Dr Fatima Akilu, a psychologist and expert in countering violent extremism says poor method of gathering evidence is one of the issues hindering the process of prosecuting terrorists in Nigeria.
Dr Akilu while participating in a Twitter space organised by HumAngle cited instances of how lack of proper evidence gathering led to the arrest of innocent men and also the release of supposed terrorists.
She narrated how one Ali Danjuma (not real name) who was a member of the Boko Haram terror group renounced the group after a series of engagement processes were carried out on him under Nigeria’s counter-extremism deradicalisation program.
“He even became a great advocate of the program and convinced other members of Boko Haram to do as he had done,” she said.
“The time for Danjuma’s court session came and he appeared in court alright, but he was freed because the state had not acquired enough evidence to convict him.”
Dr Akilu said while his case was not special, there are many more like him in Nigerian states-terrorists who have commited unspeakable crimes, walking free because there is no evidence available to put them behind bars.
In Feb. 2018, a court sitting in the town of Kainji in Niger State, North-central Nigeria freed 473 persons suspected of being members of the terror gang.
“…the prosecution counsel could not charge them with any offense due to lack of sufficient evidence against them, therefore, the suspects were released,” Salihu Othman Isah, then spokesperson of Nigeria’s Ministry of Justice was quoted as saying, in a released statement, explaining why the suspected terrorists were freed.
But speaking during the Twitter space, Dr Akilu disclosed that some of the persons who were freed from the Kainji Prison as well as other detention centres had gone back to the forest to fight yet again for Boko Haram.
“…They are now out, yet they will tell you the acts that they perpetrated, but some of them have come to court and there has been no evidence and they’ve been released. And I know some that actually went back to fight for Boko Haram or ISWAP,” she argued.
While emphasising that poor evidence gathering is freeing terror suspects rather than apprehending them, Dr Akilu equally pointed out that good synergy between intelligence agencies in Nigeria would improve the situation.
She explained that while different agencies might “possess evidence against a person or group of persons, what fails to happen sometimes is the piecing together of these evidences, because each of them is like a piece in a jigsaw and you will not have the whole picture unless you bring all of these different piece of evidence together and that is what we have not done very well in this country”.
Insufficient evidence gathering is a coin with two sides. It has only seen members of the Boko Haram terror group go unpunished, it has equally robbed innocent civilians of their freedom.
Between 2015 and 2016, the Nigerian Army arbitrarily arrested and detained many men, suspected to be members of Boko Haram.
Their detention without evidence of wrongdoing led their wives to form an advocacy group known as the KNIFAR movement.
HumAngle has since Sept. 2020 done a series of reports and podcasts chronicling the ordeals of the women and their struggles to secure the freedom of their husbands, some of whom were finally released from the Borno Maximum-Security prison in Nov.2021.
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