The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) said the trial of 1,670 Boko Haram suspects in detention will begin on Monday, October 9.
In a statement by his spokesman, Othman Salihu Isah yesterday, the minister identified the 1,670 terrorism suspects being held at the Kainji Detention Facility in Niger State as the first beneficiaries of a process to speed up the trials.
He announced the approval of a list of prosecutors to handle the cases with a list of defence counsels from the Legal Aid Council of Nigerian (LACON), an agency under the Ministry of Justice. He also disclosed that the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court has appointed four judges to oversee the cases.
He also stated that the special prosecutors will attend to the cases of the 651 detainees in Giwa Barracks, Maiduguri until the cases were exhausted.
Of the 33 cases under the Federal High Court, he said 13 have been concluded with nine convictions, while 116 charges are still awaiting trial in Kainji, Niger State. He said 220 detainees in the facility were in the category that have been recommended for release and de-radicalization programme due to want of evidence.
He explained that the second category were those, who will be willing to plead guilty for lesser sentences, while the third category are those initially recommended for further investigation but have no files so far concerning their cases.
He said the fourth category is for suspects, whose cases were reviewed and a prima-facie were found and may be willing to opt for a full trial.
The AGF also stated that the exercise will be carried out alongside the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) and the Joint Investigation Team set up by the Defence Headquarters.
The AGF explained that the programme was the outcome of an on-the-spot assessment by a team comprising representative of the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), Federal High Court and the Office of the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation, who were dispatched to Kainji from the 12th to 14th of September, 2017.
The AGF listed some of the challenges in the prosecution of terrorism cases to include: poorly investigated case files due to pressure during the peak of conflict at the theatre, over reliance on confession based evidence, lack of forensic evidence, absence of cooperation between investigators and prosecutors at pre-investigation stages, and poor logistical facilities to transport defendants from detention facility to court for trial.
Others are; scarcity of skilled/trained forensic personnel to handle investigation of complex cases, inadequate security for counsel handling terrorism cases, and difficulties in converting military intelligence to admissible evidence.