Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday, declined to remand the alleged mastermind of the April 14 bomb blast that killed over 75 persons at a crowded motor park in Nyanya Abuja, Aminu Ogwuche, in prison custody.
Instead, the court ordered that Ogwuche and five of his five suspected accomplices in the terrorist act should remain in the custody of the Department of State Services, DSS, pending the determination of the case against them.
The other accused persons charged along with Oguche yesterday were Ahmad Rufai Abubakar (a.k.a Abu Ibrahim/Maiturare); Mohammed Sani Ishaq, Ya’u Saidu (a.k.a Kofar Rama), Anas Isah, Adamu Yusuf and Nasiru Abubakar.
The court order was sequel to an application by the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, Mr. Mohammed Diri, urging the court to allow the accused persons to be detained in DSS cell in view of recurring cases of jail break in the country.
The application was vehemently opposed by all the defence lawyers led by Mr. Ahmed Raji. SAN, who contended that keeping the accused persons with the DSS would amount to a further breach of their right to fair trial.
Raji maintained that since the DSS earlier told the court through an affidavit that it had concluded investigations on the matter, and since the accused persons took their pleas yesterday, the prison was the appropriate place to send them to.
“My lord the accused persons are even entitled to bail but for the sake of ensuring speedy hearing of this case we decided not to press for it. I submit that it will be oppressive for a prosecuting agency to retain custody of accused persons after they have been charged and plea taken. Otherwise, trial will not be fair especially, when the DSS has said that it has concluded its investigations.
“On his allusion of jail break, the Kuje Prison has never recorded attempted jail break. It is the DSS cell that has witnessed such attempt. I urge this court in the interest of fair trial to remand the accused persons in Kuje Prisons,” he pleaded.
In his ruling, Justice Mohammed relied on the provision of section 27(1) of the Terrorism Prevention Act, TPA, 2013, and remanded all the accused persons in DSS custody.
Besides, he gave the Federal Government the nod to open its case on March 17 and 18.
The DPP said yesterday that he would apply for a witness protection order.
Meanwhile, the six accused persons took turns and pleaded not guilty to an eight-count terrorism charge preferred against them by the government.
The prosecution had earlier told the court that security agencies were unable to apprehend one Ahmed Rufai (a.k.a Dr Tsiga), who he said was also involved in the terrorist act, but currently at large.
Specifically, the accused persons were alleged to have conspired to commit an act of terrorism by driving a Volkswagen golf car laden with Improvised Explosives Devices, IEDs, which they parked at the motor park before it was later detonated, killing about 75 innocent persons with many others sustaining various degrees of injuries even as property worth millions of Naira were destroyed.
They were said to have on or about the month of July, 2014, at Abuja, professed to be members of a terrorist group known as “Jama’atu Ahli Sunnah lil Da’awati wal Jihad” (also known as Boko Haram), as well as having information about the terrorist attack but failed to disclose same to law enforcement officers.
Ogwuche was said to have given various sums of money at different times and places within Abuja metropolis to widows of late Boko Haram members, as well as, accompanying Dr Tsiga, now at large to carry out surveillance, where they were said to have identified Silver bird galleria and other locations as potential targets of terrorist attack sometimes in 2013 .
Justice Ademola Adeniyi of the same high court had on November 24, 2014, struck out an initial three-court charge against Ogwuche by the Nigerian Police Force.
The charge was used by Federal Government to secure Oguche’s extradition from Khartoum, Sudan, on July 15, 2014, through the help of the Interpol.
The fresh charge against them read: “That you Aminu Sadiq Ogwuche male, 29, of 9 T.O.S Benson Crescent Utako, Abuja; Ahmed Rufai Abubakar (aka Maiturare), male, 43, of Numbun Kwana, Gwantu, Sanga LGA, Kaduna State; Mohammed Sani Ishaq, male, 30, of Balare Ajingi LGA, Kano State, and Ahmed Rufai Abubakar (aka Dr Tsiga) on or about April 14, 2014 at Nasiru El-Rufai Park, Nyanya, Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, conspired to commit an act of terrorism by driving a Volkswagen golf car laden with IEDs and parking same at the motor park which was later detonated and killed about 75 innocent persons and many others… thereby committing an offence contrary to Section 17 of the Terrorism (Prevention)(Amendment) Act 2013 and punishable under the same section of the Act.
“That Ahmed Rufai Abubakar (aka Maiturare), male, 43, of Numbun Kwana, Gwantu, Sanga LGA, Kaduna state, and Ahmed Rufai Abubakar (aka Dr Tsiga) (now at large) on or about 14th April, 2014 at Nasiru El-Rufai Park, Nyanya, Abuja within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, committed an act of terrorism by driving a Volkswagen golf car laden with improvised explosives devices and park same at the motor park which was later detonated and killed about 75 innocent persons and many others sustained various degrees of injuries as well as destroying properties, you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1 (2) (a) of Terrorism (Prevention)(Amendment) Act 2013 and punishable under the same Section of the Act.
“That you Sadiq Ogwuche male, 29, of 9 T.O.S Benson Crescent Utako, Abuja, sometimes in 2013 at Abuja within the jurisdiction of this honourable court did knowingly directly gave various sums of money at different time and places within Abuja metropolis to the widows of members of the terrorists organisation known as Boko Haram and you thereby rendered support to terrorist group which is an offence contrary to section 5(b) of Terrorism (prevention) (Amendment) Act 2013 and punishable under the same section of the Act.
“That you Sadiq Ogwuche male, 29, of 9 T.O.S Benson Crescent Utako, Abuja and Ahmed Rufai Abubakar (a.k.a. Dr Tsiga, now at large) on or about the year 2013 at Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court did carry out surveillance and identified Silver Bird Galleria and other locations as potential targets of terrorist attack, thereby committing an offence contrary to Section 1(2) (b) of Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act 2013 and punishable under the same section of the Act.
– Source: vanguardngr.