by Ramon Oladimeji
A Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday delivered judgment in the case of 17 men standing trial over alleged participation in acts of terrorism and membership of the Islamic fundamentalist sect, Boko Haram.
Justice Ibrahim Buba delivered the judgment in camera as journalists, litigants and lawyers in other matters were told to vacate the courtroom while the judgment was being delivered.
The judge, who had earlier announced that the judgment would be given at 12pm, sought the views of the lawyers if it was within the law to give the judgment in the open court before the public.
The Director of the Public Prosecution, Mrs. Idowu Alakija, had responded by saying that since the trial was conducted in camera for security reasons, judgment should also be given in the same manner.
But Buba, who said even judges learn everyday, insisted that he would like to know what the law stipulated about giving judgment in camera and how his colleagues in Abuja normally handled such cases.
While saying he would like to do a short research on the subject, Buba rose at about 11.30am with a promise to return by 12pm.
At the resumed hearing at 12pm, the judge again asked the parties to address him on the legality of giving judgment in camera.
The Attorney General of Lagos State and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Ade Ipaye (SAN), said if the trial was conducted in secret, the judgment should also be delivered in secret as the judgment was viewed as an inherent part of the proceeding.
The legal team of the defence aligned with the same position.
Buba subsequently ordered everyone, except the parties and the security operatives, to vacate the courtroom to allow him give his judgment.
In a bid to cover the proceeding, journalists had approached the Deputy Chief Registrar and the Administrative Head of the Court, Mr. Bello Okandeji, to complain.
Okandeji then led journalists to the court but the security men at the door to the courtroom told the DCR that they had specific instructions not to allow anyone into the courtroom at the moment.
The 17 alleged terrorists were arraigned before Buba on 18 counts centring on conspiracy to commit terrorism, illegal possession of firearms, and being members of a proscribed organisation.
The accused persons’ names were given as Ali Mohammed, Adamu Karumi, Ibrahim Usman, Bala Haruna, Idris Ali, Mohammed Murtala and Kadiri Mohammed.
Others were named as Mustapha Daura, Abba Duguri, Sanni Adamu, Danjuma Yahaya and Musa Audu and Mati Daura, Farouk Haruna, Abdullahi Azeez, Ibrahim Bukar and Zula Diani.
Though all the 17 were arraigned and they pleaded not guilty to the crime, only four were brought to court on Tuesday before Buba for judgment.