LAGOS – Justic Minister and Attorney-General Mohamed Adoke announced on Monday that 40 Boko Haram suspects had been convicted of terrorism-related offences under Nigeria’s anti-terror law since 2011.
“So far, more than 40 members of the sect have been convicted of terrorism-related crimes, and several more are being tried under our law,” Adoke told a seminar devoted to human rights and international humanitarian law.
He said the government had been able to curtail the militant group’s activities through the prosecution of its members under Nigeria’s Terrorism Prevention Act.
“This administration is working hard to put the insurgency behind us as quickly as possible,” Adoke said.
Last August, Adoke had said that ten convictions had been recorded against members of the dreaded Boko Haram insurgency.
The media, meanwhile, has reported less than six convictions between then and now.
Boko Haram, a hitherto peaceful organization that had preached against corruption, suddenly turned violent in 2009 following the murder of group leader Mohamed Yusuf while in police custody.
In the years since, the group has been blamed for thousands of terrorist acts, including attacks on churches and security posts across Nigeria’s northern region, especially the three northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.
Although it claims to want an Islamist government in the region, Nigerian Muslims – most of whom reject Boko Haram as un-Islamic – have also been targeted by the militant group.
Adoke commended the performance of the armed forces and other law enforcement agencies in containing terrorism and related crises.
But he warned that Nigeria would not tolerate rights abuses by government soldiers or anyone else.
“Allegations of human rights abuses and non-adherence to applicable rules of engagement leveled against those involved in quelling crises – coupled with adverse reports from human rights advocates – have tended to put the country in the spotlight of the international community,” Adoke said.
“The unpleasant consequences of the extrajudicial killing of Mallam Yusuf Mohammed, leader of the Boko Haram sect, in Borno in 2009 still reverberate in the polity – despite the 100-million-naira compensation that the courts had ordered the government to pay to the family of the deceased,” he asserted.
“The point… is that government can ill afford to bear these huge financial liabilities in the face of increasing responsibilities and dwindling resources,” the minister added.
He went on to urge the armed forces and other security agencies to work to ensure that they did not violate citizens’ rights while discharging their duties.
“As attorney-general, I’m particularly concerned about the way and manner members of the armed forces discharge their responsibilities within the context of our current security challenges,” Adoke said.
“I wish to reaffirm the government’s determination to hold members of the armed forces, as well as other security forces, to the highest professional and ethical standards,” he added.
“They must adhere strictly to applicable rules of engagement and eschew acts of impunity,” he asserted.