The Federal Government has said adequate preparations are in place for the resumption of the second phase of prosecution of Boko Haram suspects currently being held in a military facility in Kainji, Niger state.
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 extensive plans and preparations are in advanced stage for the prosecution of the suspects by March 2023.
She said the Federal Government is committed to dispensing justice, assuaging the feelings of victims/survivors as well as decongesting the holding facility.
Jedy-Agba said the seeming delay in the trial of the accused persons was to ensure diligent investigation and most importantly, the need to put in place adequate infrastructure and measures necessary for a proper and fair trial that would meet global standards.
“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 making 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 Courtrooms and residential areas.
“It is important to ensure that there are enhanced measures put in place. We are utilising 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 a 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 explained.
Responding to a question about the preparedness of the Federal Government prosecutors to commit to best practices, especially the observance of the 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 selected 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.
While not being specific on the number of suspects billed for trial, Jedy-Agba disclosed that 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 sizable number,’’ she said.