A Federal High Court in Kainji has sentenced Haruna Yahaya, one of the abductors of Chibok schoolgirls to 15 years in prison, at the resumed trials of Boko Haram suspects.
He was among 20 Boko Haram terrorists who were jailed yesterday to serve various prison terms.
Yahaya, 35, a physically challenged person, was found guilty of taking part in the abduction of over 200 girls from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State in April, 2014.
The closed trial is taking place at Wawa Catonment, Kainji, Niger State.
Yahaya, a former trader from Potiskum, Yobe State had pleaded for mercy, claiming he was conscripted into the terrorist sect.
Earlier, defence counsel, Matthew Egege asked the court to discharge Yahaya, pleading that his testimony is pathetic.
He argued that as a conscript he could have been killed if he had refused the sect’s orders.
But the judge said he could not use his physical condition to win sympathy, adding that he had a choice not to participate in the Boko Haram activities even though he was forced.
He was charged under the Terrorism Prevention Act, 2011.
The court ruled that Haruna Yahaya will serve the term in any prison facility, to be determined by the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Prisons Service.
The other 19 convicts were sentenced to between three and five years from date of their arrest.
The verdicts were given at the resumed fast track trial of Boko Haram suspects being detained in the location. Over 700 detainees will appear before the court during the trial.
Last year, over 50 Boko Haram members were convicted by the court, while over 400 were released for lack of evidence.
Yayaya yesterday gave an account of how he participated in the abduction of over 200 girls in Chibok, Borno State.
Yahaya admitted to have killed a number of citizens in Gabsuri and Chibok towns in Damboa Local Government Area of Borno State, after he claimed the sect members forcefully conscripted him.
He claimed that during the operation at the secondary school in Chibok in April 2014, he was forced to carry an AK47 rifle. He said he usually tied the weapon to his functional arm with index fingers at the trigger.
He said on the day of the operation, while the insurgents ransacked the school and abducted the boarding students, who were preparing for WAEC examinations, one of them, whom he later had a love affair with, pleaded with him for mercy.
“I told the girl that I am not in a position to help because I too was forcefully conscripted into the operation,” he said.
He further told the court that he sent for wrapper to be bought for the girl while in their camp, when he realised she had no wrapper. He added that he at one time contemplated escaping with the girl.
He said he was eventually arrested by members of the Civilian Joint Taskforce (CJTF) during an operation.
Meanwhile, the court had discharged another suspect, Malam Umar, who was fingered as a Boko Haram provisions supplier by sect members arrested by the CJTF.
The court accepted his explanation that he did not know he supplied food items to a Boko Haram middle man who paid him N300, 000 and 100 Euro for the supplies.
In a statement yesterday signed by Othman Salihu Isah, the Special Assistant to the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF)and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN),said there are about 1, 669 suspects held at the facility, while 468 were discharged for lack of evidence. They will undergo a programme of de-radicalisation at the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA).
The statement said 82 persons entered plea of guilty to secure lesser sentence.
In a brief ceremony, a lead judge of the Federal High Court said about 700 Boko Haram suspects have been processed for the current exercise, and solicited for the cooperation of the representatives of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the Legal Aid Council, the National Human Rights Commission, staff of the Ministry of Justice and the media, who were part of the exercise.
In his remarks, the Director, legal services at the Defence Headquarters, Abuja, Air Vice Marshal Ibrahim Shafi’i said the programme is a very important process for Nigeria in its effort to tackle the challenges of insurgency.
He stressed that the Nigerian military will continue to respect the human rights of citizens in its bid to secure the country.
“This judicial process has never been done anywhere in the world,” he said.
Hearing continues today.
*Reported by Daily Trus