5 February 2013

Nigeria: Cynthia's Murder - Why Court Dismissed Suspect's Application for Bail, Indefinite Suspension of Trial

Photo: Leadership
Cynthia Osokogu.

A request by one of the suspected killers of Cynthia Osokogu to suspend his trial indefinitely was struck out by a Lagos High Court.

Olisaeloka Ezike, Tuesday, urged the court to suspend his arraignment pending when he will have a fair hearing.

Mr. Olisaeloka, alongside Okwumo Nwabufor, Osita Orji, and Nonso Ezike are accused of murdering Ms. Osokogu at a hotel in Festac Town, Lagos, in July 2012.

Negative press

In asking for an indefinite suspension of his trial, the accused said that negative media reports and public opinion would prejudice his trial.

The suspect also requested to be freed on bail until the time he would be able to get a fair hearing.

"Several media reports have created an atmosphere of prejudice," said Olukayode Dada, Mr. Olisaeloka's lawyer.

Mr. Dada stated that his client, being a final year student of Accounting at the Anambra State University, would not jump bail.

In his response, Ade Ipaye, the lead prosecution lawyer, urged the court to dismiss the suspect's requests since they are not statement of facts and "a mere opinion."

"I wish to observe, first, that what the applicant seeks is an order of the court to suspend indefinitely the arraignment and trial of the second defendant (Olisaeloka)," said Mr. Ipaye, Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice.

Mr. Ipaye said that he "strongly opposed" the application because the suspect cannot be tried "at his own leisure."

"Fair hearing and reasonable time referred to in the constitution is not by the public or by the press, but by the court or tribunal established by law," Mr. Ipaye said.

"The constitution does not require the impartiality of the press and general public in respect of a criminal trial, but rather it seeks specifically for the independence and impartiality of the courts.

"The public cannot convict or execute the defendant, neither the press, and there are ample remedies made available to anyone who feels that they have been maligned to make a case under the law of libel," he added.

'Lacks merit'

In dismissing the application, Olabisi Akinlade, the judge, said that it lacked merit as the constitution applies only to courts and tribunals and not the press.

According to Mrs. Akinlade, the defendant's request to suspend the matter indefinitely goes against constitutional stipulations.

"Emphasis (in the constitution) is fair hearing within a reasonable time. The matter must not be allowed to drag aimlessly to jeopardize the defendant's fundamental rights," Mrs. Akinlade said.

The judge also dismissed Mr. Olisaeloka's application for bail adding that he did not show any "special evidence" that would require him to be freed on bail.

"The application lacks merit and is hereby dismissed."

Mrs. Akinlade fixed the arraignment of the suspects, and possible trial, for February 8.

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