The Federal Government, on Tuesday, asked Justice Gabriel Kolawole of a Federal High Court in Abuja to put the alleged mastermind of 2010 Independence Day bombings, Charles Okah, under chains. Okah, who is standing trial on charges of terrorism alongside Obi Nwabueze, had on October 6, caused a commotion at the court as he attempted to end his life by attempting to jump down through the window of a Federal High Court in Abuja, located on the third floor of the court’s complex.
When the matter came up, on Tuesday, the Federal Government, through its counsel, Dr. Alex Iziyon (SAN), made an oral application before the court requesting that Okah be chained in view of what transpired during the court’s proceedings of October 6. In making his application, Iziyon referred the court to Section 269 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, and urged the court to grant the application that Okah, who is the first defendant in the matter, be put under fetters while the trial is in progress.
“Where a defendant or an accused person misbehaves or misconduct in the course of proceedings, such a person can be placed under fetters. I urge the court to take judicial notice of the proceedings of October 6 and grant our request,” Iziyon told the court. In his response, Okah’s counsel, Mr. Samuel Ozidiri (SAN), apologised on behalf of his client and urged the court to discountenance the prosecution counsel’s request. He argued that the application was premature and not worthy of any sympathetic consideration, adding that the prosecution failed to put the defence on notice before coming up with such an application.
Delivering a bench ruling on the application, Justice Kolawole said granting the prosecution’s request might turn out to be the greatest distraction in the suit. He said: “By the provisions of Section 6 subsection 6 paragraph 8 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, this court, as one of the superior courts of record created by the constitution, is imbued with discretionary jurisdiction which can be exercised without the need for an application from the prosecution once it is of the view that the conduct of the first defendant (Okah)) is such that it may impede a smooth administration of proceedings on the charge of which the defendants are standing trial. “It is a discretion which the court will exercise whenever the occasion demands, but must be exercised with caution, otherwise the court’s purpose and attention will be needlessly distracted by incidents such as we have witnessed on Oct 6.
“I have decided to pull back the court’s exercise of discretionary jurisdiction on the apologies given by both defence counsel, but the powers to make any of the orders prescribed in Section 269 and 71 of the ACJ Act are exercisable once the court forms the view that the defendants or the first defendant needs to be restrained so that the proceedings of their trial can no longer be distracted by what I would regard as a ‘side show’ meant to draw public attention perhaps, of sympathy on what has been going on since 6th of December, 2010, when the charge in this case was filed by the Attorney General of the Federation against the defendant.
“First defendant may see this as perhaps the last opportunity not to test the resolve of this court to exercise such powers that are conferred on it by both the constitution the ACJ Act.” He adjourned the suit till October 27 for continuation of trial.