Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday sentenced three Boko Haram members to 75 years in prison. The convicts are to serve their jail terms with hard labour.
The judge, who delivered the judgment in camera, sentenced the convicts to 25 years each.
He had earlier granted an application that the trial should be conducted in secret following an application to that effect on the need to protect the witnesses.
Initially, 17 suspects were charged to court but were later reduced to four following the withdrawal of the case against 13 other suspects.
The 17 suspects initially charged were arraigned before Justice Buba on an 18-count charge bordering on conspiracy to commit terrorism, illegal possession of firearms, and being members of a proscribed organisation.
They were Ali Mohammed, Adamu Karumi, Ibrahim Usman, Bala Haruna, Idris Ali, Mohammed Murtala and Kadiri Mohammed.
Others included Mustapha Daura, Abba Duguri, Sanni Adamu, Danjuma Yahaya, Musa Audu, Mati Daura, Farouk Haruna, Abdullahi Azeez, Ibrahim Bukar and Zula Diani.
But the case was discontinued against all the accused except the first four persons. However, of the four, Haruna was discharged by Justice Buba on the grounds that the government failed to prove the allegation of terrorism funding against him.
Haruna, according to the case of the government, was said to have agreed to provide funds to facilitate the escape of the first convict, Ali Mohammed, from detention.
However, Justice Buba sentenced each of the accused persons – Ali Mohammed, Adamu Karumi and Ibrahim Usman – to 25 years imprisonment for participating in acts of terrorism.
In the charge, the prosecution alleged that the accused persons committed the offences on March 21, at Plot 5, Road 69, Lekki Phase I Housing Estate, and No. 24, Oyegbeni St., Ijora-Oloye, Apapa-Iganmu, Lagos.
They were alleged to have been caught in possession of three packets of explosive construction pipes, 15 detonators and 11 AK47 rifles, with 30 rounds of live ammunition.
The other items allegedly found in the possession of the accused included 200 rounds of 7.6 millimetres live ammunition, two suitcases containing explosives, and a water container filled with explosives.
According to the prosecution, the offences contravened Sections 13(2) and 17(b) of the Terrorism Act 2013.
It also contravened Sections 1, 8, 27(1)(a) and (b) of the Firearms (Special Provisions) Act, Cap F28, Laws of the Federation, 2004, and is punishable under Section 8 of the same Act.
The details of the judgment were given to journalists by a source who was in the court. The source had pleaded anonymity.
In an attempt to cover the judgment, journalists had approached the Deputy Chief Registrar and Administrative Head of the Court in Lagos Division, Bello Okandeji, who promptly intervened by leading the journalists to the court.
However, on getting there, Okandeji and the reporters were prevented from gaining access to the court by heavily armed members of the Joint Task Force (JTF).
The security officers told Okandeji that they were under instructions not to allow anybody into the courtroom.
Justice Buba had earlier announced that the judgment would be given at 12pm and had sought the views of the lawyers if it was within the law to give the judgment in an open court before the public.
The representative of the prosecution, who was in court, Idowu Alakija, however responded by saying that since the trial was conducted in camera for security reasons, judgment should also be given in the same manner.
Justice Buba, however, opted to know what the law stipulates on giving judgment in camera and how his colleagues in Abuja had handled similar cases before them. He then adjourned to conduct a short research.
Upon resumption of sitting, Justice Buba again asked the parties to address him on the legality of giving a judgment in camera.
The Attorney General of Lagos State and Commissioner for Justice, Ade Ipaye, who was in court, then responded by saying that if the trial was conducted in secret, the judgment should also be delivered in secret as the judgment was also an inherent part of the proceedings.
The defence team also supported Ipaye’s position, a development which prompted Justice Buba to order everyone, except the parties and the security operatives, out of the courtroom to allow him give his judgment.