Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday admitted fresh sets of evidence showing that embattled senator, Mohammed Ali Ndume, allegedly made seventy-three contacts with the Boko Haram Islamic sect.
The evidence was tendered by Mr Aliyu Usman, a forensic expert with the State Security Services, SSS, and the third prosecution witness of the day.
The witness had in his examination-in-chief had said that the contacts took place between October 3 and November 3, 2011, adding that most of the communication was between Ndume and the self-confessed spokesman of the Boko Haram, Ali Sanda Konduga.
It would be recalled that on October24, the court had admitted into evidence two phones, a Nokia E-7 and a Nokia 27100, which the SSS had seized from both Ndume and Konduga shortly after they were both arrested. Justice Kolawole had marked the phones exhibit P5 and P5(a).
Meanwhile, Konduga had submitted himself willingly to the SSS had long been convicted by an Abuja Chief Magistrate Court.
However, Ndume who is before the court on four criminal charges, had in his statements before the high court, maintained that he was approached by the sect by virtue of his being a member of the Presidential Committee that was inaugurated on August 2, 2011, with a view to addressing the security challenges in the North Eastern part of the nation. He said the first telephone exchange between him and the sect was on October 4, 2011, two months into the Committee’s work.
He said, in a 34-paragraph affidavit he deposed before the court, that after the sect approached him, “he promptly informed one Usman, who represented the SSS before the Presidential Committee of his contact with the said Jammatul Sunnah Walid Jihad (otherwise known as‘Boko Haram’ sect) and also other members of the committee.
“He also informed the Director of State Security Service of his interaction with the said “Boko Haram” sect and forwarded a copy of the DVD he obtained from the sect to the Director of SSS for review.
“The Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Namadi Sambo, is also aware that he was in contact with the Jammatul Sunnah Walid Jihad (otherwise known as ‘Boko Haram’).”
However, Aliyu, a member of Digital Forensic examiners from a sister agency in the United States and a certified member of advanced forensic examiners in Israel, told the court in his testimony that he was the one who personally extracted all the calls and text messages between the senator and the Boko Haram spokesperson.
He said the information was stored in three different Call Data Record (CDR) and Mobile Phone Exploitation (MPE) record from the Nokia E7.
Aliyu informed the court once the data had been analysed and it was confirmed to be a genuine communication channel between the Boko Haram spokesperson and the senator who is representing Borno South, he handed the information extracted alongside the IMEI of the phones to the chairman of the investigative panel set up by the SSS to look into the alleged friendship between the lawmaker and the terrorist organization.
Attempts by the prosecuting counsel, Mr Thompson Olatigbe to tender the three exhibits as evidence were objected to by the opposing counsel, Mr Rickey Tarfa, SAN, who used Sections 85 and 86 of the Evidence Act to declare them “Secondary Evidence”.
Tarfa argued that the exhibit was computer generated, and as such, its authenticity could not be ascertained. The prosecution countered this claim and urged the court to admit the CDs as part of proof of evidence in this matter.
Justice Kolawole ruled that he found no merit in Tarfa’s objections and said he was admitting the exhibits into evidence in the interest of justice.
The judge stressed that the CDs, marked as exhibit P8, P8(a) and P8(b), would have its contents determined in the course of the trial, adding that contrary to argument of the defence counsel that they are in the category of public documents, the call logs are not such that any network provider can reveal to individuals except in relation to an investigation of criminal allegation in-line with section 43 (1) (a-b) of the 1999 constitution
The judge said it would have been a different issue assuming the witness was not the creator of the evidence. He adjourned the case to February 7 and 11, 2013 to enable the defence counsel cross-examine the witness.
Ndume is specifically being prosecuted by the Federal Government on the allegation of furnishing the Boko Haram sect with classified information that aided their terrorist activities in the country.
He was arrested by the State Security Services on November 12, 2011 and charged to court on December 12 after being fingered by Konduga as one of their major sponsors.
According to the federal government, the offence he committed was contrary to section 7(1) (b) of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 and punishable under Section 7(1) of the same Act.
Though the security agency said its investigations revealed that it was Ndume that submitted phone numbers of top government officials, including that of the Attorney General of the Federation, to the Boko Haram sect, however, the lawmaker who spent 26 days in detention before he was eventually granted bail by the court, has since denied the allegation, describing it as baseless.