- Trial to begin July 5
Alex Enumah in Abuja with agency report
Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court in Abuja thursday dismissed a treasonable felony charge filed against a member of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Charles Okah.
The federal government had brought charges of treasonable felony and terrorism against Okah and the second defendant, Obi Nwabueze, for masterminding the March 15, 2010, bombing in Warri, Delta State, as well as another bomb explosion on October 1, that same year at the Eagle Square in Abuja.
They were also charged with treasonable offence bordering on alleged threats to the lives of former President Goodluck Jonathan and governors who held a meeting in Delta State.
In a no-case submission application filed before the court after the prosecution concluded and presented its case, Okah and Nwabueze had asked the court to strike out the charges against them, arguing that the prosecution failed to prove its case.
They asked the court to dismiss the charges against him and to discharge and acquit him as well.
But in a lengthy ruling delivered in three hours, dismissed the treason charges against the defendants, Justice Kolawole dismissed the charge of treasonable felony against the accused person, saying the prosecution was not able to provide enough evidence to prove it.
He said he was dismissing the charge because evidence cited in court did not prove that President Jonathan, who was at Eagle Square, the target of the blast, was intimidated by the attack.
The Judge said the evidence before him failed to prove that Jonathan was sneaked out of Eagle Square, venue of the 50th anniversary celebration of Nigeriaâ€™s independence.
He said the evidence did not prove a case of treason as contained in count one of the charge.
Justice Kolawole also said the evidence cited by the prosecution failed to prove that governors who attended a meeting on March 15, 2010, in Warri, Delta State, where another blast occurred, were also intimidated.
The judge, however, said the allegation of terrorism brought against the defendants could not be dismissed as the prosecution had succeeded in linking the accused with the offence of collection of funds to aid terrorism.
Kolawole noted that according to law, a person found guilty of aiding and abetting terrorism is liable to a sentence for life.
He, therefore, called on the defence to give reasons why the court should not accept the evidence brought forth by the prosecution.
Kolawole explained that his reason for postponing the ruling, earlier scheduled to be delivered on May 16, was to attend to the burial of his late brother.
He, however, dismissed the no-case submission application of the defendant and ordered him to open his defence.
The judge consequently adjourned the case to July 5 for the defence to open its case.
While explaining the reason for the dismissal of treason charges against the defendants, the prosecution counsel, Dr. Alex Izinyon (SAN), said the court interpreted the prosecutionâ€™s pattern of handling the matter to mean that it lacked evidence against the accused.
â€œThere were two separate charges filed. One bothered on treason while the other bothered on terrorism. When I was assigned to the case, both of them were supposed to be going on at the same time.
â€œWe decided to follow one of the two, because we cannot pursue two rats at a time. All our witnesses were brought based on the terrorism charge. Thatâ€™s what prompted the ruling on the no-case submission today. It does appear as if we have not started the case involving treason.
â€œThat does not mean that we cannot go back to the matter. It is left for the office of the Attorney General of the Federation. If they decide to focus on the other charge,â€ Izinyon said.