Vanguard (Lagos)

20 February 2013

Nigeria: Court Declines to Hands-Off Ndume's Trial

Abuja — A Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday, declined to stay further hearing on the terrorism charge that was preferred against Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume by the Federal Government.

The embattled lawmaker, who is answering to a four-count criminal charge, had approached the trial court, begging it to hands-off his case pending the determination of an appeal he has filed before the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal.

He is before the appellate court to challenge the refusal of trial justice Gabriel Kolawole to quash an incriminating proof of evidence that was tendered against him by the government.

The said set of evidence which was admitted as exhibits by the high court on December 14, 2012, had established a nexus between Ndume who is representing Borno South Senatorial District and the Boko Haram Islamic sect. The evidence showed that he made seventy-three phone contacts with the sect.

The Federal Government had in the charge it filed in court, alleged that it was Ndume who furnished the sect with classified information that aided their terrorist operations in the country.

The evidence was tendered before the court by a forensic expert with the Department of State Security, DSS, Mr Aliyu Usman, who testified against the lawmaker 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.

Besides, the high court had on October 24, admitted into evidence, two phones comprising Nokia E-7 and Nokia 27100, which the Department of State Security, DSS, confiscated from both Senator Ndume and Konduga, after they were arrested.

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

Ndume had through his lawyer, A.O. Jolawo, told the court that his client has entered an appeal to challenge the decision of the trial judge, insisting that it was trite that the lower court stayed its proceedings since a higher court is already seized of the facts of the case.

Consequently, he urged trial Justice Kolawole to hands-off the trial pending the determination of the suit before the appeal court.

He told the court that he was also dissatisfied with a ruling that was delivered on December 11, 2012, which admitted in evidence DVD's containing call data records, as well as, findings of investigations carried out by a Special Investigation Panel, SIP, of the SSS.

However, the prosecuting counsel, Thompson Olatigbe who confirmed that he was served with the notice of appeal, urged the court to proceed with cross examining of other witnesses.

Though Justice Kolawole refused to stay the proceeding before him, nevertheless, he adjourned the case till May 6, saying it was to give the appellate court enough time to assume jurisdiction and possibly decide the appeal.

Ndume had in his statements, 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 DSS 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, Department of State Security 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 DSS for review.

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

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