…lines up 4 witnesses to testify against him
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Federal Government, on Wednesday, asked a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting at Maitama to revoke the bail it granted to Senator Dino Melaye.
FG based its application on the absence of the embattled lawmaker in court for the commencement of hearing on a two-count criminal charge the office of the Attorney General of the Federation preferred against him.
Melaye who is representing Kogi West Senatorial District, was on March 1, docked before the court over allegation of information he gave to the Nigerian Police Force about an assassination attempt on his life on 15 April 2017, was false.
He was in the charge marked CR/106/18, alleged to had falsely incriminated the Chief of Staff to Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, Mr. Edward Onoja David, in the said assassination attempt.
According to the charge dated January 31, 2018, it was in the course of investigation that police discovered that Melaye was attempting to frame-up some persons with his claim.
Melaye was said to have told Abubakar, a son of a former governor of Kogi State in a telephone conversation how he framed Edward Onoja David in the assassination attempt.
Meanwhile, when the case came up for hearing on Wednesday, government lawyer, Mr. Labaran Shuaibu, applied for Melaye’s bail to be revoked since he was not in court for his trial.
Alternatively, the prosecution said the court should summon the person that stood surety for him to appear and show cause why he should not be committed to prison for the absence of the defendant.
“My lord the defendant was granted bail by this court and the case was adjourned till today for hearing, but he is not present in court.
“The fact is that he was granted bail and he perfected the conditions and was released, whatever he may have done afterwards is not the business of this court.
“In the circumstance my lord, we shall be applying for this court to order the surety to the defendant to come and show cause. Otherwise, we shall be compelled to ask that the bail be revoked”, Shuaibu added.
He told the court that FG has lined up four witnesses that will testify against Melaye.
Nevertheless, the defence counsel, Mr. Ricky Tarfa, SAN, accused FG of concealing the true facts and circumstances of the case to the court.
“My lord I expected the prosecution to be more forthright by laying the facts bare before this court.
“After the last proceeding, the defendant has been charged before different courts. One in Abuja granted him bail, but immediately he was released, he was taken on a stretcher to Lokoja the following day and charged before a Magistrate Court.
“That court refused him bail. However, an application was made before a High Court in Lokoja which took into consideration the facts of the case and ordered that the defendant should be taken into Police custody for proper medical care pending the determination of his bail application.
“His bail application before that court was adjourned till today for ruling”, Tarfa submitted.
He maintained that FG’s request for his client’s bail to be revoked would amount to persecution, insisting that such application could only be made when there is no explanation as to whereabouts of the defendant.
Tarfa said he was ready to produce the high court order that remanded Melaye in police custody.
After she had listened to both parties, trial Justice Olasumbo Goodluck agreed with the prosecution that accepting the narration from Melaye’s counsel would amount to receiving evidence from the bar.
She said the defence lawyer ought to know the proper thing to do if his client was indisposed to attend his trial.
“Even the explanation itself should be properly brought before this court because you don’t know how far this case can go. It is either you bring the said court papers or it will be tidier for the surety to come and show cause as he guaranteed the physical attendance of the defendant in court for his trial”.
Stressing that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, made provisions on how criminal trials should be conducted in the absence of a defendant, Justice Goodluck subsequently adjourned the case till Thursday.
“The defence counsel is to take appropriate steps to explain the absence of the defendant”, the court held.
It will be recalled that the court had shortly after Melaye pleaded not guilty to the charge, granted him bail to the tune of N100, 000, even as he was ordered to produce a surety that must be a civil servant not below grade level 14.
The court held that the surety must be in the Federal Civil Service and must prove that he is resident within the Federal Capital Territory.
In count one of the charge, Melaye was accused of deliberately giving false information to the police to frame Governor Bello’s Chief of Staff as the mastermind of the assassination attempt on him at his hometown in Ayetoro-Gbede in Kogi State in April last year.
He was in the second count, accused of making false statement of facts in a phone conversation with Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, a son of the late former governor of Kogi State, Abubakar Audu, with the intention of tarnishing David’s reputation.
FG maintained that the offence allegedly committed by Melaye was punishable under sections 140 and 393 of the Peal Code Law, Cap. 89, Laws of Northern Nigeria, 1963.
The offence attracts a maximum of two years imprisonment with an option N40 upon conviction of the defendant.
One of the charges read: “That you, Senator Dino Melaye, male, of the Senate, National Assembly, Three Arms Zone, Abuja, on or about the month of April 2017 at the Police Force Headquarters, Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court in the cause of an investigation into the alleged assassination attempt on you, sometimes in April 2017, you gave information to the police stating that one Mr. Edward Onoja David (Chief of Staff to the Governor of Kogi State) did mastermind the attack with intent to convict him for the offence which statement you either knew or believe to be false and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 140 of the Penal Code Law, Cap. 89, Laws of Northern Nigeria, 1963.”