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Trial of Boko Haram suspects stalled

19 March 2014, 16:12

Abuja - The absence of Justice Gabriel Kolawole on Tuesday stalled ruling in an application brought by the Federal Government seeking to conduct the trial of three Boko Haram suspects in camera.

Kolawole had fixed March 18 for ruling after hearing the arguments of the prosecution counsel and all the counsels to the three suspects on the modus operandi of the trial.

The three accused persons: Mohammed Yunus, Musa Umar and Salami Abdullahi, were arraigned on an eight-count charge bordering on terrorism.

The suspects were arrested in October 2013, for allegedly holding various meetings aimed at planning to carry out insurgency across the country and have been remanded in prison custody.

The first accused, Yunus, is a lecturer in the Department of Islamic Studies, Kogi State University, while the second accused is a millionaire oil merchant and the third an Islamic teacher.

Justice Kolawole had on March 7 refused to admit all the accused persons to bail and ordered that they be remanded in Kuje prisons when he opted for accelerated trial.

However, N. B. Jones Nebo, Chief State Counsel, Attorney-General of the Federation’s office, filed an application for the trial to be conducted in secret.

She had argued that the secret trial was necessary to protect the identity of prosecution witnesses.

Nebo also said that the prosecution’s motion was brought pursuant to the provisions of sections 33 and 34 of the Terrorism Prevention Act 2013, as amended, and Section 115 of the Evidence Act.

She argued that the application was also filed pursuant to the provisions of sections 36 and 203 of the Criminal Procedure Act which necessitated the non-disclosure of identities and names of witnesses.

Hassan Liman (SAN), James Ocholi (SAN), Abdul Mohammed, counsel to the first, second and third accused, respectively, had all opposed the prosecution’s application in separate counter-affidavits.

They also prayed the court to dismiss, discountenance the said application for lacking merit and being incompetent.

Ocholi, for instance, said: "This application is in conflict with Section 36 (4) of the 1999 Nigerian constitution, which pertains to fundamental rights and fair hearing.

"Fundamental rights, public hearing and fair hearing cannot be separated.

"It is easier for a person to tell a lie in secret than in public as there will be nobody to correct them in secret and also where there is no publicity, there’s no justice,’’ he argued.

 - NAN

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