About 800 suspects linked to the Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram, have been prepared for prosecution which will start as soon as the ongoing judiciary workers’ strike is over, an official has said.
The 800 are among about 1,000 terrorism suspects whose case files have been analysed by the prosecutors handling the Federal Ministry of Justice’s “complex cases”.
The suspects are currently being held in the military detention facilities in Maiduguri, Borno State.
A Deputy Director at the Federal Ministry of Justice in Abuja, Chioma Onuegbu, who heads the Complex Casework Group (CCG) in the ministry’s Department of Public Prosecutions, said this in Abuja on Friday at a training organised for journalists.
The training with the theme, ‘Media Management on Networking for Justice Accountability’ was organised by Wayamo Foundation.
According to Ms Onuegbu, of the about 1,000 case files that were reviewed, 800 of them have prima facie evidence to proceed to trial, while 170 have been recommended for release due to lack of evidence.
She added that of the 800 case files with prima facie evidence, 280 of them had been filed in court.
“Out of the 1000 files, after our vetting and legal advice, we found that over 800 of them had prima facie evidence to proceed to prosecution and charges have long been drafted in respect of those 800. 280 of those cases have also been filed at the Federal High Court and the charges
served on the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria (LACON) who is defending the suspected terrorist,” she said.
The rest of the cases found to have prima facie evidence are to be filed at the Federal High Court when the courts resume from the ongoing judiciary workers’ strike that is now about seven weeks old.
Ms Onuegbu added, “Out of the said 1000 case files, 170 were recommended for release for lack of evidence to prosecute them. In preparation to move to Maiduguri with the judges for the trial, the LACON was also served with the 280 files to enable them proceed to Maiduguri and confer with their client (the suspected terrorist) before the commencement of trials.”
PREMIUM TIMES understands that the number of suspects being prepared for trial is a far cry of thousands of Boko Haram suspects that are being held in the military detention facilities in Maiduguri and Kainji, Niger State.
Boko Haram, which started in Maiduguri, Borno State, in about 2009, has waged deadly war leading to death tens of thousands and displaced millions of residents in the North-eastern part of Nigeria.
A recent report indicates that the leader of the deadly group, Abubakar Shekau, was killed following the invasion of the terror group’s stronghold in the Sambisa forest area by a column of Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) fighters.
ISWAP is a breakaway faction of Boko Haram.
Previous trial phases
The CCG ,established five years ago, has conducted three different phases of trials of Boko Haram suspects since inception.
The first phase was October 2017, followed by another in February 2018 and the last was in June 2018.
The fourth phase was for the case files of 1,000 suspects received in 2019.
Ms Onuegbu said the prosecution of the suspects was delayed due to the escalation of the Boko Haram attacks in 2019 and was further hampered by the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020.
“Efforts are being made by the military to move the relevant inmates (whose charges are ready) to another safe location for the prosecutions to commence,” she said.
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