ABUJA -The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, yesterday, fixed July 9 to determine the fate of the six alleged masterminds of the explosion that rocked the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in Suleja, prior to the April 16, 2011, presidential election.
Justice Bilkisu Aliyu adjourned for judgment after the suspects concluded their defence and all the parties adopted their written addresses yesterday.
The accused persons, Shuaibu Abubakar, Salisu Ahmed, Umar Babagana-Umar, Mohammed Ali, Musa Adam and Umar Ibrahim, had through their counsels, Mr Nuraini Sulaiman and Kevin Emeka Okoro, urged the court to acquit and discharge them from the case for want of incriminating evidence.
The accused persons who were apprehended while on their way to Kaduna state to allegedly attack the venue of an event that was attended by Vice President Namadi Sambo in Kaduna state on July 28, 2011, had in a motion they filed through their lawyers Mr. Kelvin Okoro and Mr Nureni Sulaiman, challenged the powers of the federal government to prosecute them.
It was their contention that the federal government failed to establish a nexus between them and the charge, insisting that the sum total of the evidence tendered against them amounted to ‘hearsay’ which they said “is not admissible in law.”
Their objection was however countered by the prosecuting counsel, Mr E.A Orji who maintained that the government had adduced sufficient evidence to warrant their conviction on the basis of the 5-count terrorism charge that was slammed against them.
The Department of State Service, DSS, which recommended their trial, had maintained that its investigations revealed that it was the accused persons that masterminded various terrorist attacks that killed 28 persons between March and July, 2011.
The prosecution further alleged that six of them , “between June 4 and July 12, (both dates inclusive) at various locations in Suleja, Niger state, Azare, Nasarawa state and the FCT, did engage in an act of terrorism by encouraging through training persons now at large, the use of arms and ammunition, and the preparation, planting and detonation of improvised explosive devices for the purpose of terrorism and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 15 (2) of EFCC Act 2004 and punishable under the same section of the Act.”
They were said to have supervised the bombing of a village, Dakna, in Bwari, Abuja, on May 23; an incident SSS said resulted in the death of three Peace Officers, as well as detonated an improvised explosive device at a political rally in Suleja which resulted in the death of three persons too.
It will be recalled that a senior Army officer who led the team of soldiers that caught the suspects at Gummel Junction at Kachia Kaduna on July 27, 2011, had in his evidence-in-chief, told the trial court that a text message found in the inbox of a mobile handset confiscated from one of the suspects, revealed that each of the accused persons were promised an inheritance of 72 virgins in paradise assuming they succeeded in bombing the event that was attended by the Vice President and some Northern Governors.
Likewise, the high court had on December 20, 2012, admitted into evidence, 250 different explosive making devices that were allegedly recovered from the accused persons.
A representative of the Nigerian Army, whose identity was masked by the federal government owing to the sensitive nature of the case, while tendering the evidence in court, warned that “the dangerous components of Improvised Explosive Device, IED, we caught them with, if you prime them, it can in matter of seconds bring down the whole of this high court building.”
Consequently trial justice Aliyu declined to take custody of the evidence comprising IEDs and bundles of connector wires, even as she granted the SSS leave to take them away for safe keeping pending when it would be needed for examination by the court.
Besides, the court had equally admitted into evidence, a black Honda Civic with registration number AG-94-NMG, in which three of the suspects were arrested, even as the suspects conceded before the court that the car actually belonged to them.
Though the accused persons had on September 30, 2011, pleaded not guilty to a 5-count charg, they have since remained at Kuje prisons from where they attend their trial.
If convicted, the offence for which the accused persons are answering to attracts a punishment of life imprisonment.