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Jos crisis suspects arraigned, plead not guilty

…as Abuja court transfers suspects’ case to Jos

By Taiye Obateru &   Ise-Oluwa Ige

Jos — The long arm of justice started its search for perpetrators of the mayhem that enveloped Jos, Plateau State capital, yesterday with the docking of some of those held in connection with the crime.

Only 20 of the about 90 suspects initially billed to be arraigned in connection with the killings in Dogon Na Hauwa and other villages were eventually docked at the Federal High Court, Jos yesterday on charges of un-lawful-possession of fire arms, acts of terrorism, arson, etc.

The suspects were driven into the court premises in two Toyota Hilux pick-up vans amidst tight security.

Seventeen of them were said to be Fulani while three were Berom.

Some of the suspects who had been in police custody since their arrest, looked emaciated and sickly but responded to the charges with a no guilty plea as they were read to them through an interpreter.

The population in the court was scanty as only some relations of the suspects, lawyers and journalists were in the court.

The suspects were ordered to be remanded in prison custody until April 21 when their trial would continue after they pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Abuja court transfers suspects to Jos
However, the case of other 160 suspects who were earlier arraigned in Abuja but were ordered to be returned to Jos for trial could not come up as the Federal Director of Public Prosecution, Mr. Alex Adama applied for adjournment to enable prosecution conclude the process.

He explained that the case files for the suspects were not yet ready following the ruling of the Federal High Court in Abuja ordering them to be tried within the jurisdiction where they allegedly committed the offences.

He also argued that even if the files were ready, the court was yet to issue a production warrant as required for them to be produced in court.

The presiding judge, Justice Stephen Adah, disagreed, saying the case files should have been ready since it was the same Department of Public Prosecution in Abuja that filed the case of the arrested suspects in Jos on March 25.

Court adjourns case to April 15
However, the court adjourned the matter to April 15 for the suspects to be produced in court as the defence counsel did not oppose the application for adjournment and directed Adama to liaise with the court registrar to work out a “production warrant” so that all the 160 suspects could be present at the next adjourned date.

Adama defends arraignment
Speaking to journalists later, Adama defended the arraignment of the suspects at the Federal High Court noting that they were being charged with federal offences.

But the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Edward Pwajok differed insisting that the offences were penal code offences triable by the state High Courts.

Abuja Court declines jurisdiction to try 12 persons
Meanwhile, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja yesterday declined jurisdiction to try 12 persons suspected to have participated in the orgy of violence that seized Jos, the Plateau State capital, in January this year.

The trial high court judge, Juistice Adamu, cited want of territorial jurisdiction as reason. He explained that since all the ingredients of the offence allegedly committed by the accused persons took place in Jos, there was no way an Abuja Federal High Court would have jurisdiction to entertain the charge preferred against them.

He said it would have been a different thing if there is no division of the Federal High Court in Jos.
Although a total 213 persons were initially arraigned by the Federal Government in batches on the order of former Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Mike Aondoakaa (SAN), only 12 of the accused formally challenged the jurisdiction of the high court before Justice Bello.

Implication
The implication of the judgment is that all the accused persons who had earlier entered their pleas before the Abuja High Court would be moved to the Jos division of the high court for a de novo trial.

The Federal Government itself had taken the cue as a total 91 persons involved in the most recent killings in Jos in march this year were charged before the Jos division of the Federal High Court.


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