Charles Okah, Obese, 3 others charged with abduction
ABUJA—AN Iranian, Azim Aghajani, and his alleged Nigerian co-conspirators, Ali Usman Abbas Jega, Aliyu Oroji Wamako and Muhamma Tukur Umar, were, yesterday, arraigned at an Abuja Chief Magistrate Court by operatives of the State Security Service, SSS, following the alleged roles they played in the importation of 13 deadly containers into Nigeria, October 25, 2010.
Their arraignment came on a day Charles Okah, the embattled younger brother of the ex-leader of Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, was again arraigned before a Chief Magistrate Court in Abuja for allegedly participating in the abduction of several white men operating in the Niger Delta.
The Iranian and three other accused persons were marshalled into the court premises in an unmarked bus around 4.30p.m. yesterday, even as SSS operatives mounted sentry in all the streets that are connected to the court in Wuse zone 2.
Though the three accused Nigerians took turns to plead not guilty to a two_count charge preferred against them, the accused Iranian, however, refused to make any plea in any of the counts in the charge, insisting that he needed legal representation from his embassy in Nigeria.
Frantic efforts by the prosecuting counsel, M. U Idakwo, to move the court to disregard the request by the first accused person proved abortive, as presiding Magistrate, Hafsat Sadiq Soso, went ahead to suspend the taking of plea by the Iranian to enable him seek legal assistance from his embassy.
Magistrate Soso adjourned the matter till January 31, just as she ordered that all the four accused persons be remanded in SSS custody pending the conclusion of investigations into the matter.
She warned, however, that they should be allowed access to the counsel of their choice.
The SSS had immediately after the arraignment, sought permission of the court to continue keeping custody of the accused persons, insisting that it would need about 60 more days to conclude investigations into the case, as well as to apprehend some other persons which it said participated in the illicit deal but are currently at large.
SSS said: “Your worship, we brought these four accused persons today (yesterday) for the court to take cognizance of the matter in line with section 143 of the Criminal Procedure Code, CPC. Some of the accused persons are on the run at the moment and we are asking the court to grant us 60 more days to conclude ongoing investigations.
“The arms were imported from Iran into Nigeria and were prepared to be exported to Banjul in Gambia. We have extended our investigations into these countries to ensure that all facts relating to these illegal transactions are fully uncovered.
“The United Nations and the entire world are very much interested in the matter because of the gravity of the offence.
The quality of arms that the accused persons are connected with are such that can sink the whole country, therefore, this is not a matter that should be treated with levity” the prosecution averred.”
Continued detention of client
However, counsel to the third accused person, who was the only defence lawyer in court vehemently opposed the continued detention of his client, just as he prayed the lower court to allow him to make oral application for the bail of his client.
He said: “My client has been kept incommunicado since the day he was arrested upon arrival from outside the country. He was not even around when the containers were intercepted, I only succeeded in having access with him right here in the court premises.”
The SSS in a First Information Report, FIR, it tendered in court, alleged that the Iranian conspired with the other accused persons to import and did import 13 twenty-feet containers loaded with assorted calibres of prohibited firearms consisting of 60mm mortar, 120m HE mortars, 81mm mortars, 170mm rockets and 23mm Apit for gmzu 23, into Apapa port, contrary to section 27(1) a (i) (iii) of the Firearms Act, Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004.
While the security agency maintained that the conspiracy to commit the offence began as early as July 7 to 15, 2010, it however, told the court that the shipment took place between October 12 and 25, 2010.
Charles Okah arraigned
Meanwhile, it was more woes for Charles Okah, the embattled younger brother of the ex-leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, as he was again arraigned before a Chief Magistrate Court in Abuja for allegedly participating in the abduction of several white_men operating in the oil rich region of the Niger Delta.
Charles was docked alongside the trio of Mieba Kuna, a.ka. General Obese; Onengie I. Onar and Eli Pastor, by the State Security Service.
They were alleged to have conspired with Henry Okah, said to be at large, to attack, by force of arms and abduct four Indians at the Bony waterways, three French nationals who were said to be employees of Addex Petroleum Nigeria, two Russian crew of MV Val tycoon vessel, off Bony anchorage and, therefore, committed offences of criminal conspiracy to commit felony to wit; abduction, criminal intimidation, threat to life and voluntary causing of grievous hurt to another.
Their offences were said to be contrary to and punishable under sections 97, 272, 397 and 248(2) of the Penal Code.
The crime was allegedly committed on diverse dates between August 11 and October 2 at Port- Harcourt, Rivers State; Abuja and diverse places in Bayelsa.
SSS lawyer, Mr C.I Osagie, informed the court that investigation into the case was still ongoing, adding that more arrests were being envisaged in the coming days.
Meantime, two of the persons alleged to have participated in the October 1 twin blasts in Abuja, were freed by the SSS, while the remaining five others were equally produced in court. Those freed were Ernest Nwosu and Emmanuel Pathfinder.
The SSS withdrew the criminal charge against them, even as it told the trial court that the Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, SAN, may soon assume jurisdiction over the case having been seized with the total facts of the case.
Others brought to court were Edmund Ebiware, Rapheal Damfebo, Emmanuel Arinze, Obi Nwabueze and Charles Okah.
They were ordered to be remanded in SSS custody despite plea by the defence counsel led by Mr Oghenovo Otemu , who urged the court to transfer the accused persons to Kuje Prisons instead of allowing them to remain in SSS custody, alleging that they are being man-handled at will by operatives of the security agency.
Presiding Magistrate Oyebola Oyewumi, however, slated December 8, to hear a preliminary objection filed by Charles, challenging the jurisdiction of the lower court to try him, while hearing on the substantive case against them was fixed for January 17, 2011.
CDS asks MEND to ‘mend their ways’
Meanwhile, the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshall Oluseyin Petinrin has called on MEND and other unrepentant militants to “mend their ways before it is too late.”
He gave the warning at the Naval Officers mess in Calabar, Cross River State on the occasion of Operation NEMO, a four_day joint operation organised in conjunction with the Army and Airforce to exercise the officers and equipment and test their fighting capability.
Petinrin said: “The primary aim of this operation is to curb out drastically activities of militant groups and conduct search and rescue of the three oil tankers off Bonny FWB as well as their safety escort to their destination. It is also aimed at testing the operational state of NN ships and aircraft, as well as the capabiity of NN logistics in supporting and sustaining sea operations.”
Salaries by ex-militants
He said that before now militants were given amnesty by the Federal Government and they were registered and given cards and have been collecting salaries as ex-militants.
He warned that any ex-militant that went back and began to perpetuate any form of illegal and violent acts was engaged in criminality “and should be treated as such.” He added: “ My advise is that they should mend their ways before it is too late.”
Part of the operations involved the presence of the Chief of Defence Staff and the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Sa’ad Ibrahim and other high ranking military officers in the NNS KYANWA a sister ship to NNS NWAMBA. She shares the same characteristics with her sister ship. This ship is commanded by Capt Obi Ofodile.
Speaking to newsmen after the operations, the commanding officer of NNS KYANWA, Capt. Obi Ofodile said at a moment in the exercise he had the Chief of Defence Staff and Chief of Naval Staff among other high ranking officers in his ship during an exercise and aid it was a bit challenging having to operate when such high ranking military officers were in his ship.