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Why Judge Withdrew Self From Boko Haram Trial

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A judge of an Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Tuesday withdrew his participation in the trial of eight Boko Haram terrorists after the defendants cast a vote of no confidence against the court.

The suspects were arraigned for the killing of five foreigners who were abducted from a construction site in Kebbi State in 2011.

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The suspects are also accused of alleged culpability in the murder of seven other foreigners in Borno State.

The seven were abducted from another construction site in Bauchi State in February 2013 and taken to the Sambisa forest where they were later killed.

The judge, John Tsoho, said the demands of the defendants were clear enough to be considered by his court “regardless of how it was made.”

The defendants, comprising the first, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh defendants had at the commencement of session on Tuesday demanded a transfer of the matter, on the basis that they were not sure they would get justice in the case.

According to a lawyer representing the defendants, Samuel Attah, the reason for the application was because of a decision of the court to revoke a previous order it had made asking the State Security Service hand over the suspects to the Nigerian Prisons Service.

Mr. Attah said his clients were surprised that the court later revoked the initial order and asked that the defendants to be detained by the SSS.

Similarly, the lawyer representing the seventh defendant, Ellasha Oloruntoba told the court that based on its decision regarding the detention of the defendants, “his client felt he would be better tried by another court.”

The defendants also complained of failing health and alleged that their appearance in court for the trial is “constituting a threat to their lives.”

However, the second and third defendants specifically asked the court not to transfer their case. Their lawyers, Leonard Obiji and Nathaniel Odejinle, asked the court to separate the cases of their clients so that their trial would continue in the same court.

Responding, the judge, Mr. Tsoho said his court would take due cognisance of the application of all the defendants.

“The defendants are asking for a transfer of the case. The defendants also prayed for a trial de-novo. They allege that standing trial in the court is a threat to their life.

“The message the defendants is seeking is clear enough. This court must not disregard their plea, no matter how they have made it.

“This court disqualifies itself from continuing with this case. Accordingly, this case file shall be transferred to the Chief Judge to be assigned to another court,” Mr. Tsoho said.

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