The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Tuesday, declined the request of the Federal Government to put Mr. Charles Okah, the alleged mastermind of the 2010 Independence Day bomb blast that killed twelve persons at the Eagle Square in Abuja, under chains.
Trial Justice Gabriel Kolawole refused the application which Federal Government made through its lead prosecutor, Dr. Alex Iziyon, SAN.
Charles, who is a younger brother to ex-leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, Mr. Henry Okah, who had since been convicted by a South African Court, is facing terrorism charges alongside one Obi Nwabueze Okah.
He had on October 6, 2015 attempted to commit suicide while his trial was going on, by jumping down from a window in the court room which is situated in the third floor of the high court complex.
Before his attempt to leap through the window was foiled, Okah who addressed the judge from the dock, expressed his frustration over what he described as his “endless trial”.
At the resumed sitting on Tuesday, Federal Government lawyer, Dr. Iziyon, SAN, made an oral application before the court, requesting that Okah be chained in view of his action at the last adjourned date.
In making the application, Iziyon, referred the court to Section 269 of the newly enacted Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
He urged the court to grant the application that Okah, who is the 1st defendant be always put under fetters throughout the duration of his trial.
“Where a defendant or an accused person misbehaves or misconduct in the course of proceedings, such a person can be placed under fetters”, Iziyon submitted.
However, Okah’s lawyer, Mr. Samuel Ozidiri, SAN, in his response, apologised on behalf of his client, even as he urged the court to discountenance the application by FG.
He contended that the application was not only premature, but also against the ethos of human rights and principles of fair trial.
In his ruling, Justice Kolawole, rejected the application which he described as a “great distraction”.
The Judge said: “By the provisions of section 6 subsection 6 paragraph 8 of the 1999 constitution as amended, this court as one of the superior courts of record created by the constitution, is imbued with discretionary jurisdiction which can be exercised without the need for an application from the prosecution once it is of the view that the conduct of the 1st defendant (Okha) is such that may impede a smooth administration of proceedings on the charge of which the defendants are standing trial.
“It is a discretion which the court will exercise whenever the occasion demands, but must be exercised with caution perhaps circumspection otherwise the court’s purpose and attention will be needlessly distracted by incidents such as we have witnessed on Oct 6, 2015.”
Besides, the judge held: “I have decided to pull back the court’s exercise of discretionary jurisdiction on the apologies given by both defence counsel, but the powers to make any of the orders prescribed in Section 269 and 71 of the ACJ Act, are exercisable once the court forms the view that the defendants or the 1st defendant needs to be restrained so that the proceedings of their trial can no longer be distracted by what I would regard as a “side show” meant to draw public attention perhaps of sympathy on what has been going on since 6 December, 2010, when the charge in this case was filed by the Attorney General of the Federation against the defendant.
“1st defendant may see this as perhaps the last opportunity not to test the resolve of this court to exercise such powers that are conferred on it by both the constitution the ACJ Act”, he added.
He thereafter adjourned the matter till October 27, 2015 for continuation of trial.
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