Why government refused to try terror suspects, sponsors

Ogunsakin Mustapha
5 Min Read

By Femi Falana SAN

During a visit to the Kuje Correctional Centre last week, the Minister of Defence, General Bashir Magashi (retd) told journalists that all the 64 Boko Haram members were among the over 600 inmates that were freed by the terrorists who attacked the facility in a commando fashion. Before jetting out of the country after the attack, President Buhari visited the prison and asked certain rhetorical questions.  The questions would have been totally unnecessary if the Federal Government had complied with section 28 (1), (2) & (3) of Nigerian Correctional Service Act provides as follows:

“(1) There shall be provided monitoring devices to protect, control and safeguard correctional activities, including observatory towers, double
perimeter walls, close circuit television, body scanners, e-monitoring devices, electrically activated alarm systems and other instruments of restraint.

(2) The Correctional Service shall establish and maintain a fully equipped armed squads, intelligence and investigation unit to enhance security, surveillance, monitoring, intelligence gathering and protection.

(3) In deploying the facilities under subsection (1), priority shall be given to the security requirements of maximum security custodial centres.”

Before the attack on the Kuje Correctional Centre, terrorists and other armed criminal gangs had successfully attacked 14 other Correctional Centres and freed thousands of convicts and awaiting trial inmates in many States of the Federation. In order to secure all correctional centres in the country in line with the aforementioned provisions of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act the Federal Executive Council should urgently approve fund for the purchase and installation of the necessary security equipment

However, having regard to the security implications of the escape of the freed terror suspects the Nigerian people have expressed concern. Since only 64  terror suspects are detained in Kuje Correctional Centre,
the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN should disclose to Nigerians where the 400 sponsors of terrorism and the 800 terror suspects who were due to be arraigned in the Federal High Court last year are being detained.

Before then the 10 soldiers led by an Army Captain who ambushed and killed the  three police officers who had arrested an alleged kidnap suspect, Bala Hamisu (a.k.a.Wadume) in Jalingo, Taraba State in August, 2019 were not arraigned in the Federal High Court even though a charge was filed against them by the police.  In fact, the case was discontinued against them by the Attorney-General of the Federation in a purported  exercise of his powers under section 174 of the Constitution. It has been confirmed that Wadume one of the terror suspects who escaped from Kuje Correctional Centre last week.

During his own visit to the facility last Thursday, the Minister of Interior, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola noted that Nigeria was experiencing asymmetric warfare and that the insurgents have been degraded in the North-East. The Minister further said that “We have 61,000 of them in our custody in the North-East; the result of the effectiveness itself in degrading them in the North-East is what we are experiencing.”

It is common knowledge that majority of the detainees have been detained for over 10 years. Since terrorism is said to be a federal offence the Governors of the North-East region have requested for the fiat of the Attorney-General of the Federation to have the suspects tried by the respective State Ministries of Justice. But for some inexplicable reasons, Mr. Malami SAN turned down the request. Hence, the suspects have been abandoned in prolonged detention.

In view of the foregoing, we are compelled to call on the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN to ensure that the indicted sponsors of terrorism and terror suspects are charged before the Federal High Court. We also call on the members of the National Assembly who have  been appropriating fund for the prosecution of terror suspects to monitor the prosecution of the indicted terror suspects.

Falana is Interim Chair, Alliance on Surviving Covid 19 and Beyond (ASCAB)

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