Journalists Barred As Court Sentences three Boko Haram Suspects to 75 years in prison
The Federal High Court in Lagos, Tuesday, sentenced three Boko Haram suspects to a total of 75 years in prison.
Each of the three convicts, who were among the 17 accused earlier charged before the court in November last year, bagged 25 years imprisonment.
Just like the trial, the journalists were barred from covering the judgment.
Even the intervention of Bello Okandeji, Deputy Court Registrar at the Federal High Court, Lagos, did not yield a positive report for the reporters. Armed security officials manning the door told Mr. Okandeji they were following “specific instructions.”
Earlier, Ibrahim Buba, the trial judge, had sought the views of both the prosecution and defence counsels on the legality of delivering the judgment in camera.
At the commencement of trial on December 3, last year, the judge had made an order barring journalists from the proceedings following an application by Ade Ipaye, the Lagos State Attorney-General and prosecuting counsel.
Men of the Department of Security Services (DSS) had prevented journalists from covering the suspects’ arraignment a week earlier.
On Tuesday, Mr. Ipaye reiterated his position, adding that if the trial had been conducted in secret, the judgment also ought to be delivered in secret since it was a part of the proceeding.
The defence lawyer agreed with the prosecution.
The judge told journalists and every other person who was not involved in the proceeding to leave the court room.
The 17 accused who were arraigned before the judge, last year, on an eight count of terrorism and possession of firearms and membership of a proscribed organization include Ali Mohammed, Adamu Karumi, Ibrahim Usman, Bala Haruna, Idris Ali, Mohammed Murtala, Kadiri Mohammed, Mustapha Daura, Abba Duguri, and Sanni Adamu.
Others were Danjuma Yahaya, Musa Audu, Mati Daura, Farouk Haruna, Abdullahi Azeez, Ibrahim Bukar and Zula Diani.
At the end of Tuesday’s judgment, a lawyer who attended the proceedings told journalists that the fourth defendant in the trial was acquitted.
The lawyer pleaded not to be named because he was not authorized to address journalists on the outcome of the trial.
According to the lawyer, the Attorney-General had entered a nolle prosequi (Latin for “do not prosecute”) in respect of two of the defendants, who were then discharged. Later, another 11 were also discharged in the course of the trial following another nolle prosequi by the prosecution.
Only four – the first to fourth defendants – went through a full trial.
The suspects allegedly committed the offences on March 21 last year, at Plot 5, Road 69, Lekki Phase I Housing Estate, and at No. 24, Oyegbeni St., Ijora-Oloye, Apapa-Iganmu, Lagos.
They were alleged to have in their possession three packets of explosive construction pipes, 15 detonators, and 11 AK47 rifles with 30 rounds of live ammunitions.
Other items also alleged to have been found in their possession include 200 rounds of 7.6 mm live ammunition, two suit cases containing explosives, and a water container filled with explosives.
The offences contravened sections 13(2) and 17(b) of the Terrorism Act 2013, as well as 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 lawyer said the discharged fourth defendant was charged with funding terrorism by agreeing to provide money to facilitate the escape of the first defendant from detention.
According to the lawyer, Justice Buba held that the prosecution did not establish the charge against the fourth defendant.
It was learnt that the judge, however, convicted the first to third defendants on all the counts, sentencing them to 25-year jail term each.