2 April 2014

Nigeria: Independence Day Bombings - Okah's Trial Stalled

Photo: Vanguard
Henry Okah in court (file photo).

Absence of prosecution counsel on Wednesday stalled proceedings at the Federal High Court, Abuja, in an application seeking to ascertain the psychiatric fitness of suspected terrorist, Charles Okah, to stand trial.

Mr. Okah and one Obi Nwabueze were charged with masterminding the October 1, 2010 twin bombing at the Eagle Square, Abuja. At least 8 people died from the bombings during the Independence Day celebrations.

At the resumed sitting on Wednesday, parties were informed by a court official that Alex Izinyon, the lead prosecuting counsel, had written the court requesting for adjournment.

The prosecutor was said to be attending to another case at the Court of Appeal, and in the said letter prayed the court for a stand-down or adjournment of the case.

Mr. Izinyon also allegedly wrote that the fresh medical report which the judge ordered to be conducted on Mr. Okah at the last sitting was not ready.

John Ainetor, Mr. Okah's counsel, said he was not opposed to the prosecution counsel's letter.

Justice Gabriel Kolawole, therefore, adjourned the case till May 12, and directed that there was no need for the accused to be brought to court on the adjourned date of the trial.

Mr. Kolawole had in a ruling in January ordered that a fresh medical examination be conducted on Mr. Okah within 15 days to confirm his mental state, after rejecting an initial one.

The ruling followed an observation raised by Mr. Ainetor who had argued that there were some inconsistencies contained in the report.

The initial report read in part that Okah suffers from "psychotic depression, fatigue disorder and auditory/visual hallucinations".

The said report, dated Jan. 9, was signed by a Senior Consultant Psychiatrist at the National Hospital, Ephraim Oluwanuga.

Mr. Iziyon had told the court that based on the initial report, Mr. Okah was fit to stand trial, and urged the court to go on with the trial, a position which Mr. Anietor objected to.

Mr. Kolawole had observed that the report contained some medical terms which he could hardly comprehend.

He then ordered that a fresh medical examination should be conducted at the National Hospital, Abuja, by two or three psychiatrists who must jointly sign the report. He further directed that the report should be written in common English language that could easily be understood by a layman, and be submitted to court three days to hearing date.

He also held that it was the position of the law that an accused person must be medically fit to stand trial.

Mr. Kolawole said although the court's rules required criminal cases be heard promptly, he would rather make haste slowly in the case.

Four persons, believed to be members of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, were in December 2011 arraigned over the bombings.

Henry Okah, leader of the group, was later convicted and sentenced to jail in South Africa.

One of them, Tiemkemfa Osvwo, aka Gen. Gbokos died later, while another, Edmund Ebiware, who was tried separately, was sentenced to life imprisonment.


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