Yekini Jimoh in Lokoja
The two alleged accomplices who allegedly implicated the embattled Senator from Kogi West, Senator Dino Melaye, in the alleged offences of criminal conspiracy, illegal possession of firearms and illegal arms dealing have declared the offences as false.
The two suspects, Kabiru Seidu, 31, aka â€œOsamaâ€ and Nuhu Salihu, 25, aka â€œSmallâ€ appeared yesterday before Kogi Senior Magistrate Court, in Lokoja along with Senator Melaye.
When the charges were read afresh to the defendants, Melaye as well as Seidu and Salihu, they all pleaded not guilty as they said the seven charges were all false.
The alleged offences according the prosecution led by Dr. Alex Izinyon (SAN), are contrary to section 97(1) and the Penalty Code and section 27(1)(a) (1) of the firearms Act CAP P28,Â laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004.
Izinyon had opened his case with an update on the saying that the state High Court presided over by the Chief Judge, Justice Nasir Ajanah, had released the Senator on bail.
He said that the status of first and second defendants remained same in police custody as ordered by the magistrate court onMay 3.
Izinyon reminded the court that the pleas of the defendants were not taken on arraignment as he submitted that the court has jurisdiction to try the case and should therefore go ahead to take their pleas.
After the pleas were taken and the defendants pleaded not guilty, Izinyon applied for the leave of the court to have prosecuting witnesses to have their depositions forwarded to the defence.
The deponents, he urged, would then attend the court to adopt the depositions and have their depositions cross examined.
Mr. Yemi Mohammed, holding brief for Chief Mike Ozekhome, lead counsel for the 3rd defendant (Melaye) objected to the application saying that the case was a criminal one in which witnesses must give their testimonies in the open court.
Mohammed said the front-loading system the prosecution was urging the court to adopt amounted to a short cut that would be prejudicial to his client and reduce the chances of the public getting to know the truth.
â€œIt amounts to closure of the trial by about 50 per cent. Justice is three- way- traffic. The prosecutor, the accused and the society and that is why trials are done in the open courtâ€, he said.
In his ruling, the Senior Magistrate, Mr. Sulyman Abdullah, said he would â€œwholeheartedlyâ€ want trials in his court to be concluded speedily but he would have to look at the rules of the court.
â€œWhere they are no such rules, I harken to look at the provisions of section 479(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Kogi State.
â€œThis is a case that this court will appreciate that everyone put what they have on the table. I am not comfortable with sworn depositions replacing oral testimonies of witnesses.
â€œThe application of the prosecution is refused and I want this trial to be concluded in the normal ways trials are done and will be ready to take evidence day-to-day if need beâ€, he said.
Abdullah therefore adjourned toÂ July 26, for commencement of hearing.