KAINJI: A man involved in the 2014 kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls from Chibok in north-east Nigeria has been jailed for 15 years, the government confirmed on Tuesday.
The conviction of Haruna Yahaya, 35, is the first in relation to the mass abduction, which triggered global outrage and sparked a worldwide campaign for the girls’ release.
A total of 276 students were seized from the Government Girls Secondary School in the remote town in Borno state on the evening of April 14, 2014.
Fifty-seven escaped in the immediate aftermath. Since May 2016, a further 107 have escaped, been found or released after government talks with the militants, leaving 112 still in captivity.
Justice ministry spokesman Salihu Isah said Yahaya admitted to being involved when he appeared at a special court trying hundreds of Boko Haram suspects on Monday.
Nigeria began prosecuting people arrested during the insurgency last October, starting with 1,669 suspects held at a military detention facility in Kainji, in the central state of Niger.
“It is true that a member of Boko Haram who took part in the kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls was given 15 years jail,” said Isah.
“Haruna Yahaya, who is 35 and handicapped with a paralysed arm and a deformed leg, was arrested in 2015 by the Civilian JTF,” he said, referring to the joint task force militia. “He confessed to having taken part in the abduction.”
Isah said Yahaya’s defence lawyer “pleaded for leniency” on the grounds that he was “forcibly conscripted into the group and he acted under duress”.
Yahaya was previously a trader in the town of Potiskum, in Yobe state, northeast Nigeria. He claimed he was forced to carry an AK-47 assault rifle during the Chibok abduction.
Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2018