Ade Adesomoju, Abuja
A Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday fixed July 4 for ruling on the no-case submission filed by a former Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, seeking an order terminating his trial on terrorism charges preferred against him by the Federal Government.
Ndume, through his no-case submission, is seeking an order discharging him of charges including supporting Boko Haram, and failure to disclose material information arising from his alleged relationship with the sect.
His no-case submission was anchored on the grounds that the prosecution had failed to lead evidence linking him to the alleged offences.
In denying the charges on Tuesday, Ndume explained how he came in contact with the sect and how he disclosed the necessary information about his interaction with the sect to the then Vice President and the then Director-General of the State Security Service.
But the Federal Government insisted on Tuesday that it had led sufficient evidence showing Ndume’s complicity in the alleged offences, thus the need for him to offer some explanations.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole fixed the date for a ruling after hearing both the defence and the prosecution on Tuesday.
The Federal Government had on December 12, 2011, arraigned Ndume on four counts of terrorism charges.
The prosecution had alleged a link between Ndume and a suspected member of Boko Haram, Ali Konduga, who had since been convicted and sentenced for terrorism charges.
Ndume was accused of, among other counts, sponsoring the Boko Haram sect, and failing to disclose the phone number of Konduga, which was alleged to be in his (Ndume’s) possession.
He had pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
The prosecution commenced trial on July 3, 2012, and closed its case on June 22, 2016, after calling a total of nine witnesses.
The prosecution also tendered five exhibits two of which were phones with which Ndume allegedly communicated with Boko Haram member.
Justice Kolawole had adjourned until July 9, 2016, for the defendant to open his defence.
But instead of opening his defence, the defendant, through his counsel filed a no-case submission on August 16, 2016, arguing that he should be discharged on the grounds of absence of any evidence led by the prosecution linking him to the alleged offences.
The no-case submission was anchored on Section 303, among other provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
Adopting his client’s addresses on Tuesday, Tarfa insisted that an analysis of the phone conversation between Ndume and Konduga, failed to disclose any fact warranting the Senator from Borno State to offer any defence.
He explained that Ndume’s contact with Boko Haram came about when the senator was a member of the Presidential Committee on Security Matters in the North-East of the country.
The lawyer said, “We have taken the counts from one to four and have analysed them.
“Clearly, there is nothing in the evidence led by the prosecution that will necessitate the defendant to be called upon to enter his defence in the charge.
“Clearly from the totality of the evidence placed before the court, the defendant coming into contact with the Boko Haram sect came about when he was acting on behalf of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the presidential committee set up to look at the security challenges in the North-East part of the country.
“The evidence is clear and has been confirmed through cross-examination of the prosecution witnesses.
“We have shown how the alleged analysis of the mobile phone did not disclose any fact which will necessitate the defendant to defend the charge.
“Clearly, having regards to the four counts before the court, we have analysed the ingredients of the counts and shown how the prosecution has failed to proffer any evidence in support of the ingredients in the four counts.”
In his further reply on point of law to the opposition by the Federal Government, Tarfa argued that the allegation that his client failed to disclose material facts about his communication with Konduga, was baseless on the grounds that all necessary information was disclosed to then Vice-President and the then Director-General of the State Security Service.
He said, “We have made the point on the issue of non-disclosure of information and we have demonstrated clearly that the defendant has done everything possible working to bring peace and security to the country, the Federal Republic Nigeria.
“He has brought the necessary facts, which formed the basis of the charge, to the second highest political office holder in the country, the then Vice-President and the Director-General of the SSS at the time.”
He added that the alleged communication between Ndume and the Boko Haram member was nothing more than greetings.
Tarfa said, “There was nothing in that communication rather than greetings.
“The burden remained on the prosecution and the prosecution never discharged that burden.”
Opposing the no-case submission, Federal Government’s prosecutor, Mrs G.N Okafor, argued that there was sufficient evidence led by the prosecution linking the defendant to the alleged crimes, thus the need for him to offer some explanations through his defence.
She said the defendant had not denied communicating with the Boko Haram member.
She maintained the defendant rather corroborated the communication in his statements tendered as exhibits before the court.
She also indicated that there could not have been any legitimate basis for Ndume to communicate with Boko Haram members as he was not the only member of the presidential committee on the security challenges in the North-East.
The prosecutor said, “The prosecution submits that at the stage of no-case submission, the court as the umpire, is called upon to determine whether a prima facie case has been established against the defendant to warrant him to enter his defence or whether the defence discredited the evidence offered by the prosecution.
“The prosecution submits that the charge before this honourable court against the defendant has to do with the failure of the defendant to disclose material information to law enforcement agency as well as rendering support to a terrorist group, Boko Haram.
“My lord the Prosecution has tendered in evidence, exhibits P1, P2, P3, which are the statements made by the defendant.
“These statement by defendant connect him the charges levelled by the prosecution.
“We submit that the defendant has even corroborated the evidence of the prosecution to the effect that there was a communication between the defendant and members of the terrorist group.
“He has also corroborated that there was a communication because he was. Member of presidential committee on security matters on the North-East.
“My Lord, the prosecution submits that the defendant was not the only member of the Presidential Committee.
“My lord the volume of information found on him warranted the need for him to be reprimanded.”
She said the reliance on section 303 of the ACJ Act by the defendant to seek to be discharged would not avail the defendant at the stage of the trial, saying the prosecution witnesses had been able to link the defendant to the alleged crimes.
She said, “On that note, the prosecution submits that section 303 of ACJA relied on by the defendant cannot avail him in the no-case submission at this stage.
“Apart from exhibits, the witnesses have been able to link the defendant to the charge.
“We rely on section 396(2) of the ACJA and state that this defendant should be called upon to answer to the charges levelled against him and that the no-case submission cannot avail him at this stage.
“The evidence led by the prosecution has established a prima facie case against the defendant and the prosecution submits finally that it is in the interest of the defendant that this case be heard on merit and in the interest of justice.”
Justice Kolawole fixed 2 pm on July 4 for ruling. (Punchng.com)