The alleged Boko Haram commander suspected of planning the December 25, 2011 bomb blast at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla, Niger State, Kabiru Sokoto, this friday pleaded not guilty to an amended two-count terrorism charge brought against him by the Federal Government.
Sokoto, whose real name is Kabiru Umar, was arraigned amid very tight security before an Abuja Federal High Court presided over by Justice Ademola Adeniyi.
The arraignment was initially slated for March 20, 2013, but the non-availability of counsel for Kabiru Umar (Sokoto) stalled the process. On that ground, the suspect asked the court to give him time to get a lawyer.
When the matter resumed on Friday, a team of five lawyers, led by H. A. Ibrahim, appeared in court to defend Sokoto.
The other lawyers are Hassan Lukman, Yahaya Saidu, S. Okoh, and a human rights lawyer from Kaduna, Sadau Garba.
Sokoto’s family of his wife and child were also present in court.
Speaking through a court interpreter, the alleged terrorist denied the two-count charge when it was read to him by the court clerk.
Apart from the charge that he had prior knowledge of the St. Theresa’s Catholic Church bombing, Sokoto was also accused of planning to bomb the headquarters of the Sokoto State Police Command as well as other government organisations in the state.
Count 1 reads, “That you, Kabiru Umar (alias Kabiru Sokoto) member of an illegal terrorist organisation known and called Boko Haram, between 2007 and 2012, at Masiwa, Sokoto State, did facilitate the commission of terrorist acts to wit: by planting and encouraging your boys (now at large) at Masiwa, Sokoto, in Sokoto State, with the intention to bomb the police headquarters Sokoto and some other government organisations in the state, and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 15(2) of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act 2004, and punishable under the same Act.”
In count two, the SSS alleged that on or about December 25, 2011, at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State, Sokoto had information about the bombing of the church and failed to disclose such to law enforcement officers as soon as possible, an offence contrary to section 7(1) of Terrorism and Prevention Act 2011, and punishable under section 33(1)(c) of the same Act.
After Sokoto’s counsel had taken his plea and denied the charge, the prosecuting counsel, Mrs. Chioma Onuegbu, asked for a date for trial.
She had earlier informed the court that about eight witnesses have been pencilled down to testify against Sokoto.
The suspect’s lead counsel rose to move an oral application, asking the court to grant Sokoto bail “in the most liberal terms.”
But the judge instructed Ibrahim that the rules of the FHC stipulated that such an application must be formal.
“If you propose to make any application, you must come formally and also serve the prosecution,” Justice Adeniyi said.
Ibrahim thereafter asked the court to transfer Sokoto from the custody of the State Security Service to prison custody.
He claimed that Sokoto’s lawyers were having challenges in getting access to him in the SSS detention facility.
“We need access to the accused person to enable us to prepare his defence,” Ibrahim added.
In a short ruling, Justice Adeniyi fixed May 2, 6 and 9, 2013, for trial.
He also ordered that Sokoto be remanded in prison custody until the trial date.