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Court discharges Boko Haram suspect for lack of evidence

JUSTICE Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court, Abuja, has discharged and acquitted one Goni Umar who was accused of being a member of Boko Haram.

Umar, a native of Funtua, Borno State, was arrested in 2015 and was kept in police custody before he was arraigned in court. He pleaded not guilty to a one-count charge of belonging to a proscribed organisation in contravention of the Terrorism Prevention Act.

After the prosecution had closed its case having called its witnesses, including one Emmanuel, Ayuba, a police investigator, the defence counsel filed for a no-case submission, arguing that a prima facie evidence had not been established against his client.

In her judgement on Tuesday, Justice Nyako upheld that the no-case submission filed by the defence counsel. She stated that there was nothing to prove that Umar was a member of the outlawed terrorist group, either in the written statement of the suspect, which was admitted as evidence during the trial or in the testimony of the prosecution witness.

In another case decided on Thursday at court 2 of the Federal High Court, one Babagana Umar, also from Borno State, was found guilty of escaping from lawful custody after he escaped from Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri, in March 2014, following a Boko Haram attack.

The police had told the court that Umar was among the many persons that escaped during the attack, but the suspect explained that he did not escape but had only run for his life.

Umar, during the trial, told the court that he was forced to leave the barracks after the Boko Haram fighters broke into his cell and threatened to kill him if he did not run away. He said he had opted to remain there but that the attackers hit him in the head prompting him to run away for fear of being killed.

The police told the court that Umar was later re-arrested, but the accused person said he was the one that reported himself to the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), a group made up of local vigilantes and hunters who are helping the regular security agents in the counter-insurgency operations.

In her ruling, Justice Nyako found the suspect guilty, saying that the facts before her showed that the accused person did leave lawful custody, even though he claims he did so to save his life.

However, the defence counsel pleaded with the trial judge to temper justice with mercy, taking into consideration the circumstances that led to his client leaving the barracks at the time.

After considering the pleas, Justice Nyako sentenced the accused person to “time served”.  This means that the period the convict was kept in police and prison custody will be reckoned to him as having served the punishment for the offence he committed.

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