22-year-old Boko Haram commander jailed 60 years for terrorism

The Federal High Court in Wawa Cantonment, Kainji, Niger State, on Tuesday sentenced a commander of the Boko Haram terrorist group, Abba Umar, to 60 years imprisonment for various acts of terrorism.

The court also sentenced 32-year-old Mohammed Hussaini, a Chadian brought up in Talwari Village, Damboa Local Government Area of  Borno State, to 20 years imprisonment for participating in various Boko Haram attacks in Maiduguri and Damaturu and for also professing to be a member of the sect.

Umar and Hussaini were among the over 40 members of the sect convicted on Tuesday by the four courts sitting in Wawa Cantonment to fast-track the cases of over 1,000 terror suspects held in the detention facility in the barracks.

At least 10 persons including 18-year-old  Nathaniel Obidah were either discharged and acquitted or had the cases against them struck out due to lack of evidence.

The prosecution withdrew the case against Obidah after realising that he was merely 12 years old as of the time he was said to have committed the alleged offence of running errands for Boko Haram members in the Sambisa Forest.

The proceedings in the four courts which resumed on Monday were observed by the Nigerian Bar Association and the National Human Rights Commission.

The 22-year-old Umar,  was not remorseful throughout the proceedings on Tuesday.

He confirmed during the proceedings that he would return to Sambisa Forest to continue the terrorist acts if he was released.

He had been in detention since 2014 after his failed suicide mission to a school in Gombe that year.

Two of the five counts preferred against him attracted a death penalty but the judge said he decided to impose lesser sentences after taking into consideration the age of the convict and the fact that he must have been exposed to “excessive and consistent religious indoctrination” which made him to be easily pliable.

The judge added, “For count 3, I sentence him to 60 years imprisonment.

“I would have been more merciful but rather was dissuaded by the convict’s insistence that he would return back to terrorrist activities which constitute danger to the society and for which he was apprehended.”

Umar was 18 when he was arrested after his failed suicide mission to the  Gombe Secondary School Pilot, Gombe, Gombe State, in 2014.

His attempts to detonate the Improvised Explosive Devices  loaded on a Sienna car which he accidentally drove against the wall of the school failed.

No casualty was recorded in the failed operation.

During the trial on Tuesday, Umar  confirmed all the 17 pictures tendered by the prosecution as exhibits showing him, the car and the IEDs used for the failed operation, to be true and authentic.

While testifying earlier on Tuesday, the convict who said he married two wives in the Sambisa Forest after joining the sect, described himself as “an Islamic warrior, and a commander in the Islamic army.”

The convict, who spoke in Hausa and his testimony interpreted to English during the proceedings, confirmed that as a commander in the Boko Haram sect, he had over 100 lieutenants under him.

When asked how he was arrested, he said, “I was tried by God when I used a Sienna car loaded with IEDs in Gombe. I was about going into the  school but I had a trial from God. I had an accident. I hit the wall.”

He confirmed that all that the only prosecution witness said about him during the Tuesday’s proceedings were true.

He said, “I heard what he said. All what he said, all that I saw (referring to the pictures admitted as exhibits), and all that I read (his confessional statements) are very true. I have nothing more to say.”

When asked to plead for mercy just before the judge imposed the sentencing, he said he had nothing more to say.

The court found him guilty and sentenced him to various prison terms, maximum of which was 60, for the five counts preferred against him.

He was convicted and sentenced to 30 years for the failed bombing attack on the Gombe school.

The judge sentenced him to 15 years for professing to be a member of the Boko Haram sect.

The convict was also sentenced to 60 years for partaking in the terrorist attacks on Bama, Gwoza and the military barracks where many were killed.

He confessed on Tuesday  that he was a commander during the operation at the military barracks from where he and his lieutenants “carted away AK 47 rifles, army uniforms, aircraft launcher and other arms and ammunition.”

He was also sentenced to 15 years for knowingly agreeing “to receive training in the Sambisa Forest by the members of the proscribed Boko Haram group in furtherance of terrorists acts.”

He was convicted for the fifth count of knowingly failing to disclose information “about Abubakar Shekau, Isiaku, Ibrahim Modu, and Ba’ana whom he was said to have known to be members of the proscribed Boko Haram sect to the law enforcement agencies.”

During the trial on Tuesday, he confessed to perpetrating all the terrorist acts as contained in the five counts preferred against him but pleaded not guilty to them.

“As far as the religion of God is concerned, they are not offences. I am not guilty,” he said when pleading not guilty to one of the counts earlier on Tuesday.

He had earlier declined to be represented by any lawyer, but the court, in the spirit of fairness allowed the lawyer from the Legal Aid Council to stand as his counsel.

The prosecution sought and obtained the court’s order directing journalists not to publish the names of the judge, the defence and the prosecution.

The prosecution called a military investigator as its only witness who gave account of the findings during a series of interrogations with the witness.

The Chadian who was sentenced to 20 years, had pleaded guilty to the three counts preferred against him but pleaded for mercy.

The prosecution urged the court to convict him based on his confession.

The court convicted and sentenced him to 20 years imprisonment each for the Maiduguri and Damaturu, Yobe State attacks, and eight years imprisonment for professing to be a member of the sect.

But the court discharged and acquitted 43-year-old Ahmad Mustapha who, although had pleaded guilty to an offence of knowingly failing to report one Mallam Saleh and one Mallam Garba, who were members of the Boko Haram sect, at Saula Village of the Marte Local Government Area of Borno State, to law enforcement agencies in 2015.

The ailing Mustapha, who was married to two wives with 10 children and helped to the courtroom by two other inmates on Tuesday, was said to be suffering from a stroke in his left leg and left arm.

After the prosecution and the defence closed their cases, the judge noted that although the defendant pleaded guilty, his statements and explanations during an interrogation during the court sessions showed that he was “indeed not guilty.”

The judge noted that there was possibly no one to report the two Boko Haram members to when almost everyone had fled the village after the invasion by the sect.

The judge ordered that he be given medical attention and subjected to a rehabilitation as a matter of urgency.

Thirty-year-old mother of seven children, Maimuna Omar, was sentenced to six years imprisonment for a similar offence of failing to disclose information about some Boko Haram suspects to the law enforcement agencies.

The proceedings continue on Wednesday.