FG concludes first phase of Boko Haram prosecution – official

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The Federal Government says it has completed the first phase of prosecution of Boko Haram suspects in its custody, with the next phase to begin soon.

The Solicitor-General of the Federation, Mr Dayo Apata, who stated this in Abuja on Wednesday, said the government was determined to bring all Boko Haram detainees to justice.

He spoke at the closure of public sitting/hearing by the Presidential Investigation Panel to Review Compliance of the Armed Forces with Human Rights Obligations and Rules of Engagement.

Apata, who represented the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, stated that the prosecution would be done speedily but fairly and efficiently.

Although he did not say how many suspects were prosecuted in the first phase, Malami had earlier said the trials of 13 had been concluded.

In a statement in September, the minister said over 1,600 suspected Boko Haram terrorists were then in detention facilities in the country, and that their trial would begin on Oct. 9.

There have been calls from the public, especially members of the human rights community and civil society organisations, for the prosecution of the suspects in accordance with the law.

But the solicitor-general emphasised at Wednesday’s event that government “cannot sacrifice human rights in a bid to achieve speed in the prosecution of Boko Haram suspects’’.

“We are, however, committed to reducing the time frame for which these detainees have to wait for their trial.

“We are presently working on the modalities for a prosecution guideline for processing of Boko Haram detainee,’’ Apata said.

He commended the Chairman and members of the panel for the successful conclusion of their public hearings.

The solicitor-general said Nigerians and the international community were eagerly awaiting the panel’s report, which he hoped would end all allegations of human rights violations against military personnel.

He said the government was also looking forward to far-reaching and practical recommendations from the panel that would ensure the military complied with international human right conventions and laws.

Chairman of the panel, Justice Biobele Georgewill, said “volumes of memoranda and presentations were received from Nigerians, professional bodies, civil society organisations and international humanitarian organisations.

“Furthermore, the panel decided to conduct public sitting/hearing where people and groups who have allegations of human rights violations and non-compliance to rules of engagement against the Armed Forces were given opportunity to substantiate their cases.

“In the interest and spirit of fair-hearing, members of the Armed Forces were also invited to give their own account of defence on each matter brought before the panel.

“The panel deemed it necessary to take the public sitting to all the six geo-political zones of the country in order to avail Nigerians who may not be able to come to Abuja the chance to present their cases.

“Also, the panel visited detention facilities, military formations, prisons, including the military commentary in Maiduguri during its tour, all in search of truth,’’ Georgewill said.

He said with the conclusion of its public hearing, the panel would now go behind closed doors to consider all the submissions made to it.

The chairman thanked Nigerians for their confidence in the panel, and the military for their cooperation.

The Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin, represented by the Chief of Defence Administration, Real Admiral Muazu Salami, thanked members of the panel for their commitment.

Olonisakin said the “maximum cooperation’’ from the military was a demonstration of its deference to the panel and the importance of its task.

“I wish you well as you enter the concluding phase of your job, and it is my hope that when your report is ready, the Defence Headquarters and its services will be adequately briefed.

“This is to ensure that whatever recommendations you come out with are implemented,’’ he said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo inaugurated the panel on Aug. 11.

Its mandate includes investigation of allegations of human rights violations against military personnel in local conflicts and insurgencies across the country.

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