Boko Haram: Court Rejects FG’s Secret Trial of KSU Lecturer, Others

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An Abuja Division of the Federal High Court yesterday refused in part to grant an application filed by the Federal Government seeking secret trial of Dr Nazeef Yunus, a lecturer at the Kogi State University, Ayingba, Alhaji Salami Abdullahi and Umar Musa, accused of being members of a Boko Haram cell as well as aiding and abetting its activities.

Dr Nazeef, 44, said to be a lecturer in the Department of Islamic Studies is accused of being the spiritual leader of the cell, and was among the suspects paraded by the Department of State Security Service late last year.

Specifically, the motion was praying the court to order that persons other than the immediate family members and legal representatives of the accused, with the exception of accredited members of the press, should be barred from witnessing the trial of the suspects.

Ruling on the application brought by way of motion on notice dated February 21 but filed on the 24th, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, ordered that “the trial of the accused persons should be conducted publicly but the identities and names of the witnesses to be called by the prosecution shall be kept secret.”

According to the court, rather than embark on “sterile legal technicalities, it is only fair that the court adopts a procedure that would protect the interest of the state, witness and the accused persons.

“I am mindful to shield the identities of the witnesses in a sensitive case like this which borders on alleged terrorism. The general public can only hear the voices of the witnesses but will not see their faces,” the court held.

In upholding prayer two of the prosecution counsel, which sought the concealment of names, addresses, etc of witnesses, Justice Kolawole stated that it was aimed at not exposing innocent citizens who chose to testify in court to undue attacks by those sympathetic to the accused persons.

The court added that there was no conflict between Sections 33 and 34 of Terrorism Prevention Act, 2013 and Section 36 (4) (a) (b) of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)  as claimed by counsel to the second accused person.

“I disagree with the defence counsel that Sections 33 and 34 of the Terrorism Prevention Act, 2013 and Section 36 (4) (a) (b) of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) are in conflict. Section 36 (4) (a) (b) of the constitution confers legitimacy on Sections 33 and 34 of the TPA. It is the main artery upon which the Terrorism Prevention Act survives,”, the court explained.

Justice Kolawole said, “The defence counsel to the second accused person viewed the application from a narrow perspective. I am unable to see any conflict from the two various provisions.

Meanwhile, prosecution counsel Mrs Jones-Nebo told the court that she had filed an amended charge, which according to her, only related to one-count charge, “it is just a name which was included,”she said.

However, trial of the suspects would come up on May 6, 7 and 14.

 

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