Boko Haram denies alleged dialogue with Borno
THERE may soon be a marked departure in the Federal Government’s prosecution of persons arrested for security breaches in the country.
Such persons instead of being arraigned before the nation’s conventional courts may face trial in courts operated by members of the Armed Forces.
Clarifications on the categories of persons to appear before such courts were sketchy yesterday but the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim, simply said with the growing trend of threats to national security, the Federal Government might use military justice system for the prosecution of offenders.
“Additionally, the current threats to national security could result in the use of military justice system for the prosecution of offenders. In the unlikely event that Nigeria would engage in inter-state conflicts in the foreseeable future, efforts are now being channelled towards the development of capacities for dealing with evolving challenges,” he said.
Although, Ibrahim refrained from mentioning what constitutes threat to national security, the activities of the Boko Haram sect, whose members have been declared the enemy of the state and militants, who are classified as economic saboteurs, as well as kidnappers may be affected.
Also expected to appear before such courts are former or serving military and police personnel, who are linked or arrested in connection with the activities of terror groups.
Ibrahim, who said gone were the days when court-martial decisions were nullified by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, explained that the Armed Forces had taken proactive measures to ensure that military court enjoys the desired independence and impartiality in their proceedings.
Opening a seminar on “Military law and development of commander and legal officer relationship” yesterday in Abuja, the naval chief said efforts had been stepped up to ensure that “the rights of accused persons are not violated during trial.”
He added that in the wake of perceived inter-state conflicts in the foreseeable future in the country, the Nigerian Armed Forces had started developing capacities of its personnel to deal with emerging challenges.
Admiral Ibrahim identified some of the challenges as terrorism, militancy, human trafficking and other gender and culture-based cross border crimes, and stressed the need for service personnel to be abreast with the demands of military discipline during such operations.
He noted that the training and retraining of personnel would help stem the tide of violations that often characterised deployment of troops in crisis areas.
Ibrahim said the current threats to national security could result in the use of the military justice system for prosecution of offenders, adding that Africa is today faced with several challenges that would require the deployment of appropriate legal regime.
The naval chief lamented that court-martial decisions are often viewed with skepticism by civil criminal justice administrative system and sometimes nullified by the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. To check the trend, he said the Armed Forces had taken pro-active measures to ensure that “courts-martial enjoy the desired independence and impartiality during proceedings.”
Ibrahim stressed the importance of the seminar, adding that the timing was apt and called for the amendment of the Armed Forces Act 2004 to meet emerging trends in military criminal justice administration.
“The subject matter of this seminar relates directly to current themes and global development in the military justice system. In several countries, dramatic changes have occurred in the past or are being contemplated in compliance with democratic principles and global best practice.
“In Nigeria, courts-martial decisions are often viewed with skepticism by the civil criminal justice administrative system, due to perceived unlawful command influence and other sundry irregularities. As a result of these most of the cases are nullified by the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. In line with transformation agenda of the Armed Forces however the services are taking pro-active measures to ensure that courts-martial enjoy the desired independence and impartiality during proceedings”
In Maiduguri, Borno State, troops have stepped up security in the market where eight suspected Boko Haram members and 24 others were feared killed on Monday in cross-fires and bomb blasts.
Members of the Islamic sect had on Monday afternoon stormed the fish section of Baga Market and killed several stakeholders and vendors.
The market opened yesterday but troops closed all the gates except the one overlooking a police station.
“Most traders in this section of the market have not opened largely out of mourning for their colleagues killed in the attacks. Some of the victims were buried yesterday. Meanwhile, one Abul Qaqa, who identified himself as Boko Haram’s spokesman has said the group was not involved in any dialogue being convened between the sect and the Federal Government.
He stated that no such dialogue at the state or federal level, had been called to end the serial killings and bombings in the North.
“Dialogue,” according to him, could “only take place when the government releases all the sect’s members arrested by the police and State Security Service (SSS) since July 2009.”
In a phone interview with reporters in Maiduguri, Qaqa said: “There is no secret dialogue being convened with the sect, as the governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, has claimed yesterday (Monday). We cannot embark on such dialogue with government at the federal and state levels, because the Federal Government has not fulfilled our conditions of releasing all arrested and detained sect members in the country.”
He said once the detainees were freed, the group would empower five representatives to dialogue with the government.
The sect has claimed responsibility of attacks and bombing of Baga Market, saying that none of its members was killed as reported by the spokesman of Joint Task Force (JTF), Lt.-Col. Hassan Mohammed.
The Delta State Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan yesterday in Asaba canvassed for a true assessment of the security challenges in Nigeria by diplomats.
Uduaghan stated this when the Dutch Ambassador to Nigeria visited him. He said there was need for an accurate report on the situation instead of an exaggeration, which creates a bias and negative impact on the country.
He accused diplomatic missions in the country of always blowing out of proportion security situation and acts of vandalism in the country and enjoined them not to paint a different picture from the reality on ground. .
The Ogun State Command of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) yesterday arrested 30 Nigeriens and Togolese as illegal aliens. They were arrested during an operation at 9.00 a.m. in Oke-Ilewo and Ibara areas of Abeokuta, the state capital.
The action might not be unconnected with the allegation that many of the arrested members of the Boko Haram sect by the security agencies were Nigeriens. The suspects would face thorough screening by the NIS.
But one of the suspects, Garuba Sheu, told The Guardian that he was an indigene of Kano State.
The Command’s Comptroller, Dr. P. N. Uwasirike said: “The situation in the country requires such an action.”