Justice Tsoho Disqualifies Self from Trial of Boko Haram Members

Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High, Abuja, on Tuesday, disqualified himself from the trial of suspected members of the Boko Haram insurgents.
The Federal Government is prosecuting the Boko Haram suspects on an 11-count charge bordering on alleged kidnapping and murdering of 11 foreign nationals between 2011 and 2013 in the Northern part of the country.
The defendants are Mohammed Usman (aka Khalid Albarnawi), described as leader of a Boko Haram splinter group, Mohammed Bashir Saleh, Umar Bello (aka Abu Azzan); Mohammed Salisu (Datti); Yakubu Nuhu (aka Bello Maishayi), Usman Abubakar (Mugiratu) and a lady, Halima Aliyu.
Justice Tsoho in a short ruling held that the issue of bias or lack of confidence in a trial court was not something to be taken lightly.
The 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th defendants through their counsel had requested that their trial be transferred from Justice Tsoho to another court, accusing him of bias.
They also asked for the transfer of their custody from the Department of State Service (DSS) to the prisons, alleging deteriorating health and threat to their lives at the DSS
In delivering ruling on the oral application made by Samuel Attah, counsel to the 1st, 4th and 6th defendants, Justice Tsoho recalled how prosecuting counsel, Shuaibu Labaran had on resumption of trial urged the court not to entertain any application or move that may likely delay the day’s proceedings, but had to stand down the case for 15 minutes to allow the defendants meet with their lawyers when they insisted they have something to tell the court.
However, when the court reconvened later, counsel to the 1st, 4th and 6th defendants told the court that his clients in their brief meeting said they no longer have the confidence that they will get justice in the court, following a reversal by the Court, of its earlier ruling on the place of custody of the suspects pending the determination of their trial.
Justice Tsoho who noted that the defendants did not appeal the ruling then, however said the defendants’ message was clear enough, adding that, “The Court will not ignore their grievances”.
He said even when their counsel hinted them that the trial will start all over again if it was transferred to another court, the defendants insisted they prefer their lives to any speedy trial of the case.
Justice Tsoho said since it has become obvious that the issue of their been transferred from DSS custody to prison was no longer important, it was not necessary for them to make a formal application seeking the transfer of their trial to another court.
“This Court disqualify itself, accordingly the case file is hereby transferred to the Acting Chief Judge for reassignment”, he said.
Earlier, counsel to the 1st, 4th and 6th defendants, Samuel Attah told the court that his client are not longer safe in the custody of the DSS owing to alleged inhuman treatment meted out to them.
While they are therefore seeking transfer of their custody from DSS to prison they also sought transfer of the case to another court accusing the trial Judge of bias.
Also counsel to the 5th and 7th and 8th defendants Elisha Oloruntoba and Aliyah Momoh respectively aligned themselves with the position of Attah.
However counsel to the second and third defendants objected to the transfer of the trial to another Court reinstating their confidence in the court.
Nathaniel Adekunle, counsel to the third defendant said, “So far, the 3rd defendant has unwavering confidence in the court. He wants justice and he wants speedy trial”, he said.
“If the court would grant the application to transfer the case, we ask for a separate trial so that his own would be triad by this court”, he added.
Also prosecuting counsel vehemently opposed the application claiming it was a ploy to frustrate the trial. Labaran wondered why it took them four months to react to a valid court order which assigned their place of custody with the DSS.
He disclosed that during the 15 minutes granted the defendants to consult with their counsel, he also did same with the authorities and discovered that the application was a premeditated action going by the behaviour of defendants particularly the first defendant at the DSS earlier on.
“This kind of trick is what is in Vogue so as to discredit the integrity of the court. This kind is always applied when the prosecution is ready to go on with the trial and has served the defense with the proof of evidence.
“We saw this coming earlier and urged the court not to succumb to any strategy that would lead to delay of this case. You are the number two judge in this court and if at this level the common man cannot be assured of justice in this court, I wonder where again justice can be gotten”, he said.
He advised the defense to come formally with evidence of bias against them, adding that he would concede if it is meritorious or join issues if it was not.
The defendants were arraigned by the Federal government over the killing of five foreigners who were abducted from a construction site in Kebbi State in 2011.
The suspects are also accused of culpability in the murder of seven other foreigners in Borno State. The seven were abducted from another construction site in Bauchi State in February 2013, and taken to the Sambisa forest.
The seven other victims, namely: “Carlos Bou Azziz, Brendan Vaughan, Silvano Trevisan, Konstantinos Karras, Ghaida Yaser Sa’ad (F), Julio Ibrahim El-Khouli and Imad El-Andari,” were allegedly abducted on February 18, 2013 and taken to Sambisa forest where they were kept for 10 days before being murdered.

Author: News Editor

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