Oct 1 bombing: You’ve a case to answer, court tells
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Thursday, held that Mr. Charles Okah has a case to answer over the 2010 Independence Day bomb blast that killed twelve persons at the Eagle Square in Abuja.
The court, in a ruling that was delivered by trial Justice Gabriel Kolawole, dismissed a no-case-submission that Okah filed alongside his alleged accomplice, Obi Nwabueze.
Justice Kolawole fixed July 6 and 7 for the duo to enter their defence to an amended 8-count terrorism charge the Federal Government filed against them on January 10, 2011.
The charge against the defendants marked FHC/ CR/186/2010, which was predicated on section 15 (1) and (2) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Act, attracts life imprisonment upon conviction.
Ealier in the ruling, the court struck out a second charge marked FHC/ CR/187/2010, which accused the defendants of committing treasonable felony punishable with death.
FG had in the charge, alleged that the defendants endangered the life of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan while Nigeria celebrated its 50th independence anniversary in Abuja.
Charles who is younger brother to ex-leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, Mr. Henry Okah, and Nwabueze, were said to have suprintended over varying terrorist activities that hitherto took place within the oil rich Niger Delta region of the country, including the bomb explosion that rocked a post amnesty programme that was organised by Vanguard Newspaper in Warri, Delta State.
They were said to have conspired with Henry who is currently serving a prison term in South Africa, and one Emmanuel Allison to make a direct attempt to endanger the life of ex-President Jonathan by seeking to drive two motor vehicles wired with time-regulated explosive devices to the Eagle Square where the independence celebration was taking place.
FG also alleged that the accused persons between January 2 and March 15, 2010, within Port-Harcourt Rivers State and diverse places, conspired with Henry Okah, Chima Orlu, at large, and persons unknown, to make a direct attempt to endanger the lives of the Governor of Delta state, Edo state and Imo state by seeking to drive two motors vehicles wired with time regulated explosive devices into government house annex, Warri, Delta State, the venue of the Vanguard Post Amnesty Dialogue, where the said governors were in attendance, in order to cause a bomb blast for the purpose of levying war against the state.
It added that a man lost his life because of that explosion.
Charles was said to have among other offences, engaged the services of one Bassey Umoren, a welder, and paid him N50, 000, to construct hidden compartments into four motor cars, two of which were subsequently loaded with explosive devices at Port-Harcourt by Obi Nwabueze and Chima Orlu, at large, and positioned on 1st October at 0830 hours near the venue of the anniversary for the purpose of levying war against the state.
He was accused of sending two consignments of army camouflage torches, bullet proof vests and boots to Allison for onward transmission to one Segun Llori alias Stone face, at large, for use by terrorists recruited by Henry Okah in the creeks of Niger Delta.
Nevertheless, in his ruling, Justice Kolawole stressed that FG failed to adduce evidence to show that the defendants attempted to kill ex-President Jonathan or that he was intimidated or over-hedged in anyway by the twin blast that occurred during the independence day celebration.
According to the Judge, there was also no evidence that the 50th independence anniversary ended abruptly or that the ex-President was ferried to safety by his guards.
He held that FG ought to have produced some of the security guards or even the ex-President himself to testify before the court.
“Consequently, the charge is hereby struck out and the defendants are hereby discharged on the charge marked FHC/CR/187/2010 which relates to more serious charge of treason”, the court held.
The defendants had in their no-case-submission, insisted that FG failed to by way of credible evidence, prove that they were in any way involved in the bombing incident.
They contended that the prosecution not only failed to establish a nexus between them and the alleged act of terrorism, but also could not establish a prima-facie criminal case capable of persuading the court to compel them to enter their defence to the charge.
Therefore, Okah and Nwabueze, through their respective lawyers, Mr. Samuel Zibiri, SAN, and Oghenovo Otemu, prayed the court to discharge and acquit them of the charge.
However, government lawyer, Dr. Alex Iziyon, SAN, urged the court to dismiss their contention for want of merit.
Iziyon, SAN, argued that the proof of evidence and oral testimonies of 17 witnesses that testified in the matter was enough to warrant the defendants to give explanations before the court.
FG alleged that N2million was paid to the 2nd defendant on September 13, 2010, through a firm, Tombra Life Support Company Ltd, which belongs to Charles, for the purchase of the used cars that were used for the bombing.
It alleged that Henry bought the two cars and parked them at his younger brother’s (1st defendant) house where the 2nd defendant was called to construct secret compartments in them.
It told the court that between September 28 and 30, 2010, the defendants loaded the two cars with dynamites. It alleged that while one of the cars was brought to Abuja the other was taken to Port Harcourt.
Besides, FG brought a welder it alleged was engaged to construct secret compartments in the cars at Okah’s house in Apapa, Lagos, to testify as the second prosecution witness, PW-2.
While directing the defendants to enter their defence to the charge, Justice Kolawole said he was satisfied that there was prima-facie evidence linking them to indictments contained in the charge.
The Judge however said he would not at this stage of the trial place any probative value on documentary and oral evidence against the defendants.
“The prosecution has established a case that requires a form of explanation. The no-case-submission of the defendants was not well founded in law.
“The 1st and 2nd defendants are hereby directed to enter their defences to the charge The no-case-submission fails and is hereby dismissed”, the court ruled.
It will be recalled that one of the alleged masterminds of the bombing incident, Mr. Osvwo Tekemfa Francis, a.k.a ‘General-Gbokos’, died in prison custody, even as the high court in a separate judgment, jailed the 3rd accused person, Edmund Ebiware, to life imprisonment.
The accused persons were initially arraigned before the High Court on December 7, 2010 and subsequently re-arraigned on January 12, 2011.