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Court jails Boko Haram men 25yrs

Court jails Boko Haram men 25yrs

The Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday sentenced three Boko Haram members to 25 years imprisonment each.

But reporters were not allowed to cover the judgment;  only lawyers in the prosecution and defence teams were allowed in court.

A source, who witnessed the verdict but pleaded not to be named because he was not authorised to speak, told reporters that the fourth defendant was acquitted.

The court, last December 3, barred reporters from covering the trial of 17 suspected members of the Islamic sect.

Justice Ibrahim Buba made the order, following an application by the Lagos State Attorney-General and prosecuting counsel, Mr. Ade Ipaye.

Men of the Department of Security Services (DSS) prevented reporters from covering the suspects’ arraignment last November 27.

The accused are: Ali Mohammed, Adamu Karumi, Ibrahim Usman, Bala Haruna, Idris Ali, Mohammed Murtala, Kadiri Mohammed, Mustapha Daura, Abba Duguri, Sanni Adamu, Danjuma Yahaya, Musa Audu, Mati Daura, Farouk Haruna, Abdullahi Azeez, Ibrahim Bukar and Zula Diani.

The attorney-general, it was learnt, entered a nolle prosequi (“do not prosecute”) for two of the defendants. They were subsequently discharged.

Later, 11 others were discharged in the course of the trial, following another nolle prosequi by the prosecution.

Only four – the first to fourth defendants – went through a a complete trial.

The suspects were first charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism, illegal possession of firearms and being members of a proscribed organisation.

They allegedly committed the offences on March 21, last year, at Plot 5, Road 69, Lekki Phase I Housing Estate, and No. 24, Oyegbeni Street, Ijora-Oloye, Apapa-Iganmu, Lagos.

They were alleged to have in their possession three packets of explosive construction pipes, 15 detonators and 11 AK-47 rifles with 30 rounds of live ammunition.

Other items also allegedly found on them include 200 rounds of 7.6mm calibre live ammunition, two suitcases containing explosives and a water container filled with explosives.

The offences contravenes sections 13(2) and 17(b) of the Terrorism Act 2013 and Sections 1, 8, 27 (1) (a) and (b) of the Firearms (Special Provisions) Act, Cap F28, Laws of the Federation, 2004, and punishable under Section 8 of the same act.

The source said the discharged fourth defendant was charged with funding terrorism by agreeing to provide money for the escape of the first defendant from detention.

The source said Justice Buba held that the prosecution did not establish the charge against the fourth defendant.

It was learnt that the judge convicted the first to third defendants on all the counts, sentencing them to a 25-year jail term each.

Before the judgment, reporters, other litigants and lawyers, who came for other cases, were asked to leave the courtroom.

The judge sought lawyers’ views on whether or not it was right to deliver the verdict in the presence of the public.

But Mrs Idowu Alakija, from the Directorate of the Public Prosecution (DPP) in the Lagos Ministry of Justice, noted that since the trial was conducted in camera – for security reasons – judgment should also be delivered as such.

Justice Buba, sought to know what the law stipulates on delivering a judgment in camera and how his colleagues in Abuja handled such cases.

He asked to rise for 30 minutes for a short research on the issue.

When he returned by noon, Justice Buba again asked the parties to address him on the legality of delivering a judgment in camera.

Ipaye reiterated what Mrs Alakija said, adding that since the trial was conducted in secret, the judgment should also be delivered confidentially because a verdict is part of the trial.

The defendants’ lawyers also agreed that the judgment be delivered without the public glare.

Justice Buba asked everyone – except the defendants, their lawyers and some security operatives – to go out of the court room.

Angry reporters, who felt they had the right to report the case since it is in the public’s interest, urged the court’s Deputy Chief Registrar (DCR) and Administrative Head of the Ikoyi Division, Mr. Bello Okandeji, to intervene.

Okandeji led reporters to the court, but fully armed, stern-looking DSS officials at the door to the staircase said they had orders not to allow anyone in.

The court official promised to speak with the judge later to see if a copy of the judgment could be made available to reporters.

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