By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Wednesday, fixed March 7 to deliver judgment on the 8-count terrorism charge the Federal Government filed against alleged mastermind of the 2010 Independence Day bomb blast that killed twelve persons at the Eagle Square in Abuja, Mr. Charles Okah.
Charles, who is younger brother to former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, Mr. Henry Okah, is facing trial alongside his alleged accomplice, Mr. Obi Nwabueze.
While the Okah brothers were alleged to have coordinated as well as procured all the materials that were used for the attack, FG, told the court that it was the 2nd defendant, Nwabueze, that helped them to fix Improvised Explosive Devices, IEDs, in two cars it said were used for the bombing.
Trial Justice Gabriel Kolawole adjourned the matter for judgment after the prosecution team led by Dr. Alex Iziyon, SAN, and the defence lawyers, Emeka Okafor and Oghenovo Otemu, adopted their final written arguments.
Whereas FG called a total of 17 witnesses that testified before the court, Okah and Nwabueze who had earlier denied their alleged involvement in the terrorist attack, called three witnesses each to establish their innocence.
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, while the high court, in a separate trial, jailed the 3rd accused person, Edmund Ebiware, to life imprisonment.
All the defendants were initially arraigned before the High Court on December 7, 2010 and subsequently re-arraigned on January 12, 2011.
While adopting its final address on Wednesday, FG, insisted that the proof of evidence it adduced before the court was sufficient to secure the conviction of the defendants.
It maintained that oral and documentary evidence that were tendered by the prosecution, connected the defendants to the October 1, 2010, bomb blast.
“We therefore urge my lord to hold that the prosecution has been able to prove its case against the defendants beyond every reasonable doubt and to convict them accordingly”, FG’s lawyer, Iziyon, SAN, submitted.
Besides, FG noted that the court had previously admitted into evidence as Exhibit 2D1 to D9, a confessional statement by the 2nd defendant.
Justice Kolawole admitted the statement at the end of a trial-within-trial that was conducted by the court following Nwabueze’s claim that he made it under duress.
The court had on January 6, 2017, dismissed a no-case submission that was filed by the defendants.
The defendants had pleaded the court to discharge and acquit them on the premise that FG failed to by way of credible evidence, prove that they were involved in the bombing incident.
They argued that the prosecution failed to either establish a nexus between them and the alleged act of terrorism, or a prima-facie criminal case capable of securing their conviction by the court.
FG however urged the court to dismiss their plea of innocence, alleging that N2million was paid to the 2nd defendant on September 13, 2010, through a firm, Tombra Life Support Company Ltd, belonging to Charles, for the purchase of cars that were used for the bombing.
It told the court that Henry Okah 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.
FG alleged 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 said 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.
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.
The court had earlier struck out a second charge marked FHC/ CR/187/2010, wherein FG accused the defendants of committing treasonable felony punishable with death.
In the charge, FG, alleged that the defendants endangered the life of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan while Nigeria celebrated its 50th independence anniversary in Abuja.
FG alleged that it was the defendants that 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.
It alleged that the duo 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.
The trial court however dismissed the second charge after it held that FG failed to prove 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 Justice Kolawole, there was no evidence that the 50th independence anniversary ended abruptly or that the ex-President was ferried to safety by his guards.
The Judge held that FG ought to have produced some of the security guards or even the ex-President himself to testify before the court.