by Dele Agekameh
The case of Umar, who was arrested right inside a Governor’s Lodge in the company of a serving military officer, underscores the collaboration of some unscrupulous security agents with those who are determined to wreak havoc on the corporate existence of the country.
On December 21, 1988, that is, a quarter of a century ago, a Pan Am Flight 103 with 243 passengers and 16 crew members exploded into shreds in the evening skies above Lockerbie, Scotland. In a twinkle of an eye, all the people on board including 35 students of Syracuse University, New York State and 11 more on the ground, perished. Last Saturday, memorial events took place simultaneously in Britain and the United States to mark the 25th anniversary of the tragic bombing which devastated hundreds of families on both sides of the Atlantic. The day was marked with services of remembrance at Westminster Abbey, London and at Dryfesdale Church, Lockerbie. Services were also held at the Pan Am 103 Memorial Arcade in Arlington National Cemetery and at Syracuse University in New York State.
The Lockerbie terrorist attack has so far remained the deadliest act of terrorism on British soil and probably surpassed by the September 11, 2001 terrorists’ attack on the World Trade Center in New York, the United States of America. And back home in Nigeria, today’s Christmas day marks the third anniversary of the 2010 bombing of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church at Madalla, Niger State. The bombing of the church, which was packed full of worshippers at the ceremonial service to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, led to the death of over 44 persons, while about 75 others sustained serious injuries.
Perhaps, nothing can be greater than the fact that the anniversary of Madalla bombing is being marked this year with the conviction of a major character in that unfortunate episode. Last Friday, barely five days to the third anniversary of that gruesome Christmas Day massacre, a Federal High Court in Abuja slammed a life sentence on Kabiru Umar, also known as Kabiru Sokoto, the mastermind of the act.
Umar was first arraigned on April 19, this year, on a two-count charge bordering on terrorism. He was accused of training over 500 men on how to manufacture and detonate Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and having prior knowledge that the Boko Haram sect planned to bomb the church on Christmas day, but failed to disclose it to any law enforcement officer. He was also accused of having facilitated the perpetration of terrorist acts, including planting bombs at the Police headquarters and some government organisations between 2007 and 2012, at Mabira Sokoto, Sokoto State. Throughout his eight-month trial, Umar’s puerile defence was that the government failed to establish a prima facie case capable of warranting his trial and conviction.
But the presiding Judge, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, thought otherwise. While delivering judgment in the case, the Judge held that the court found as a fact, the statement that Umar was the mastermind of the 2010 Christmas day bombing, adding that he did not controvert the evidence brought against him.
Justice Ademola further held that the court agreed with the prosecution that the case against the accused person had been proved beyond reasonable doubt, adding that, the two statements of the accused person were admitted in evidence without opposition from the defence counsel.
Justice Ademola held that the accused was a “pathological liar,” who deceived the court that he did not understand English Language when it was evident before the court that Umar had four credits in the West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE) and also worked as a Laboratory Scientist. The judge also faulted the attitude of the accused during the trial, adding that he did not show any remorse. Accordingly, Justice Ademola sentenced Umar to life imprisonment on the first count and 10 years on the second count, which should run consecutively.
The judge also urged the security agencies to investigate the circumstances surrounding Umar’s arrest in the Borno State Governor’s Lodge in Asokoro, Abuja.
He said members of Boko Haram had permeated all levels of government.According to him: “Indeed, the police have a duty to investigate and bring other persons involved to book. It is imperative that security forces finish off this investigation so that we can get to the root of this.”
Umar was first arrested by the Police in Abuja on January 14, 2012 at the Borno State Governor’s Lodge after arriving at the Lodge in the company of a Flight Lieutenant in the Nigerian Air Force and one Ibrahim, who had sought and got approval by officers in charge of the lodge to spend the night there.
Ibrahim had allegedly called the lodge officer who was away in Maiduguri, seeking to be given a room for the night, which he was obliged. But he came to the lodge that Friday evening along with Umar and the Air Force man. Security agents,who had been on Umar’s trail since he was declared wanted, traced him to the lodge that night and arrested him.
Surprisingly, Umar was declared missing from Police custody two days later. His escape raised eyebrow in security circle. The police later came up with an explanation that he escaped when he was being taken to his home at Abaji, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory, for a search by Zakari Biu, a Commissioner of Police. The police had said that a gang of youths flagged down the vehicle conveying Umar as it was heading for the Ona of Abaji’s palace,thereby creating chaos during which he escaped.
His controversial escape from police custody was one of the factors that ultimately led to the removal of Hafiz Ringim, the then Inspector-General of Police, while Zakari Biu, who was in charge of the operation that led to Umar’sescape, was suspended from the Force on Tuesday, January 17, 2012. Biu was made to face an orderly room trial before he was later thrown out of the force with ignominy while a nationwide manhunt for Umar’s apprehension was declared. That paid off when he was later re-arrested in Taraba State by operatives of the State Security Service.
Getting the conviction of Umar within a record time of eight months is a good sign that justice can still be speedily delivered in a country replete with various acts of injustice or where justice is hard to come by. Therefore, this judgment is a commendation for both the law enforcement agencies and the judiciary, which has again proved itself as a bastion of hope for the common man,particularly the victims of the Madalla senseless bombing. It is hoped that this judgment, although coming three years after the savagery was committed, would provide the necessary impetus for security agents to work hard to unmask those responsible for the killing of innocent Nigerians through terrorist acts wherever they may be.
However, beyond bringing Umar to book, security agents should work assiduously to bring other perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice. It is also important for the government to go deep to unravel the root cause of this growing satanic behaviour, which has almost turned the country upside down. Just like many people have proffered in the past, beneath the insurgency that has continued to rattle the country and give it a bad name in the comity of nations, is endemic poverty which has eaten deep into the fabric of the nation.
Of course, bad governance and inequitable distribution of our common patrimony may have bred this untoward situation through social disequilibrium. Suffice it to say that our policy makers need to tackle corruption, which is the bedrock of our national malaise, if this generation and generations yet unborn will not be permanently condemned to perdition.
The case of Umar, who was arrested right inside a Governor’s Lodge in the company of a serving military officer, underscores the collaboration of some unscrupulous security agents with those who are determined to wreak havoc on the corporate existence of the country. Furthermore, the role of the Zakari Bius of this world in Umar’s stimulated escape from custody shows that really, as President Goodluck Jonathan admitted sometimes ago and this column pointed out last week, there are indeed moles within the country’s security apparatuses. This is dangerous for our national existence. We need to rise up as a government and as individuals to protect our country from the vagabonds who are hell bent on pulling us down.
This post is published with permission from Premium Times
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