Terrorism: Court vows to go ahead with charges against Rivers lawmaker, others
The Federal High Court, Abuja, yesterday, dismissed a preliminary objection challenging the competence of the terrorism-related charge instituted by the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) against suspects behind the arson attack on the Rivers State House of Assembly in October 2023.
The defendants in the suit are, Chime Eguma Ezebalike, Prince Lukman Oladele, Kenneth Goodluck Kpasa, Osiga Donald and Ochueja Thankgod, who were on Thursday, arraigned on seven-count charge before Justice Bolaji Olajuwon of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
They were accused of joining forces with a lawmaker, Edison Ehie, and others, now at large, to wreak havoc on the state assembly.
The charges read in part, “That you, Chime Eguma Ezebalike, 37 years, businessman of Street 5, Radio Estate Ozuoba, Port Harcourt, Prince Lukman Oladele, 47 years of Okocha Street, Port Harcourt, Kenneth Goodluck Kpasa, Edison Ehie and others now at large on October 29, 2023 at Moscow Road in Port Harcourt, while acting in concert conspired together to commit felony to wit: acts of terrorism by willful destruction of public property by invading, attacking, destroying and burning of the Rivers State House of Assembly and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 26 (1) of the Terrorism Prevention and Prohibition Act 2022.
“That you Chime Eguma Ezebalike, 37 years, businessman of Street 5, Radio Estate Ozuoba, Port Harcourt, Prince Lukman Oladele, 47 years of Okocha Street, Port Harcourt, Kenneth Goodluck Kpasa, Edison Ehie and others now at large on October 29, 2023 at Moscow Road in Port Harcourt, while acting in concert and armed with dynamite, iron rods, lighters and other offensive weapons willfully and maliciously invaded, attacked and set fire on the Rivers State House of Assembly Complex and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 1 of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap M17 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.”
When the charges were read to the defendants, they all pleaded not guilty.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Lukman Fagbemi (SAN), who represented Chime Eguma Ezebalike and Prince Lukman Oladele, asked the judge to grant his clients bail on liberal terms as well as strike out the charge.
“We urge Your lordship to discountenance the submission of the complainant who is trying to rub shoulders with the AGF,” counsel for the 1st and second defendants said.
Ruling on the application to strike out the charge, the judge held that the law enforcement and security agencies, contrary to the arguments by the defendants’ lawyer, are not only saddled with powers to investigate terrorism cases, but their officers can also prosecute such cases.
The judge held that the 1999 Constitution which is the source of every other law in the legal system, states that though the AGF has powers to prosecute any offenses under any act passed by the national assembly, such powers are not exclusively vested in the AGF.
“The police can rightly initiate criminal proceedings albeit, terrorism, and I so hold,” Justice Mobolaji said, adding that the terrorism-related charge has been competently filed before her by the IGP.
“The preliminary objection fails and is accordingly dismissed,” the judge ruled.
Meanwhile, the defendant’s counsel came with an application for bail.
The IGP’s counsel, Simon Lough, opposed the bail application, saying Lough objected to the application for bail, adding: “no exceptional circumstances” had been shown to warrant granting the defendants’ request.
“The matter (for bail) is adjourned to Monday for ruling,” she said.
Replying to the lawyers last week, Justice Olajuwon said the bail application was not ripe for hearing until Monday.
Subsequently, the judge ordered that the five defendants be remanded at the Nigeria Correctional Service, Kuje, pending the hearing and determination of the bail applications.