Rivers Assembly Crisis: Abuja Court Refuses to Hear Fubara Loyalists’ Oral Application Challenging Jurisdiction

Rivers Assembly Crisis: Abuja Court Refuses to Hear Fubara Loyalists’ Oral Application Challenging Jurisdiction

*Adjourns trial till March 12

Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday refused an oral application by the five loyalists of Governor Siminalayi Fubara of Rivers State challenging the territorial jurisdiction of the Court to entertain the federal government’s suit accusing them of arson, terrorism amongst others.
Justice Bolaji Olajuwon refused the oral application on the grounds that the court being a court of record, all applications and motions must be brought before it in writing as required by law.

The five loyalists amongst whom are; Chime Eguma Ezebalike, Prince Lukman Oladele, Kenneth Goodluck Kpasa, Osiga Donald and Ochueja Thankgod, are standing trial on alleged terrorism, burning of the Rivers State House of Assembly amongst others.
Although, they pleaded not guilty to the charge, the court however refused to admit them to bail on the grounds that they didn’t adduced reasonable grounds for their release from custody.

Meanwhile, the defendants who have been at the Kuje Correctional Center since their remand last month, at the resumed trial orally attacked the jurisdiction of the court to try them on the alleged offences said to have been committed in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
But, in a short ruling, Justice Olajuwon rejected the oral application by counsel to the 1st and 2nd defendants, Mr Lukman Fagbemi, SAN.
At yesterday’s proceedings, the Inspector General (IG ) of Police through his lawyer, Simon Lough, SAN had sought to kick-start the trial of the defendants by calling his witness when Fagbemi cut in and attempted to proceed with oral application challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit.

Justice Olajuwon who was taken aback by the mode rejected the move and advised the lawyer to come formally with any motion or application.
The Judge said that the senior lawyer should be diligent in the conduct of proceedings in relation to the case of his clients.
Justice Olajuwon also turned down the request by the defendants to adjourn the case until their proposed application to challenge the territorial jurisdiction of the Court is determined one way or the other.

The Judge held that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015 did not permit granting of such request.
However, the counsel to the 4th and 5th defendants,  Adeolu Salako persuaded the court for an adjournment that was granted.
Salako who appeared for the first time in the trial informed the court that he had just been engaged and needed time to study the charges against his clients.
Justice Olajuwon agreed with the counsel to shift the trial till another date in the interest of fair hearing.

The trial was subsequently shifted till March 12 to enable the new lawyer study the charges and for the IG to open his case against the defendants.
All the defendants were ordered to be returned to Kuje Prison in Abuja to continue their remand having been denied bail due to the nature of charges against them and flaws in their applications for bail.
The IGP had on January 25 slammed terrorism charges on the five Port Harcourt-based men for allegedly invading, vandalizing and burning down Rivers State House of Assembly last year.

They were alleged to have committed the alleged terrorism offences during the wake of political upheaval that rocked Port Harcourt in October last year.
In the charges against them marked FHC/ABJ/CR/25/2024, police alleged that apart from burning down the State House of Assembly, some of them were said to have killed a Superintendent of Police, (SP) Bako Agbashim and five police informants at Ahoada community of the state.

The police informants said to have been killed by the defendants are Charles Osu, Ogbonna Eja, Idaowuka Felix, Paul Victor Chibuogu and Saturday Edi.
They were also accused of using various cult groups, namely- Supreme Viking Confraternity, Degbam, Iceland and Greenland to unleash mayhem on the people of the state and their commercial activities.

Specifically, they are alleged to have on October 29, 2023 at Moscow Road in Port Harcourt conspired to commit acts of terrorism by willful destruction of public properties by invading, attacking, destroying and burning of the Rivers State House of Assembly, an offence punishable under section 26 of the Terrorism Prevention and Prohibition Act, 2022.

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