Insecurity: Build Special Court For The Trial Of Terrorist – Nigerians Cries Out

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Nigerians have continued to wonder why the war against terrorism, banditry, armed herdsmen, general kidnappings, and other forms of insecurity continue unabated across the country despite billions of Naira being spent on the fight against insecurity every year by the Federal Government since 2010. As a result, there is a clamour for the establishment of special courts for speedy prosecution of terrorists, looters and others.

Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Lucky Irabor made the dis­closure at the Distinguished Lecture Series of the Nigerian Institute of In­ternational Affairs (NIIA), recently in Lagos that, the “delay in the trial of terrorists and bandits are undermining national security.” This has since elicited a clamour of some security and legal ex­perts to advocate for the creation of special courts for speedy trials of terrorism and corruption-re­lated cases in Nigeria.

Gen. Irabor had further revealed that “Only 359 out of the 5,359 suspected bandits, kidnappers, and terrorists arrested by security forces in the Northeast and Northwest between 2017 and 2020 have been prosecuted in court.”

According to him, “There is a need for a review of the criminal justice system. If the criminals are tried and punished for the offenses they committed, then, of course, it would be more of a deterrent for those who want to entertain such enterprise. Those criminals, who might be nursing the idea of engaging in such practices, would have to think twice. By the quick dispensation of justice, we would have one way or the other, contributed to the security of our lives.”

This, experts, said calls for quick intervention by the executive, the judiciary and the legislature considering the current state of insecurity in the country where citizens are being kidnapped, killed and displaced by the combined forces of Boko Haram, ISWAP, bandits, armed Fulani herdsmen and kidnappers.

In a statement recently, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF), Abubakar Malami announced that the prosecution of Boko Haram suspects would resume in courts sitting in Kainji, New Bussa. In April 2022, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho also announced the introduction of new Practice Directions on the trial of terrorism-related cases in the country. The Directions are being cited as Federal High Court Practice Directions (On Trial of Terrorism Cases) 2022.

Among other objectives, the new Practice Directions seek to provide measures that will ensure the security and safety of parties; personnel of law enforcement agencies and the Judiciary; as well as members of the general public; while ensuring expeditious and fair trial of persons suspected of having committed acts of terrorism.

These Practice Directions shall be cited as the Federal High Court Practice Directions (On Trial of Terrorism Cases) 2022. Before now, the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 (as amended) had been in force in the trial of terrorism cases.

In 2013, the Act was amended and a new Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Act to provide measures for prohibiting and combating terrorist activities in Nigeria was initiated in the EighthAssemblyin2018. That process culminated in the signing of the Terrorism (Prohibition and Prevention) Bill, 2022, which was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to fight insecurity in the country.

All these concerted efforts by the Federal Government seem geared toward fighting insecurity and terrorism-related offenses in the country.

For instance, since 2014, Aminu Ogwuche’s trial (Nyanya bomber), has been ongoing. He is the alleged mastermind of the April 14th, 2014, the bomb blast that killed over 75 persons and wounded 100 others at a crowded motor park in Nyanya, Abuja. Ogwuche is being prosecuted at the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court. The other accused persons on trial alongside Ogwuche are Ahmad Rufai Abubakar (a.k.a Abu Ibrahim/Maiturare), Mohammed Sani Ishaq, Ya’u Saidu (a.k.a Kofar Rama), Anas Isah, Adamu Yusuf and Nasiru Abubakar.

The Attorney-General of the Federation had announced between April and May 2021, that the investigation of the cases of sponsors of terrorism and 800 terror suspects by security forces had been concluded.

However, the AGF hinted that the Federal Government has charged 43 Bureau De Change (BDC) operators, arrested in March 2021 for allegedly sponsoring Boko Haram terrorists in the country. Some the operators arrested include Baba Usaini, Abubakar Yellow (Amfani), Yusuf Ali Yusuf (Babangida), Ibrahim Shani, Auwal Fagge, and Muhammad Lawan Sani, also a gold dealer. Their trial is pending before Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court.

However, in a recent investigation, an aggregate opinion of Nigerians was that a lot of factors are contributing to the delay in prosecuting alleged terrorists, kidnappers, bandits and so on. Apart from some noticeable pitfalls in the country’s criminal justice system, the Terrorism Prevention Acts, many believe that the delay in the trial of terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and others is mainly due to a lack of political will by the federal government. As a panacea to the issue of delay in thetrialof terrorism-related offenses, somelawyers who spoke to our correspondent but pleaded for anonymity, called for the creation of special courts or tribunals to handle only terrorism, kidnapping and cases that have to do with banditry.

However, others and some terrorism prosecutors share a common belief that terrorism trials by their very nature are intricate and can be very complex with a considerable amount of evidence which sometimes cuts across several jurisdictions. This may also involve the consideration of several difficult legal issues bothering on the procedure, conflict of laws “including the protection of witnesses, issues of disclosure and the use of sensitive evidence.”

Legal and security experts are of the view that for those involved in the trial of terrorism cases, the stakes are high towards maintaining the delicate balancing between national security and “ensuring the fairness of proceedings at all stages, through proper protection of human rights standards” as an international law obligation” by the State.

While corroborating the CDS’ position, a renowned Associate Professor of History and International Relation, Federal University of Lafia, Wilfred Terlumun Uji told Saturday INDEPENDENT that, “Trial of terrorism and banditry suspects might run smoothly, if special courts are established for such offenses and not pushing same to the already crowded cases in courts.”

According to Prof. Uji, “Terrorism and banditry are new criminal innovations in Nigeria.” In recognition of that fact, he said, “Special courts should have been considered long ago by the National Assembly or through Executive Order to ensure speedy prosecution of suspects. The judicial system has been slow, but there has been improving lately and a lot more needs to be done. It would be better to allow the suspected bandits to undergo trial and be sentenced accordingly. This is in the interest of justice and who knows, a thorough trial could lead to knowing who is behind the smoke and of course the mode of operation as well as the entire modus operandi of the chain.”

Prof Uji, however, blamed those who are supposed to charge the suspects to court, saying, “It is the duty of Federal government, through the respective security agencies to prosecute cases as enshrined in the laws of the land. Failure to do so is an infringement on the rights of the suspects as well as a time bomb on national security. In all of these is also the issue of arrest and prosecution. In many instances, the security forces—the police, army, and government go to a crime scene and make the pronouncement that the perpetrators will be brought to book.

“And nothing comes out in most cases. In cases where suspects are eventually nabbed, the actions or inactions of the appropriate agencies are often not commensurate with the measure of criminality. This should be addressed professionally and with utmost quickness. When you handle quite serious issues with kid gloves, no one is afraid of the law. Everyone that commits a crime and is arrested should face the consequences. The law is clear on this. But when certain criminal elements are excused for flimsy reasons, one reads the complacency of who is who in the whole situation and this is not giving us the desired progress in the fight.”

While condemning the extra-judicial killing of suspects without trial by security operatives, and the jungle justice meted out to criminal suspects by the mob, which is believed to be due to a lack of trust in government prosecutorial ability, the don noted that “jungle justice in any form must be discouraged.”

He explained that “It is not the best in the fight against insurgency. A suspect could be an asset to information that can further help the fight. However, if such is met with resistance or crossfire, the security forces know what the law says. Jungle justice, in whatever way or form, should be discouraged. There have been quite a significant number of cases across the country lately.”

Meanwhile, Prof. Uji commended the security agencies for doing quite well in the fight against insecurity, especially the military. But, observed that it is simply not enough. “As they say, it is not yet Uhuru. We must engage as many officers as possible, give them deserving remunerations and logistics to execute this war with the utmost professionalism,” he said, while calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to convene a Security Council and declare a state of emergency on insecurity.

“Over the years, government at the centre, as well as security chiefs have not come clean on the fight. The military which is the frontline security agency in this course has not denied that the equipment including Tucano jets have been supplied. It takes little with these sophisticated weapons to end such a war. Certain attacks like the Kuje jailbreak and the attack on the Kaduna- Abuja train as well as the vicious attacks on the Presidential Guards have called for many answers.

“There is a hybrid of moles in the security architecture and even among the populace. We have kept on with the idea that these bandits, kidnappers, terrorists and other criminals are not spirits. Where do they come from and where do they go to? Both the security community and the populace can come together for common ground on this. If there is useful information and mutual trust, the problem can be alleviated. Again, over time, there have been speculations that those behind the insecurity in the country will be exposed. When will this happen? It’s a thing of worry to some of us.”

Fundamentally, to address insecurity in the country, Prof Uji agreed that, “we cannot, as a nation overlooks the issues of illiteracy and unemployment.” He said, “Most times, the uneducated and vulnerable people become willing tools through religious or cultural brainwashing. They are easily compelled to join a course that is beneficial only to the gang leader or the unseen commanders.

“The nature of the well-planned and executed crimes tells you that those involved are educated people who for reasons of unemployment or underemployment seek nefarious ways for survival. The number of people coming out of school yearly without correspondent jobs or orientation for self-employment is a serious problem,” he said.

In the same vein, the Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa also said that it is not the fault of the Commission or the judiciary that corruption cases drag on for many years in court. He blamed it on the bureaucratic processes and procedures in prosecuting criminal cases in Nigerian courts. “The reason cases drag on for many years in court is not the fault of the EFCC or the judiciary, but the entire system that we need to change. It’s not the fault of the court, it’s our entire processes and procedures that we need to work on.”

The EFCC boss disclosed that while a total of 2,220 convictions were recorded by the commission in 2021, he assured that the Commission is poised to improve on that figure as the record of convictions as of August 5, 2022, was 2210. He attributed these successes to some state governors who assigned special judges to handle corruption cases in their states exclusively. Noting that, this is the major reason the Commission was able to record such a huge number of convictions in the last year, 2021.

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