By Samuel Oyandogha
The most celebrated court case in Yenagoa and perhaps in all of Bayelsa State this year has been the ongoing trial of Yunusa Dahiru, alias Yellow, the alleged abductor of 14 years old Ese Oruru.
Yunusa, who was arraigned on March 8, before the Federal High Court, Yenagoa, by the Nigerian police prosecution team led by Kenneth Dika from the Force Headquarters, after being taken from Kano to the State on a five count charge of criminal abduction, illicit sex, sexual exploitation and unlawful carnal knowledge of a minor could have been on bail and out of the Okaka Prison wall but for his inability to perfect the condition ordered by the court.
The charge against the defendant read: “That you, Yunusa Dahiru, a male, resident in Opolo-Epie area of Yenagoa in Bayelsa State, conspired with the duo of Dankano Mohammed and Mallam Alhassan, between August 2015 and February, 2016, to commit an offence of abduction and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 27(a) of the Trafficking in Persons (prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015.”
Count two: That you, Yunusa Dahiru, abducted Ese Oruru by means of coercion, transported and harboured her in Kano State and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 13(2)(b) of the Trafficking in Persons (prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015.”
Count three: “That you, Yunusa Dahiru, induced Ese Oruru by the use of deception and coercion to go with you from Yenagoa to Kano State with intent that she be forced or seduced into illicit intercourse and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 15(a) of the Trafficking in Persons (prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015.”
Count four: “That you, Yunusa Dahiru, procured Ese Oruru and subjected her to sexual exploitation in Kano State and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 16(1) of the Trafficking in Persons (prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act, 2015.”
Count five: “That you, Yinusa Dahiru, had unlawful carnal knowledge of Ese Oruru without her consent and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 357 of the criminal code Act and punishable under section 358 of the Criminal code ACT, Cap. C.38 laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.”
He, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge read to him in Pidgin English.
Justice H. A Nganjiwa, after listening to the prosecuting counsel, Kenneth Dika and Kayode Olaosebikan, counsel to the defendant, on the agreed adjournment date of March 14, informed the court that the priority of the court was the hearing of the case and other motions that may be filed by the counsel.
The court ordered the remand of the defendant in police custody and adjourned till March 14, to hear the bail application.
Prosecution seeks secret court trial of Yunusa
At the resumed hearing, the prosecuting counsel, Kenneth Dika, asked the presiding judge, Justice Nganjiwa, to approve a secret trial as the victim, Ese Oruru, was a minor and deserved the protection of the court.
He further objected to the application for bail made by the defence team led by Olaos ebikan arguing that if the defendant is granted bail, it would be difficult to get him back to face the trial.
In a 10 paragraphs counter affidavit deposed to by Police Inspector, Debo Waheed, the prosecution averred that it took the police six months rigorous search before Yunusa was apprehended, arguing that if the defendant is granted bail, he would not come back, especially as he is not resident within the jurisdiction.
But the defence counsel, opposed the application for secret trial by the prosecuting counsel, arguing that the case is already in the public domain and that there is no need for a secret trial.
“Ordinarily the law allows for a secret trial, but you must give the court reasons. Our own contention is that the matter is already in the public domain. The prosecution created a media nightmare for the girl on their own. They dug the pit, they should wallow in it. Even if the court allows it, the media cannot be excluded from the trial, but our own contention is that what they are seeking to prevent has already been created by them from the onset before the trial,” he said.
In a seven paragraphs affidavit in support of the bail application de posed to by Ayodeji Max well, the defence counsel cited sections 158 and 168 of Administration of Crimi nal Justice, and section 36 of the 1999 constitution as amended and urged the court to grant the defendant bail.
The judge after listening to arguments, by both counsel, adjourned the case to March 21 and ordered that Yunusa should be remanded in prison custody until when ruling would be delivered on his bail application.
Court grants Yunusa bail
On March 21, Justice Nganjiwa, granted Yunusa bail, in the sum of N3million with two sureties in like sum, and ordered that he should be remanded in prison custody pending when he is able to perfect his bail conditions and further adjourned the case to April 19 for hearing of the application for secret trial filed by the prosecution.
The judge ordered that the defence counsel must produce the defendant in court for trial, whenever the case comes up, adding that one of the sureties must be a renowned title holder in the community and the other a public servant of level 12 and above.
Justice Nganjiwa said that both sureties must be resident in Bayelsa State and must submit their three years tax clearance certificates, while the public servant must also submit letter of first appointment and last promotion.
Why we are unable to secure Yunusa on bail – Lawyer
Though the defence counsel, Mr. Olaosebikan, was grateful to the court over the ruling, the defendant is yet to leave Okaka Prison, after he was granted bail, as he has not been able to meet the bail conditions.
According to the defence counsel, the publicity the case generated and the bail condition that the sureties must be resident in the jurisdiction of the court is scaring away individuals who would have serve as sureties.
He nonetheless assured that they will follow the legal processes to secure the bail.
“The conditions the court gave us that all the sureties must be resident here, and no thanks to you the media guys, everybody here is against our client, when we get somebody and we are perfecting the bail and once you say it is for Yunusa Dahiru, they would say, that boy that kidnapped our daughter?. That is the problem we are facing, I think there are legal procedures to follow and we will come back to court and make the necessary application,” he said.
Enter UPU for Ese Oruru
Interestingly, the Urhobo Progress Union, UPU, the apex body of the Urhobo ethnic nationality, led by its National Secretary, Albert Akpomudje, SAN, and the president of the youth wing, Ovie Anthony, along with the women’s wing, not only stormed the court in solidarity with their own, Miss Ese Oruru, but have also indicated interest in the matter.
Akpomudje, who announced his appearance before the trial judge, said he was representing Urhobo interest in the matter.
The lawyer who spoke with Vanguard expressed satisfaction with the handling of the matter by the prosecution counsel, noting that he will write the Inspector General of Police, IGP, to be part of the prosecution team.
He said: “Our interest in this case, like I told the court, is that wherever any Urhobo person is affected in any way, it is the responsibility of UPU to come in and protect that person. I think the prosecution has done well because I felt I was going to take over but what he has done is very good.”
Also speaking, the President General of UPU Youth Wing Worldwide, Anthony, said the UPU decided to wade into the case considering the sensitive nature of the matter and the way the case is being handled.
According to him, “When we weigh the issue and the way the matter is being handled, the UPU as the apex body of the Urhobo people thought it wise that we should come in so that we can argue the case properly, so that another Urhobo daughter or any other person will not be a victim of what has happened to Ese Oruru.”
Court okays Ese Oruru to give evidence in secret
However, the court on May 13 granted the prosecution request to take the evidence of Miss Ese Oruru in secret.
Granting the application, Justice Nganjiwa, who based his decision on the provisions of Section 36 (4) (a) and (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, said: “The evidence of Miss Ese Oruru would be taken by the court in private and in chambers excluding all persons other than the prosecution, the defence counsel, court clerks and prison officials and any other persons if the defendant does not object.
“The defence counsel failed to show what injury or harm the defendant would suffer on account of private hearing for the victim, “ adding that it was only the evidence of Oruru that would be taken in private as other trial would be done in open court.
Justice Nganjiwa, who adjourned the matter to June 2 for hearing in the substantive suit, said: “Let me correct the impression that private hearing would jeopardise the hearing of the substantive suit as other trials would be conducted in public.”
Reacting, defence counsel, Olaosebikan, said they have learned a lot from the ruling of the court, describing the decision “as nothing unusual but a superior opinion by the court.”
On Yunusa’s bail condition, Olaosebekan disclosed that they had filed a motion to review the bail condition as they were having challenges securing bail for the defendant.
However, the court could not sit on June 2, 2016, due to the trial judge’s absence.