Nigeria: FG allocates 500 million naira to prosecute Boko Haram suspects

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Abuja – The Federal Government has allocated a whopping N500 million to prosecute the cases of Boko Haram and other criminal suspects in 2022.

The figure was in the Federal Justice Department’s approved 2022 budget breakdown, which said more than 10,000 suspects are expected to be prosecuted with the money.

Described as a “new” project in the budget, according to the budget breakdown, the allocation is to be spent on new Boko Haram cases and other criminal cases brought to court by the ministry.

The Federal Ministry of Justice has entered into a mass trial agreement with the Federal High Court which allows judges to be deployed to try terrorist suspects in the various military detention centers holding the suspects in different parts of the country.

Under the arrangement, the logistical challenges of moving large numbers of terrorist suspects to stand trial at the Federal High Court in Abuja or other divisions of the Court are overcome, but there has had local and international concerns about the fairness and rigor of the process. to treat.

Three phases of the mass trial have taken place so far.

The new provision of 500 million naira voted for the prosecution of Boko Haram suspects and other criminal cases is different from the more than 300 million naira voted for the prosecution of other “ongoing” cases, some of which are also related to Boko Haram.

Cases ‘ongoing’ labeled as ‘detainee prosecution, maritime/offshore violations, Boko Haram suspects, offenders of government recovered assets and improving the asset recovery and monitoring process’ are expected to engulf a total of 308,647,164 naira, depending on the budget.

Accounting for about 2.95% of the ministry’s total N17 billion budget, the pursuit of new Boko Haram business is the project with the third largest allocation among the 12 projects listed in the ministry’s 2022 budget.

It comes directly behind the “Establishment of Federal Task Force and Development of Federal Contracts Administration System (FCAS) in Nigeria,” with an allocation of N821 million.

The project with the highest allocation, labeled as “Intervention Fund to support FGN reform initiatives in handling terrorism cases, prison reforms and decongestion program as well as the activation of the national center of cybersecurity coordination to support ongoing reform,” is billed to swallow 5 billion naira.

Nigeria is grappling with years of terrorism cases with thousands of suspects held in military detention centers in different parts of the country awaiting trial.

Amnesty International had reported a series of deaths of Boko Haram suspects in military detention centers as the number rose over the years without trial.

In December 2020, the human rights organization claimed that more than 10,000 detainees had died in custody since 2011, a charge denied by the Nigerian military.

Of the thousands of Boko Haram suspects detained, only 800 were being prepared for trial in May 2021, an official said.

Shedding light on the cases, a deputy director, Chioma Onuegbu, said the 800 suspects were among about 1,000 terrorism suspects whose cases were analyzed by prosecutors in her team.

According to her, of the 1,000 files reviewed in 2019, 800 had prima facie evidence with which to proceed to trial, while 170 lacked evidence and the suspects they contained were recommended for release.

Onuegbu added that charges had been filed with the Federal High Court in 280 of the 800 cases. The charges were served on the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria (LACON), which defends suspected terrorists, the prosecutor explained.

The Complex Casework Group (which was established a few years ago) conducted three different phases of trials of suspects in various military detention centers, the group’s leader said at the time.

The fourth phase was originally scheduled to start in 2019, after the case files of 1,000 suspects had been reviewed, but had to be postponed at least twice.

Onuegbu said prosecution of the suspects had been delayed due to escalating Boko Haram attacks in 2019 and further hampered by the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020.

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