Law News
Charles Okah attempts suicide in court

A suspected mastermind of the October 1, 2010 bombing in Abuja, Charles Okah, caused a row, by attempting to commit suicide during Tuesday’s proceedings in his trial before a Federal High Court in Abuja.

Okah, after ending an emotion-filled comment about his protracted trial during the court session, grabbed a nearby chair with which he made repeated but futile attempts to break a window in order to create an opening through which he could jump down from the courtroom located on the third floor of the five-storey building.

His frustration on Tuesday was ignited by his lawyer’s absence in court.

Defence lawyers – Mr. Samuel Zibiri and O.O. Otemu – were provided by the Federal Government-owned Legal Aid Council, after Okah in October last year, dispensed with the services of a Lagos lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, whose law firm had defended him since the case started in 2010.

Okah, who is standing trial along with Obi Nwabueze for terrorism charges arising from the October 1, 2010 bombing incident, sought the permission of the trial judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, to speak after it was discovered that his lawyer was not in court.

After the judge granted him permission to speak from the dock, Okah in an emotional outburst expressed frustration about his long incarceration and the attendant deprivation of the opportunity to cater for his family.

Okah said, “I have been incarcerated for about five years now, and I have a family to cater for.

“My children would grow up without feeling the warmth of their father. I’m tired of this endless trial.”

It took the intervention of lawyers and some other persons who were in the courtroom for their respective cases to stop his attempt to commit suicide after his emotion-laden speech.

The chair with which he attempted to break the window was collected from him after he was overpowered and Justice Kolawole promptly adjourned the case till October 20.

The lead prosecuting counsel, Dr. Alex Izinyon (SAN) , was in court during the Tuesday’s dramatic event.

Okah, is a brother to former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, Henry Okah, who is already serving jail terms in South Africa for the bombing near the Eagle Square, Abuja, on October 1, 2010 in which about 12 persons were said to have died.

The prosecution had a major breakthrough in the case when it called its first witness on April 23, 2015.

For over four years, Okah and his legal team deployed a flurried interlocutory applications which hindered progress in the case.

At the opening of his case, Izinyon called the first prosecution witness, Mr. John Afolabi, who is an exhibit keeper at the Department of State Services, and through whom 14 exhibits were tendered and admitted by the court as exhibits on Tuesday.

The witness said during his evidence-in-chief that the items were retrieved by DSS investigators at “scenes of investigation” into the bombing incident.

The first exhibit admitted by the trial judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, was a list of items which Afolabi said were retrieved during the investigation conducted into the bombing by the DSS.

Other exhibits were the 13 items contained in the list. The list comprised an old Mazda 626 car with registration number LAGOS BY 318 FKJ, military wear and camping materials.

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