The ongoing trial of the sitting lawmaker representing Borno South Senatorial District, Mohammed Ali Ndume, over his alleged romance with the Jamaatu Ahlil Sunna Lidawati wal Jihad, otherwise known as Boko Haram terrorist sect, may have assumed a dangerous dimension, considering that the accused person has sworn before a Federal High Court in Abuja that the Vice President, Namadi Sambo, was fully aware of his relationship with the sect.
While challenging the legal competence of the 4-count criminal charge that was entered against him by the Federal Government, Ndume, through a 24-paragraph affidavit he attached in support of his motion seeking to quash the charge, admitted having telephone exchanges with members of the Jammatul Sunnah Walid Jihad though denied furnishing them with classified information that has aided their terrorist operations in the country.
The embattled lawmaker who said the first telephone exchange between him and the sect was on October 4, 2011, insisted that the reason the sect approached him was as a result of his being a member of the Presidential Committee that was inaugurated on August 2, 2011, with a view to addressing the security challenges in the North Eastern part of the nation.
It would be recalled that Ndume was arrested by the States Security Services, SSS, on November 21, after a self-confessed spokesman of the sect, Ali Sanda Umar Konduga, fingered him as one of the major sponsors of the sect. He was docked before the high court on December 12, 2011, and subsequently released on bail after he had spent 26-days in detention.
He was specifically accused of violating sections 7(1) (b) and 3(b) of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011, by not only disclosing classified information to the terrorist group, but also furnishing them with phone numbers of top government officials, including that of the Attorney General of the Federation.
Though the embattled lawmaker pleaded not guilty to the allegation, the federal government alleged that he had “on or about the 4th day of October, 2011 somewhere between Maiduguri and Abuja, being in possession of the mobile phone number of Ali Sanda Umar Konduga (alias Usman AI- Zawahiri), a terrorist spokesman of the Boko Haram sect which you know to be of material assistance in securing the apprehension of the said Ali Umar Konduga, did fail to disclose same information to a law officer as soon as reasonably practicable and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 7(1)(b) of the Terrorism
(Prevention) Act, 2011 and punishable under Section 7( 1) of the same Act.”
Government further alleged that though the sect notified the accused person of their intention to attack judges of the Borno State Election Petition Tribunal and the National Assembly, he failed to disclose the information to security agencies, adding that he used an MTN GSM line, 08035998045, to send telephone numbers of certain public officers including the AGF, to the Boko Haram spokesman for the purpose of sending terrorist text messages to them.
Investigations by Department ‘C’ had revealed that among those billed to testify against him included the said self-confessed spokesman of the sect, Konduga, who was earlier sentenced to three years imprisonment by an Abuja Chief Magistrate court which also ordered that he should be remanded in the custody of the SSS pending the conclusion of investigation into the alleged conviviality between the sect and the lawmaker.
Meanwhile, in his bid to exculpate himself from the charge, Ndume, in the affidavit which was deposed on his behalf by one Hauwa Abubakar, a legal practitioner in the chambers of his lead counsel, Messrs Rickey Tarfa, SAN, read in part:
“The said Presidential Committee was mandated amongst other terms of reference, to consider any other initiatives that will serve to engender enduring peace and security in the area.
The committee swung into action with a mandate inter alia to dialogue with, negotiate with and arrive at an amicable settlement with the said “Boko Haram” sect.
“He was contacted via phone by people who claimed to be members of the Jammatul Sunnah Walid Jihad (otherwise known as ‘Boko Haram’) as a result of being a member of the Presidential Committee to find amicable settlement to the issue of security confronting the nation.
“His first contact with the said Jammatul Sunnah Walid Jihad (otherwise known as ‘Boko Haram’) was in the course of his national assignment on the security challenges in the North East of the country. “He has never been a member of the Boko Haram and never provided logistics such as telephone numbers to the said terrorist sect or any member(s) of the said sect or any Ali Sanda Umar Konduga.
“He never received any information from Ali Umar Konduga on planned attacks on judges of the Borno State Election Tribunal. The first time he was contacted by one Ali was on 4th of October, 2011 after his inauguration as a member of the said Presidential Committee and in the course of his assignment on the security challenges in North East.
“He promptly informed one Usman, who represented the State Security Service before the Presidential Committee of his contact with the said Jammatul Sunnah Walid Jihad (otherwise known as ‘Boko Haram’ sect) and also other members of the committee.
“He also informed the Director of State Security Service of his interaction with the said “Boko Haram” sect and forwarded a copy of the DVD he obtained from the sect to the Director of SSS for review.
“The Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Namadi Sambo, is also aware that he was in contact with the Jammatul Sunnah Walid Jihad (otherwise known as ‘Boko Haram’).
“All actions taken by him with respect to the “Boko Haram” were for and on behalf of the said Presidential Committee as he was mandated by the said Committee. Before his appointment as a member of the Committee, he never had any contact with the said sect or any member or in possession of the telephone numbers of any member of the sect.
“I know of a fact that the charge as constituted is an abuse of court process. There is no offence disclosed against the Accused /Applicant in the proof of evidence.
“The proof of evidence does not disclose any prima facie case against the Accused/ Applicant. There is nothing to link the accused with the alleged offences committed as stated on the charge.
“The Complainant/Respondent will not be prejudiced by the grant of the reliefs sought in this application. It is in the interest of justice to grant this application”, he added.
Having raised allegations against the Vice President, Sambo, and the Director of the SSS, Nigerians are watching to see how the Attorney General of the Federation is going to handle the matter since no one is presumed to be above the law.
If indeed Ndume is facing trial over his alleged non disclosure of information to security agencies pertaining to planned attacks by the terrorist sect, what then should be the fate of any one found to have acted as an accessory to the alleged crime?
Will the AGF summon the VP to appear before the trial court to exonerate himself over the allegation meted against him by the accused person? How far can the Federal Government really go on this one? Is this trial another wild-goose chase? These are pressing questions that should be answered in due course.