From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Federal Government has disclosed that adequate preparations are in place for the resumption of the second phase of prosecution of Boko Haram suspects currently being held in military facility in Kainji, Niger state by March 2023.
The Ministry had recently acknowledged the special intervention granted by President Muhammadu Buhari for the provision of funds and other logistics for the commencement of the exercise.
The Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Beatrice Jedy-Agba who disclosed this at the weekend, said already, extensive plans and preparations have advanced for the resumption of the prosecution of the suspected Boko Haram suspects.
She told Journalists in Abuja that the Federal Government is commitment to dispensing justice, assuage the feelings of victims/survivors as well as decongest the holding facility were firm and irreversible.
She explained that public interest in the trial was expected, noting that the seeming delay in the trial of the accused persons might be traceable to extenuating factors relating to diligent investigation and most importantly the need to put in place adequate infrastructure and measures necessary for proper and fair trials to meet minimum global standards.
According to her, “government is taking steps to reconfigure the military holding facilities to make it adaptable and conducive for recommencement of trials, maintaining that there is a paramount official commitment to make sure that the atmosphere and ambience of the venue for trials conformed to best global practices.
“We will start the prosecution by the end of the first quarter of 2023. We are in the process of renovating and, in fact, reconstructing facilities such as the Court rooms and residential areas.
“It is important to ensure that there are enhanced measures put in place. We are utilizing Military facilities and therefore, they were not built like proper Courts. The resort to the use of Military facilities is to ensure that trials are conducted in a safe and secure environment. There are risks associated with moving such large number of accused persons at the same time for trial, so this is one critical issue that is of utmost concern.
“We have secured all relevant approvals to proceed with the projects and we are working very closely with the Office of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and other military authorities to ensure that by the end of the first quarter of 2023, we will definitely start trials,” she said.
Responding to a question about the preparedness of the Federal Government prosecutors to commit to best practices especially the observance of rights of the accused persons, Mrs. Jedy-Agba said that the Federal Ministry of Justice was as much concerned about the pain and plight of victims of terrorism as it is sensitive to the rights of accused persons in the forth-coming trials.
“The whole idea is to ensure that while respecting the rights of the defendants, we also have to consider the sensibilities of Nigerians who have been victims of terrorism, as well as the general security of Nigerians as a whole.
“So, we will, as much as possible, ensure that the minimum human rights requirements are met. We will open the trial venue for observations of select Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), as well as human rights institutions, like the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). We are working with the Legal Aid Council (LAC) and other stakeholders to ensure that accused persons have access to justice.
“We are obviously not going to open the place up, because of security concerns. I’m sure you are aware that recently, like a few weeks ago, there was an attempt to hit the facility. So, obviously, it’s not going to be as open as you may want, because we want to ensure that the security of our judges, witnesses and interpreters are protected,” she added.
She said the number of accused in the coming trial was huge and appreciable and that she was not in a position to give the specific number as arrests were still being made daily in the anti-terrorism fight.
“I don’t want to be specific on that, because the figure changes every time, as security agencies keep making arrests. I can’t say for certain how many right now. But it is quite a sizeable number’’, she said.