A Federal High Court in Abuja has ruled that the alleged mastermind of the October 1, 2010 Independence Day bombing in Abuja, Mr. Charles Okah, has a case to answer in the terrorism criminal charge brought against him and one other by the federal government.
The court held that Okah and other defendants have been linked with the heinous crime by the witnesses called by the federal government to establish the commission of the crime.
The no case submission made by Okah and another defendant in which they pleaded with Justice Gabriel Kolawole to free them from the charge on the ground that there is no sufficient evidence against them on the alleged defence was dismissed by the court for lacking merit.
The Court consequently ordered Okah and Obi Nwabueze, to open their defence in the terrorism charges filed against them .
Okah, Nwabueze, Edmund Ebiware and Tiemkemfa Francis-Osvwo (aka General Gbokos) were first arraigned before the court on December 7, 2010 over their alleged involvement in the blast, which left about 12 people dead and several others injured.
Francis-Osvwo died later in prison custody, while Ebiware, who had his trial conducted separately, is serving life sentence upon his conviction in 2013, leaving Okah and Nwabueze to await trial.
Delivering his ruling yesterday in a no-case-submission filed by the defendants, Justice Kolawole held that the prosecution counsel, Dr. Alex Iziyon, SAN, had proved a prima facie case linking Okah and Nwabueze with the alleged offence.
In dismissing the submissions made by Okah’s lawyer, Mr. Emeka Okoroafor, and Oghenovo Otemu, who is representing Nwabueze, the court said, “The prosecution has made out prima facie case through testimonies of witnesses which linked the defendants with the charges, which requires them to offer explanation.”
The court further held that contrary to the submissions of the defendants, the evidence given by the 17 witnesses called up by the prosecution has not been discredited nor fractured to warrant upholding the no-case-submission.
“At this stage of proceeding, court is not required to add probative value to the exhibits or form opinion on evidence adduced by witnesses but only required to consider whether the prosecution has made out prima facie case linking the defendants with the charge.
“It is my view, that the testimonies of pw2, pw6, pw11, pw15, pw4, among others have adduced prima facie case to warrant Okah and Nwabueze to enter defence.
Consequently, “Respective no case submissions made by the defendants are not well founded; defendants are required to enter defence to counts affecting them based on the testimonies of the 17 prosecution witnesses, the court held.
The court fixed July 5 and 6, 2017 for the defendants to open their defence.
It will be recalled that the defendants were charged on December 6, 2010 on amended eight count charges bothering on terrorism.
After several interlocutory applications, on 23rd April 2015, trial began with the prosecution counsel calling 17 witnesses.
In urging court to uphold their no case submissions, the defendants cited overwhelming contradictions in evidence of the prosecution witnesses, insisting that there was no credible evidence to prove the allegation against them.
They argued that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses were badly discredited that no court can rely on them to adjudicate on an issue.
Furthermore, the defendants contended that by virtue of provisions of Section 35(1) of the Evidence Act, the burden of proof lies on the prosecution to discharge.
They had posited through their counsel that the presumption of innocence is sacrosanct until the prosecution places substantial evidence to link them up with the charge.
But in his complainant respondent address, Izinyon prayed the court to dismiss the no-case submission argued “that the main issue at this stage is to know determine whether the prosecution has made out prima facie case to require defendants to offer some explanation in relation to the charges preferred against them by the Federal Government.”
He stated that counts 1 to 8 relate to Section 15(1)(2) of EFCC Act, which borders on receiving of funds and using same to finance act of terrorism.
“On 13th September 2010, evidence of Zenith bank staff showing the withdrawal of N2m by Okah for Nwabueze; the testimony of Pw2, who did the construction of the compartment on the Mazda car parked in Okah’s residence; evidence of Pw15, the person who Okah sent a consignment from Lagos to Port Harcourt through ABC transport, etc all linked the defendants to the alleged offence.
“The provisions of Section 35(1) of Evidence Act is grossly inapplicable at this stage. Burden of proof required at this stage is to show prima facie case.
“The fact that exhibits were recovered after 23 days of the bomb blast cannot be said that they have nothing to do with the bomb blast, Izinyon said.
According to him, “Nwabueze was the chief coordinator of Warri blast on 15 March 2010 and October 1st blast in Abuja as shown in his extra judicial statement.
“A person in possession of Timers knows exactly what it is used for; that it is used for making explosives.
“Therefore, they have some explanation to make in view of these testimonies and exhibits, which they can only make when they open up their defence, the prosecution said.