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Fubara’s loyalists can face terrorism trial, says court

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A Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday dismissed a preliminary objection challenging the competence of the Inspector General of Police to prosecute them on terrorism-related offences.

The defendants: Chime Eguma Ezebalike, Prince Lukman Oladele, Kenneth Goodluck Kpasa, Osiga Donald, and Ochueja Thankgod, who are loyalists of the Rivers State Governor, Simialayi Fubara, are standing trial on terrorism-related charges and alleged murder.

The IGP had instituted the charges against them following their alleged role in the bombing of the Rivers State House of Assembly in October 2023.

When the charges were read to the defendants, they all pleaded not guilty.

In a preliminary objection filed through their counsel, the defendants urged the court to stop the trial of the terrorism-related offence preferred against them as only the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice could try them on such an offence.

Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon, in a ruling on their preliminary objections on Friday, held that the defendants were wrong in their claims that only the AGF could put them on trial.

Justice Olajuwon said that the law especially sections 3, 63, and 74 of the Terrorism Prevention Act were clear to the effect that while the AGF had constitutional power to strengthen the terrorism prevention law, the same sections did not confer the exclusive rights to prosecute on the AGF.

The judge said that while section 5 of the Terrorism Prevention Act conferred the responsibility of gathering intelligence and investigation on police, the same section donated rights to police to initiate criminal charges in a competent court of jurisdiction.

Specifically, Justice Olajuwon held that while the AGF under section 174 of the 1999 Constitution could lawfully take over, continue, or terminate any initiated criminal charges, such right did not make trial an exclusive right of the AGF.

“From the cursory look at all the authorities cited by lawyers for and against the IGP rights to initiate the instant criminal proceedings, one thing is clear and clearly too, that police can rightly initiate criminal charges, including terrorism charges,” the judge said.

The Judge said that the preliminary objections to the trial by the defendants were incompetent and lacking in merit.

Olajuwon subsequently dismissed their objections.

After the ruling, the counsel for the first and second defendants, Lukman Fagbemi, SAN, urged the court to grant bail to his clients.

But the counsel for the prosecution, Simon Lough (SAN) opposed the application.

Justice Olajuwon, however, fixed Monday, February 5 for ruling on their respective bail applications.

Justice Olajuwon ordered that the five defendants be returned to Kuje Prison in Abuja pending the decision of the Court to allow them on bail or not.

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