Black Axe Cult.
Counsel to the convicts, Barrister Ahmed Hamman said that the convicts have exhibited remorse and regrets to temper justice with mercy, as they have learnt their lessons from their respective experiences.
Responding to the judgment, the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Kaka Shehu Lawan, said that he is delighted with the verdict passed by Justice Fadawu.
He said: “This was a case that we were pursuing since 2019. After rigorous adjudication of the matter, we as prosecutions tendered all evidence and called witnesses relevant in proving our case against the convicted persons.”
He added that the defence also called for evidence to revert what we proved in the allegations contained in the charges.
Continuing, he said: “The Judge after a thorough review of all the witnesses that testify as well as the exhibits tendered before him, came to the conclusion that prosecution has proved its case beyond reasonable doubts,”
“They were sentenced; accordingly after convicting the accused persons”
He noted that it was a commendable effort on both sides of the prosecution and Judiciary.
Lamenting on insurgency, he said: “We’ve been facing security challenges, and to allow cultists to thrive will actually amount to negligence on our part.
He disclosed that the police and other security agencies have worked assiduously to effect the arrest of the convicts.
He declared that “Government will leave no stone unturned; until we wiped out criminality from this part of the country.” Said the Attorney General.