• Defence lawyers seek variation in bail conditions
Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
Justice Aliya Ngajiwa of the Federal High Court, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, yesterday granted an application by lawyers to Ese Oruru requesting the court to take the young girl’s evidence in camera.
Simply put, the law allows judges to take evidence in private or in chambers in cases that would breach trade secrets, national security or matters involving minors.
In that case, the press or people who are not connected directly to the matter before the court would not be allowed in, except lawyers to both respondents and their witnesses.
Miss Oruru, 14, was allegedly abducted and impregnated by Yunusa Dahiru, a Kano indigene, resident in Bayelsa, in a case that has recently drawn both national and international attention.
Citing several authorities, Justice Nganjiwa affirmed that it was trite that once the court is satisfied with the facts before it, then it can make arrangement for any case to be held in private.
Justice Ngajiwa noted that in the opinion of the court, the accused would lose nothing if the evidence of the alleged victim, Oruru, is taken outside the public glare.
He held that subject to the provision of the relevant laws, cases are to be held in open court, but noted however, that the judge or magistrate may also use his discretion if in the opinion of the court, the subject is below 18.
According to the judge, victims, including those of rape and child trafficking that fall in that category can also be protected by the court.
The judge further affirmed that the mother of the now heavily pregnant Miss Oruru has been able to show the court that her daughter was less than 18 years.
“What will the accused suffer if the victim‘s evidence is taken in private? I hereby order that the evidence should be taken in private and in the court chambers. The application hereby succeeds,’’ Ngajiwa said in his ruling.
But in his argument, lead lawyer to the defendant, Mr. Kayode Olaosebikan had earlier maintained that there was no merit in taking Ese’s evidence in private.
He contended that what the lead counsel to the complainant, Kenneth Dike, was seeking to prevent had already happened with the victim’s pictures already all over the Internet, print and electronic media.
Dike, who headed the police prosecution team, however insisted that what the prosecution was seeking was the constitutional right of the victim to fair trial, noting that in the interest of justice, Ese’s image and future must protected.
Meanwhile, Olaosebikan, Dahiru’s lead counsel has asked the court to vary the conditions for his (Yunusa Dahiru’s) bail, since he was finding it difficult to meet the conditions several weeks after he was granted bail by the court.
But just before adjourning to June 2, 2016, Nganjiwa said his attention had not been drawn to the application, noting that the request would be argued on a later date. The application was however opposed by Ese’s lawyers.
Outside the courtroom, Olaosebikan told journalists that there was nothing unusual about Justice Nganjiwa’s ruling, affirming that he was comfortable with it.
“The court has given a superior opinion why the evidence should be taken in camera. We have also filed an application for varying the bail condition. There’s nothing unusual about that,’’ the lawyer said.
He lamented that the accused has not been able to leave prison custody as a result of the stringent bail conditions.
“The court said that a traditional title holder and a level 12 civil servant from here should stand as surety. But when you look at the demography, they are most likely to be Bayelsans.
“When you get somebody and they know that it’s Yunusa Dahiru that they are standing for, they say ‘is it not the boy that stole our daughter?,’’ he lamented.
Like during last court session, members of the Urhobo Progress Union, led by Mr. Albert Akpomudje (SAN) and General Secretary of UPU were in the court to show solidarity. Ese is from Urhobo, Delta State.
The senior lawyer disclosed that he had already applied to the Inspector General of Police to enable him join Ese’s legal team during the next adjourned date.