The alleged accomplices that alleged Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West), in the alleged offences of criminal conspiracy, illegal possession of firearms and arms dealing, on Monday, at the commencement of the case, declared the charges as false.
Kabiru Seidu aka Osama, 31, aka and Nuhu Salihu aka Small, 25, aka who along with the federal lawmaker appeared before the Kogi State Senior Magistrate Court, Lokoja, pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The alleged offences according the lead prosecution counsel, Alex Izinyon (SAN), are contrary to section 97(1) and the Penal Code and section 27(1)(a) (1) of the Firearms Act CAP P28, Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004.
It would be recalled that the Kogi State High Court presided over by the Chief Judge, Justice Nasir Ajanah had earlier granted Melaye bail, chiefly on medical grounds.
Iziyon said that the status of first and second defendants remained same in police custody as ordered by the Senior Magistrate Court, on May 3, noting that their pleas were not taken on arraignment.
He submitted that the court had jurisdiction to try the case and should therefore go ahead to take their pleas.
When the charges, seven in all were read afresh to the accused, they pleaded not guilty.
The prosecution thereafter applied for the leave of the court to have their depositions of his witnesses forwarded to the defense.
The deponents, he urged, would then attend the court to adopt the depositions and be cross examined.
Holding brief for Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), lead counsel to the 3rd defendant (Melaye), Yemi Mohammed, objected to the application saying that the case being a criminal one require that witnesses give their testimonies in the open court.
He said the front loading system the prosecution was urging the court to adopt amounted to a short cut, and would be prejudicial to his client and reduce the chances of the public getting to know the truth.
According to him: “It amounts to closure of the trial by about 50 percent. Justice is a three way traffic – the prosecutor, the accused and the society and that is why trials are done in the open court”.
In his ruling, the Senior Magistrate, Mr. Sulyman Abdullah said he would “wholeheartedly” want trials in his court to be concluded speedily but that he would have to look at the rules of the court.
His words, “Where their are no such rules, I harken to look at the provisions of section 479(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Kogi State.
“This is a case that this court will appreciate that everyone put what they have on the table. I am not comfortable with sworn depositions replacing oral testimonies of witnesses.
“The application of the prosecution is refused and I want this trial to be concluded in the normal ways trials are done and will be ready to take evidence day-to-day if need be”.
The case was adjourned to July 26, for commencement of hearing.
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A Report Of The Judgement Of The 16 Divisions Of The Court Of Appeal In Nigeria