Police arraign three more suspects
Magistrate grants NBA access to case file
Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The trial of the 13 persons accused of the murder of four students of the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) on October 5 was Thursday stalled due to the failure of prisons officials to produce them in court.
This came as the police arraigned three more persons for the murder of the students.
Those arraigned included, Tekena Elkanah, Toku Lloyd, Chiadika Biringa and Ugonna Obuzor at Omuokiri, Aluu, River State.
The students were killed by a mob in Omuokiri village of Aluu, a neighbouring community to the university.
The filming and posting of the incident on the social media attracted both national and international attention.
The police had earlier arraigned the 13 persons on October 17 before a Port Harcourt Chief Magistrates Court on a five-count charge of conspiracy and murder. Those arraigned included the 59-year-old traditional ruler of Omuokiri village, Alhaji Hassan Welewa; an ex-police sergeant, Lucky Orji; and the only female, 24-year-old Cynthia Chinwo.
At the resumed hearing which started at about 10:15a.m. Thursday, the prosecutor, Sergeant Aaron Nsirem, told the court that the accused persons were in the court cell, but could not be brought in because of shortage of prisons personnel.
He also said the prosecution was yet to receive the advice of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) on the matter.
The Human Rights Committee of the Port Harcourt branch of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) also informed the court of its interest in the matter, adding that it had applied for access to the case file.
The chairman of the committee, Augustine Ujekudo, told the court that they had written to the DPP and the state Commissioner of Police to have access to the case file but that their request was not granted.
He therefore prayed the court to order the DPP to allow the committee have access to the document because the litigation was of public interest.
But the officer in charge of the legal department (o/c Legal) of the state Command of the Police, CSP Henry Njoku, who led the prosecution, objected to the prayers of the NBA, arguing that the intention was “ill-conceived and ill-timed.”
He argued that NBA had no locus standi to make the application because it was a criminal matter and the NBA was not involved in the matter.
The trial Chief Magistrate, Emmanuel Woke, Court 1, in his ruling noted that the Human Rights Committee of the NBA was a watchdog of the public. He therefore ordered that the case-file should be released to the NBA.
He adjourned the matter till February 28, 2013, and said he expected that the DPP have given his legal advice on the matter before the date.
The three new suspects arraigned were Finebone Jeffrey (23), Joshua Ekpe (27), and Abang Cyril (27).
They were arraigned on a five-count charge of conspiracy and murder of the four UNIPORT students.
No plea was taken and the trial magistrate ordered that they be remanded in the prison while the case file was referred to the DPP for advice.
He also directed that the committee of the NBA should be granted access to the file.