Nigeria's Judicial Strike Stalls Trial of Terror Suspects

A countrywide three-month strike by judiciary workers in Nigeria has stalled the trial of at least 400 persons suspected of funding of Boko Haram and other bandits.

All the courts have been shut since April 6, 2021 after the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (Jusun) called a strike over the reluctance of the country's 36 governors to implement judiciary financial autonomy contained in an executive order issued by President Muhammadu Buhari.

At that point, at least 957 terror suspects, including Bureau de Change operators, gold miners and sellers, business persons and politicians were arrested, out of which many have been screened and released.

Financing terrorism

Results of the screening revealed that at least 180 Bureau De Change operators were careless in their business deals by serving customers who were financing terrorism. These operators were subsequently pardoned and fined $1,875,000 to secure their release and return to their businesses.

Now, authorities have confirmed that 400 suspects have serious cases to answer and will face trial as soon as the strike is suspended.

All suspects were arrested in an operation coordinated by the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Department of State Services (DSS), Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). They were arrested in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and in Kano, Borno, Lagos, Sokoto, Adamawa, Kaduna and Zamfara states.

The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice confirmed that criminal charges bordering on terrorism were already being prepared against them.

The Minister, Mr Abubakar Malami, had on many occasions in the last weeks reported that the suspects would be put on trial for financing terror activities.

"I am happy to report that arising from the wider coverage investigation that has been conducted in Nigeria, a number of people, both institutional and otherwise, were found to be culpable, I mean on reasonable grounds for suspicion of terrorism financing."

Suspicious accounts

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unity (NFIU) have also frozen several suspicious accounts with amount running into $625 million.

CBN and NFIU have sent out a series of "post no debit" letters to commercial banks leading to freezing of personal and corporate accounts, along with court orders directing freezing of dozens of accounts flagged for suspicious transactions.

The detainees, however, will wait longer to have their day in court because Jusun has urged its members to continue with the strike.

Jusun National Secretary, Mr Isaiah Adetola, said on June 7, 2021 there was no going back until ongoing negotiations being brokered by the Federal Government are complete.

The talks seek to reach an agreement on terms for implementation of the autonomy order, and consequently end the strike.

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