By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The embattled gubernatorial candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, in Akwa Ibom State, Senator John James Akpan Udoedehe, will remain in Police custody till tomorrow when a Federal High Court in Abuja will rule on his bail application.
Justice Adamu Bello fixed the date after listening to argument between a team of four Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs, and 11 other legal practitioners who, yesterday, entered their appearance for the accused person, as well as that of the prosecuting team led by Mr. R.E. Nkem.
The SAN’s who appeared in defence of Udoedehe yesterday were, Chief Kola Awodehin, Ricky Tafa, Chief Adeniyi Akintola and Prof. Yemi Oshibade.
The High Court last Friday declined to grant the applicant bail on the basis of an oral plea made before it by the defence counsel, Mr Edem Andem, shortly after he was arraigned over a four-count charge bothering on treason.
The court had maintained that it would not release him on bail pending when a formal application to that effect was filed before it.
The allegation slammed against the ACN candidate attracts death penalty upon conviction.
His trial was at the behest of the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Hafiz Ringim, who accused him of conspiring with some persons currently at large, at Ikot Ekpene in Akwa Ibom State, to commit felony and treason by levying war against the state with an intent to intimidate and overawe the incumbent governor of the state, Chief Godswill Akpabio.
Arguing his bail application dated and filed March 28, the lead defence counsel, Awodehin, SAN, relied on the decided case-law of Abiola Vs the State, reported in 1995, 1 NWLR, to insist that it was trite law that the accused person, having placed sufficient material for the consideration of the court, the onus shifts to the prosecution to show cause why he should not be granted bail.
“We have made a compelling case with the materials we have placed before this court for your lordship’s favourable consideration to this application.
“He is a two-time Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a former Minister of the FCT, a former Chairman of Uyo L.G.A, Akwa Ibom State, and the current governorship candidate of the ACN in the state.
“This process before the court, his arrest, detention and the hurried charge filed against him, is clearly a well calculated and politically motivated design to keep him away from the forthcoming general election.
“There have been previous phantom attempts to get at him, including a murder allegation upon which the police searched his residences in Uyo and Abuja and found nothing. He was not even in the country when his houses were raided.
“It is also important to make it clear that the applicant himself was forced to approach a court of competent jurisdiction when they were harassing and disturbing him from embarking on his political campaigns.
In opposition to the 42-paragraphed affidavit in support of the bail application, Police, yesterday, filed an 18-paragraphed counter-affidavit, wherein it urged the court to allow Udoedehe to remain behind bars.
“One issue we have raised for determination in this counter-affidavit is whether the accused/applicant should be granted bail pending trial in view of the nature of the alleged offence and the severity of the punishment attached thereto.
After listening to submissions from both sides yesterday, trial Justice Bello told the parties to return tomorrow for his ruling.
Meantime, Udoedehe, who spoke to newsmen through one of his counsel, Chief Akintola, SAN, immediately after yesterday’s proceeding, expressed his determination to oust Gov. Akpabio from the Akwa Ibom State Government House this year, saying he would not be cowed with trumped up charges.