Boko Haram: Senator Ndume's Trial Stalled As Prosecution Fails To Produce Witness In Court
SAN FRANCISCO, February 13, (THEWILL) - The failure of the prosecution to produce its witnesses in court on Thursday stalled the trial of Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume who is being charged for allegedly sponsoring Boko Haram insurgents.
Ndume, a serving Senator from Borno State, is facing charges bordering on terrorism-related offences before the Federal High Court, in Abuja.
He was arraigned before Justice Kolawole on December 12 last year on a 4-count charge by the Department of State Services (DSS).
Ndume, who had pleaded not guilty to the charges, is accused of sponsoring the Boko Haram sect, and failing to disclose the cell phone number of Konduga, which was alleged to be in his (Ndume's) possession.
During the trial last year, the prosecution, through its third witness, tendered on December 11 and 14, 2012 some call logs and three digital video discs (DVDs), containing call-data records intended to prove the allegation that Ndume had interactions with some Boko Haram members.
Also admitted were documents containing findings based on investigations carried out by a Special Investigation Panel (SIP) set up by the DSS on the case.
A prosecution witness told the trial court that there were 73 instances of communication between Ndume and Konduga.
A Nokia E7 phone allegedly belonging to Ndume was also said to have been used in communicating with Konduga, whose phone identity the SSS gave as Nokia 2700.
And in spite of Ndume's argument that the items marked P7, P8, P8a and P8b were inadmissible, the trial judge admitted them in evidence, a development that prompted Ndume's two appeals.
Ndume , in his appeal, asked the court to invalidate the admitted evidence on the ground that the trial judge erred in law when he admitted non admissible materials.
The senator argued the evidence in question was admitted in violation of clear provisions of the Evidence Act.
In its judgment on December 17 last year, the Court of Appeal held that the trial court erred when it admitted the electronic evidence even when the prosecution failed to comply with the condition precedent as required under Section 84(1) and (2) of the Evidence Act 2011 (as amended) in relation to the admission of computer generated evidence.
The court held that the word "shall" used in Section 84 of the Evidence Act made it mandatory that its provisions must be complied with.
"In this case, the respondent failed to comply with the condition precedent as prescribed in Section 84 (2) of the Evidence Act," the court held.
It consequently declared as wrongly done, the admission in evidence of the items, marked exhibits "P7, P8, P8a and P8b" containing alleged call data records of purported interactions between Ndume and a spokesman of Boko Haram, Ali Sanda Umar Konduga.
When the case came up for hearing on Thursday, the prosecution was expected to call its witnesses in continuation of the trial after the Court of Appeal had given its judgment in two interlocutory appeals by the accused, challenging the admission of some electronic evidence tendered by the prosecution led by Mr.
Thompson Olatigbe of the Federal Ministry of Justice.
Although defence lawyer, Rickey Tarfa, (SAN), tendered the appellate court's judgment which set aside the admission of the call logs alleged to be evidence of conversation between Ndume and a spokesman of Boko Haram, Ali Sanda Umar Konduga, the trial judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, who said he was seeing the judgment for the first time, elected to proceed with trial.
The presiding judge noted that since the judgments only touched on addmissibility of some exhibits earlier admitted in the trial, the defence could, at the final address stage, ask that such evidence be expunged from the court's records.
He therefore chose to proceed with the trial as he asked the prosecution team to present its witness.
But after some delays, the prosecution called its third witness, Aliyu Baka (a security personnel), whose presence in the dock lasted few minutes as he was only invited to confirm the statement he obtained from the accused person.
A mild drama however ensued after Baka got out of the witness box as the prosecution who was expected to call more witnesses shocked the court by saying the other three witnesses were not available.
The prosecution therefore prayed the court to adjourn the case to a further date, a request that prompted the court to adjourn to March 31.