Vanguard (Lagos)

15 December 2012

Nigeria: Court Admits Fresh Evidence Linking Ndume to Boko Haram

Abuja — Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday, admitted fresh sets of evidence, showing that Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, allegedly made seventy-three contacts with the Boko Haram Islamic sect.

The evidence was tendered before the court by a forensic expert with the States Security Service, SSS, Mr Aliyu Usman, who testified against the lawmaker yesterday as the third prosecution witness.

The witness, had in his examination-in-chief, maintained that the contacts took place between October 3 and November 3, 2011, adding that most of the communication was between Ndume and the self confessed spokesman of the Boko Haram sect, Ali Sanda Umar Konduga.

It would be recalled that the high court had on October 24, admitted into evidence, two phones comprising of Nokia E-7 and Nokia 27100, which the SSS confiscated from both Senator Ndume and Konduga, shortly after they were arrested.

Trial Justice Kolawole marked the two phones as exhibits P5 and P5 (a).

Meanwhile, Konduga who willingly submitted himself to the security agency had since been convicted by an Abuja Chief Magistrate Court.

However, Ndume who is answering to a 4-count criminal charge, had in his statements before the high court, maintained that the reason the sect approached him was as a result of his being a member of the Presidential Committee that was inaugurated on August 2, 2011, with a view to addressing the security challenges in the North Eastern part of the nation. He said the first telephone exchange between him and the sect was on October 4, 2011, two months into the Committee's work.

In a 24 paragraph affidavit he deposed before the court, Ndume said after the sect approached him, "he promptly informed one Usman, who represented the SSS before the Presidential Committee of his contact with the said Jammatul Sunnah Walid Jihad (otherwise known as'Boko Haram' sect) and also other members of the committee.

"He also informed the Director of State Security Service of his interaction with the said "Boko Haram" sect and forwarded a copy of the DVD he obtained from the sect to the Director of SSS for review.

"The Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Namadi Sambo, is also aware that he was in contact with the Jammatul Sunnah Walid Jihad (otherwise known as 'Boko Haram')."

Nevertheless, in his testimony, Aliyu, who told the court that he is a member of Digital Forensic examiners in a sister agency from the United States of America and a certified member of advance forensic examiners in Israel, said he was the person that personally extracted all the calls, and text messages that were exchanged between Ndume and the Boko Haram spokesman.

He said the information was stored in three different Call Data Record (CDR) and Mobile Phone Exploitation (MPE) record from the Nokia E7.

Aliyu told the court that after the data were analyzed and confirmed as a genuine communication channel between the sect and Ndume who is currently representing Borno South in the Senate, he handed the extracted information alongside the IMEI of the phones to the chairman of the investigative panel that was set-up by the SSS to look into the alleged conviviality between the lawmaker and the terrorist organization.

Moves by the prosecuting counsel, Mr Thompson Olatigbe, to tender the three exhibits as evidence before the court met stiff opposition from the defence counsel Chief Ricky Tarfa, SAN, who relied on the provision of section 85 and 86 of the Evidence Act to contend that it constituted a "Secondary Evidence."

Tarfa had argued that the exhibit were computer generated, saying its authenticity could not be easily ascertained, a submission that was countered by the prosecution who urged the court to go ahead and admit the CD's as part of the proof of evidence in the matter.

In his ruling yesterday, Justice Kolawole, said he found no merit in Tarfa's objections, noting that it would be in the interest of justice to admit the exhibits into evidence.

Marking the CD's as exhibit P8, P8(a) and (b) yesterday, the trial judge, however stressed that its contents will be ascertained in the cause of the trial, adding that contrary to argument of the defence counsel that they are in the category of public documents, the judge maintained that in-line with section 43 (1) (a-b) of the 1999 constitution, the call logs are not such that any network provider can reveal to individuals except in relation to an investigation of criminal allegation.

The judge said it would have been different assuming the witness was not the maker of the evidence, even as he adjourned the case till February 7 and 11, 2013, to enable the defence counsel to cross-examine the witness.

Specifically, Ndume is being prosecuted by the Federal Government on allegation that he furnished the Boko Haram sect with classified information that aided their terrorist operations in the country.

He was arrested by the State Security Service, SSS, on November 21, 2011 and docked before the high court on December 12, sequel to his indictment by Konduga, who fingered him as one of their major sponsors.

According to the federal government, the offence he committed was contrary to section 7(1) (b) of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 and punishable under Section 7(1) of the same Act.

Though the security agency said its investigations revealed that it was Ndume that submitted phone numbers of top government officials, including that of the Attorney General of the Federation, to the Boko Haram sect, however, the lawmaker who spent 26 days in detention before he was eventually granted bail by the court, has since denied the allegation, describing it as baseless.

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