Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The Rivers State Chief Judge, Justice Adama Iyayi-Lamikanra, wednesday announced her withdrawal from the murder trial of the former Chairman of Asari-Toru Local Government Area of the State, Ojukaye Flag-Amachree.
This came as Flag-Amachree, who was re-arraigned yesterday on new charges, was stretchered into the court room under heavy security in and outside the court premises.
Iyayi-Lamikanra announced her withdrawal, when the matter came up wednesday, stating that there had been several petitions to the National Judicial Council (NJC) by the accused person against her personality, which the council was investigating.
She stated that in the interest of justice, she would discontinue with the matter and reassign the case to another judge.
The judge, however, ordered that the accused person be remanded in prison custody and adjourned the case to November 17, after dismissing his bail application.
During the proceedings, the accused person, who dressed in a brownish flowing-gown, and lying motionless on a stretcher, was re-arraigned on a four-count-charge of attempted murder of one Ipalibo Jackson on April 11, 2015, in Ojukaye’s compound.
Flag-Amachree did not take any plea, as he remained mute throughout the period the proceedings lasted.
His counsel, Emenike Ebete, urged the court to discontinue with the charges and adjourn the matter to allow the accused person recover and respond to the charges levelled against him, applying orally for his bail.
But, the prosecution counsel, Godwin Obla (SAN), raised an objection to the oral application, and the purported health challenge of the accused person, stressing that there was no medical report or a doctor from the Prisons authority announcing his presence before the court.
The judge, however, overruled the accused person’s orally application, even when he informed the court that the matter was already at the Court of Appeal.
Speaking the journalists shortly after court proceedings, counsel for Flag-Amachree, Emenike Ebete, said: “He was stretchered to the court today. You know, we applied that the day for the taking plea, be deferred for another date to be taken and that another date would be proper to take the plea. Prosecution counsel opposed it and the court overruled me and they read the charge to the accused person on stretcher and unconscious.
“The man was unconscious; the man did not even know what was read to him. We made this point clear that before you can invoke the provision of Section 220 of the Rivers State law, the person must be conscious; he must know that the charge has been read to him.
“We applied for his bail because the prosecutor said we can apply for his bail. In this circumstance, where he was brought to court on a stretcher, we made oral application. Surprising, His Lordship (Justice Adama Iyayi-Lamikanra) said that the matter of bail is before Court of Appeal.
“But I told His Lordship that if the matter in the Court of Appeal is for bail, then the taking of plea here ought not to have being because the jurisdiction of this court has been moved to Court of Appeal. So, why taking the plea? I was overruled again.
“So, she refused the application for bail and excused herself from the matter, saying she is going to assign the matter to another judge because of series of the petitions written against her person.
Also, the prosecution counsel, Obla, stated: “Most importantly, you will recall that last adjourned date, there was a summons to the Comptroller of Prisons to produce the accused person in court. I think in obedience to that order, they produced the accused person in court today.
“The information (charge) was read to the accused person, he did not take his plea. I am sure while you were there, you were also aware of the fact that no medical certificate whatsoever was produced in support of the purported medical situation of the accused person.
“The court works with records; that is the way the system works. The court does not work on conjecture, neither is the court a beer palour where people spread rumour. So, there was no medical doctor there on the court record.
“The accused person did not inform the court that there was a medical doctor there and no medical doctor appeared from the prison to announce his presence there. If they had done that, the situation would have been completely different.
“I made it a point at the end of my submission that I saw no medical certificate of the accused person because if they had, the first thing is to meet the prosecutor and hand it over to him; they did not do that. But they brought a production warrant.
“Now, the law says if an accused person keeps quiet, you enter a plea of not guilty for him. I don’t see how he has actually been prejudiced. If the information is read to you, you would only be prejudiced if they say you are guilty. But in this case, the information was read to you, you were silent and they put not guilty for you.
The judge displayed a lot wisdom. There is an application by the accused person for the matter to be transferred.”