The Federal High Court sitting in Wawa Cantonment, Kainji, Niger State, on Monday sentenced 35-year-old Haruna Yahaya to 15 years imprisonment for terrorism offences.
Yahaya, whose left arm and left leg are crippled, was convicted for being a member of the proscribed Boko Haram terrorist group and participating in the abduction of over 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State, in 2014.
He was said to have participated in Boko Haram’s attacks in Chibok, Chibok Local Government Area of Borno State and Gabsuri town in the Damboa Local Government Area of the state.
Yahaya had on Monday pleaded guilty to the two counts preferred against him by the Federal Government, but pleaded for mercy, saying he was forcefully conscripted into the terrorist group.
Four judges of the Federal High Court are sitting in the special courts established in Kainji by the court management to fast-track the trial of over 1,000 suspects currently held in the Wawa Cantonment.
The National Human Rights Commission and the Nigerian Bar Association were on the ground to observe the proceedings.
The defendants are being prosecuted by lawyers from the Federal Ministry of Justice while they are being defended by lawyers from the Legal Aid Council.
The Monday’s proceedings which commenced at about noon were still going on as of when the report was filed at about 7.30pm.
As of the time of filing this report, over 30 cases had been heard by the four courts.
At least 20 persons, who pleaded guilty to the various crimes they were accused of had been convicted as of the time of filing this report.
They were convicted for offences mainly bordering on being members of the Boko Haram sect, giving information to the sect in support of its operations and refusing to disclose information to secure the apprehension of members of the sect to law enforcement agencies.
They were charged and convicted under various provisions of the Terrorism Prevention Act 2011 (as amended).
Others who pleaded not guilty had their cases transferred to Abuja for continuation of trial.
At least two of the defendants were discharged on Monday due to lack of evidence.
A particular case was withdrawn and struck out due to defects in the charges.
Yahaya was among those brought before one of the courts on Monday.
He confessed to committing the alleged crimes but said he did so against his will.
“I was threatened that I would be killed if refused to join them,” he said.
He told the court that he was a trader in Damboa and was in his shop when the members of Boko Haram forcefully conscripted him.
Yahaya said on the night of his conscription into the sect, he was forced to be part of the attack on Chibok.
The convict said during the attack, a girl named Mariama pleaded with him to help her to escape but that he told her that he was helpless as he was captured to be part of the attack against his will.
“I told her that if I had a choice I would help them,” he said.
He also said he later had a love affairs with Mariama at the sect’s camp and at a time bought her dresses worth N4,000.
But the prosecution urged the court to convict the defendant as charged.
The prosecution said Yahaya had been with the sect for two years before he was arrested.
“He was carrying out attacks and said he did not know the number of people he had killed,” the prosecution said.
Delivering judgment, the judge said the court was “not fooled” by Yahaya’s story.
The court noted that the convict was “using the misfortune of his handicap to draw sympathy,”adding that everybody has a choice.
The judge thereafter sentenced the convict who had been in detention since 2015 to 15 years imprisonment.
The court ordered that the sentence would commence counting from Monday.
The proceedings continue on Tuesday.