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Trial of Suspected Kidnappers of Nigerian Lawyer, Ozekhome, Others Stalled Over Absence Of Accused Person In Court

The suspects are facing 13 counts bordering on kidnapping and terrorism and have been in custody since 2013 with poor medical care and limited access to their families.

The trial of four suspected abductors of the constitutional lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) was on Tuesday stalled at the Federal High Court, Abuja due to the absence of one of the suspects who has spent nine years in custody.

The suspects are facing 13 counts bordering on kidnapping and terrorism and have been in custody since 2013 with poor medical care and limited access to their families.


They were also accused of kidnapping Delta State Commissioner for Higher Education, Prof Hope Eghagha, Attanasius Ugbme and his friend, Emmanuel Maka Omorogbe, and killing five policemen and two prison officials.

The matter which was scheduled for the continuation of trial on Tuesday before Justice Binta Nyako was stalled due to the absence of one of the suspects, Momoh Haruna, who was said to be missing after the attack on Kuje Correctional Centre by terrorists on July 5 where over hundreds of inmates were released.


The four suspects, Kelvin Oniarah Eziegbe, Frank Azuekor, Michael Omonigho and Momoh Haruna have been refused bail filed on their behalf by their lawyer, Bala I. Dakum.


Kelvin and Frank had been held at the facility of the Department of State Service (DSS) in Aso Drive, Abuja while Micheal and Momoh were being held at Kuje Correctional Centre, Abuja.


Their lawyer, Bala, who spoke to SaharaReporters noted that by the provisions of Section 532 of ( 4 ) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 which state that where the defendant fails to attend court without reasonable explanation, the court shall continue with the trial in his absence and convict unless the court sees reasons otherwise, provided that proceedings in the absence of the defendant shall take place after two adjournments or as the court may deem fit.


Though the trial and conviction can proceed in the absence of a defendant who was issued a notice but absconded without reasonable explanation, the court cannot pronounce a sentence in the absence of a Defendant.


He added that they would urge the court to exercise its discretion as stipulated in the ACJA to proceed on the next adjourned date, 24th November 2022; if the said Momoh is not in court.


On the refusal by the court to admit the suspects to bail, the defence counsel said he has filed another bail application which is pending before the court.


The prosecution was expected to call its last witness, Mike Ozekhome (SAN) who is the alleged victim of kidnap today (Tuesday) and close their case after the evidence.


The Defence counsel said he had appealed for a short date considering the age of the matter but it was gathered that the Prosecution said the witness Mike Ozekhome had notified the court that he would not be available until November 24, 2022.


After the lawyers waited for hours for the arrival of the judge, the court registrar told both parties in the case that the matter would be adjourned to November 24, 2022.


The case which started in 2014 has witnessed several delays and adjournments.


The suspects were alleged to have compelled Ozekhome to pay N40 million (in US dollars). Eghagha paid N7 million, Ugbome paid N20 million, and Omorogbe paid N3.5 million.


The prosecution gave the names of the policemen allegedly killed during the abduction of Ozekhome and Eghagha as Paul Sunday Ajaka, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP); Sunday Ewanshiha (Inspector); Michael Akpada (Inspector); Bakary Kong (Inspector) and Innocent Odoh (Sergeant).



The prison officials allegedly killed by the accused persons are Lawrence Edore (Inspector) and Oyibo Okoye, Senior Prison Assistant (SPA).


But the accused pleaded not guilty.


The case was first assigned to Justice Adeniyi Ademola who took about four prosecution witnesses before he was arrested by the State Security Service (SSS), also known as the Department of State Services (DSS). He was suspended and while he was facing trial, the case was assigned to Justice Babatunde Quadri.

However, before Justice Babatunde Quadri could make any progress, Justice Ademola was reinstated and he took over the case but later resigned from the office in a controversial manner after he was accused of corruption by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The case file was later reassigned to Justice Binta Nyako.


Meanwhile the father of Kelvin, Mr. Duke Oniarah expressed disappointment over the delay in the case and called on the Nigerian government to grant his son bail.


He said it had been very difficult to have access to his son for the past nine years.