Abuja — Justice Abdul Kafarati, a Judge of the Federal High Court, on Thursday in Abuja threatened to discharge the 24 suspected Boko Haram members standing trial before the court.
The judge, who granted the police a last adjournment for Sept. 18, said that the prosecution counsel had not showed diligence in prosecuting the case.
Nineteen suspected members of the Ahlan Sunnah Lid Da'waati wal Jihad Yaanaa brothers, also known as Boko Haram arraigned at the Chief Magistrate Court, Wuse Zone 2, Abuja. Photo by Abayomi Adeshida
"I should have discharged the accused persons today but I am compelled by justice to restrain such action and allow the prosecution one last chance.
"The court had adjourned this matter four times at the instance of the prosecutor, who had always promised to bring his witnesses to court but failed each time.
"I shall, therefore, discharge the accused persons should the prosecution fail to bring the witnesses to court on the next adjourned date.
"The prosecution was ordered to avail the accused persons' lawyers' proof of evidence.
"It is against the court procedure not to do that a year after the accused persons were arraigned," Kafarati said.
Some of the suspects are Umar Alia 21, Musa Yakubu Gava (38), Awalu Mohd (35), Modu Bama (36), Yakubu Modu Kolibe (15), Mohd Alhaji Modu (23), Badare Hassan (27), Mohd Umar (21) and Mohd Sheriff (23).
The police alleged that the accused, who were facing a five-count charge, conspired to commit felony and act of terrorism in Maiduguri.
The prosecution held that the accused committed an offence punishable under Section 33(1) (b) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2011, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
Thirteen months after the police arraigned the suspects, no witness had been presented.
At the resumed hearing, Mr Bernard Nnamdi, the Counsel to the police, filed an oral application, praying for the adjournment of the case because of the absence of the prosecution witnesses.
The application was jointly opposed to by Kevin Okoro, Mohammed Lucas and Mohammed Ipa, counsel to the accused.
They urged the court to discharge the accused on the grounds of lack of diligent prosecution.
They held that all the adjournments witnessed in the case so far were at the instance of the prosecution counsel.
They further noted that the police was only interested in the detention of the "presumably innocent persons."
The counsel said that the prosecution had failed to avail the accused with the proof of evidence after over one year of their detention.
They also said that Section 280 of the Criminal Procedure Act empowered the judge to discharge the accused if the prosecutor failed to provide the cause of action.