The Defence Headquarters, yesterday, presented a list of over 500 terror suspects, including a medical doctor working for the World Health Organisation to the Presidency for trial.
The action followed last Monday’s attack of an Air Force Base and MaiduguriAirport by Boko Haram insurgents which claimed several lives, destroyed two helicopters and three decommissioned Air force fighter jets.
The Boko Haram suspects have been in military detention facilities since the commencement of the state of emergency in the North-Eastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.
Vanguard gathered that in some instances, attempts have been made by the sect to infiltrate the detention facilities and free the terror suspects which led to some of the failed attempts to attack military bases by Boko Haram.
Among those recommended for trial are some paramilitary or service personnel who were fighting on the side of the terrorists and other individuals who offered direct logistics support to the terrorists.
A statement signed by the Director of Defence Information, Brigadier-General Chris Olukolade in this regard said: “The Joint Investigation Team set up by the Defence Headquarters has recommended immediate trial of over 500 persons apprehended in the course of security operations against terrorists in Yobe, Borno and AdamawaStates.
“The suspects are among the almost 1,400 detainees screened by the team at the detention facilities in Maiduguri, Yola and Damaturu between July and September.
“Those recommended for immediate trial include high profile suspects, some of whom were training other terrorists in weapons handling as well as those who confessed to having been trained in Mali and other countries for the purpose of perpetrating terror in Nigeria.
“Also among those recommended for trial are a medical doctor, paramilitary or service personnel who were fighting on the side of the terrorists and other individuals who offered direct logistics support to the terrorists”.
“The team, however, recommended the release of 167 of the detainees from detention in Maiduguri, Yola and Damaturu. About 614 others whose cases were inconclusive have been recommended for review.
“The report also proposed that some of the detainees be tried for other offences ranging from armed robbery and murder to drugs-related issues. If the recommendations of the team sail through, the trial of some of the suspects will either take place in some states or Abuja”.
The statement said the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim commended the team for being thorough in conducting the assignment when he received the report.
He assured them that the recommendations will be treated with dispatch after due consultations with appropriate authorities.
The CDS said that the military authorities would continue to ensure that due process and highest professional standards were followed in managing the security operations in the states covered by the State of Emergency, adding that DHQ was committed to necessary steps that would ensure justice and fair play.
The report has since been forwarded to the Presidency through the office of National Security Adviser (NSA).
“It will be recalled that the Defence Headquarters in July set up a 19-member Joint Investigation Team of senior officers to screen and categorize detainees apprehended in the course of operations in the North East,” the statement said.
The measure which was meant to decongest the detention facilities in the areas of operations was also to ensure that necessary processes were set in motion for expeditious prosecution of culpable suspects in the fight against terror.
The team which comprised military, police, officials of federal and state ministries of justice as well as Immigration, Prisons and Customs officers, was tasked to examine, classify and recommend appropriate actions against detainees in the various detention centres in Borno, Yobe and AdamawaStates.
The NSA, it was gathered, is already in consultation with the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) on subsequent litigation procedures following consideration of recommendations in the report.
FG tasks US on Boko Haram, Ansaru
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has called on the United States Government to ensure that the recent designation of Boko Haram and Ansaru as Foreign Terrorist Organisations (FTOs) does not affect Nigerians travelling to that country for legitimate engagements.
The Vice President, Mohammed Namadi Sambo made the call yesterday when he received in his office, a senior United States delegation led by the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
He, however, said such designation would provide more opportunities for co-operation between Nigeria and the US in the quest for government to end the insurgency and assured the delegation that the Federal Government was doing everything possible to end the security challenges in the North-Eastern part of the country. He stressed that apart from the military action, other measures were being taken to address the socio-economic situation in that area. He noted that Nigerians are in full support of the actions government was taking to end the insurgency.
Vice-President Sambo informed the delegation that President Goodluck Jonathan had directed strict compliance with the rules of engagement and human rights in the efforts to curb the activities of the insurgents, noting that the rule of law still remains the cardinal principle of the administration’s Transformation Agenda.
The leader of the delegation, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said that they were in the country to follow up on discussions between President Goodluck Jonathan and President Barack Obama in New York in September, and also on the talks between Vice President Sambo and his counterpart, Joe Biden of the United States.
She noted that the United States and Nigeria have had very fruitful partnerships, adding that the US was very much in support of the efforts of the Nigerian Government in surmounting the security challenges in the country.
The Assistant Secretary stated that the designation of Boko Haram and Ansaru as Foreign Terrorist Organisations gives the US the opportunity to support Nigeria in tackling the insecurity posed by insurgents. She said that part of their visit was also aimed at working out a counter-insurgency programme with the relevant stakeholders and to share information on various aspects of security, including maritime security so as to help in solving the security challenges.
She also stated that the meeting was one step in the long term dialogue that the US will have with Nigeria. She appreciated the opportunity to have the dialogue and looked forward to continuation of such.
Present at the meeting were the US Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle; Commander, US Africa Command, General David Rodriguez; Mr. Grant Harris, Ms. Amanda Dory, Mr. Earl Gast and Mr. Gregory Lawless.
Also present at the meeting were the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Professor Viola Onwuliri; the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar; the Supervising Minister of National Planning, Ambassador Bashir Yuguda and the Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, Professor Adebowale Adefuye, among other top government functionaries.