Law News
I’m now ready for trial, Charles Okah tells court

The alleged mastermind of the 2010 Independence Day bombing, Charles Okah, on Thursday told a Federal High Court in Abuja that he was now ready to face trial which has been delayed at his instance for over four years.

For four years, the prosecution has been unable to open its case to prove the terrorism charges preferred against both Okah and his co-accused, Obi Nwabueze, due to series of interlocutory applications the defence had filed.

“I am medically and physically and psychologically ready for the trial,” Okah said after the presiding judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, granted his request to speak after the matter was adjourned ‎till April 23.

‎Okah, who for the first time in his recent court appearances, walked into the court without any assistance or use of wheel chair, said he had suffered a lot of medical and psychological conditions due to ill treatment he had been subjected to in the prison.

“For four years we have been subjected to gross violation of our fundamental human rights,” he added.

‎He stood in the dock along with his co-accused, Obi Nwabueze‎, looking more refreshed than his previous court appearances‎.

Okah said the condition in the prison and the treatment he was being subjected to in the prison had overtime improved due to intervention of the International Red Cross Society and the British High Commission.

He said, “Contrary to the impression that the prosecution created for the court ‎to believe, I have not tried to delayed the trial.

“I want the trial to go on so that this evidence they have been talking about and the witnesses they said they have can be brought to court.

“I wanted them to come to court. I will want to know if they have been intimidated or bribed‎; I want to know if they are witnesses of truth.”

‎”Nobody is more desperate for the trial to go on more than those,” he added.

But the lead prosecuting counsel, Dr. Alex Izinyon (SAN), in a dismissive reaction, said (Okah) could speak ‎so eloquently as he did, yet he had delayed the matter for years.

‎The matter which started in December 2010 had suffered series of adjournments with a bulk of the court sessions dedicated to hearing of Okah’s interlocutory applications relating to his mental fitness to stand trial.

The most recent in the causes of the over four years delay was ‎the sacking of his lawyer, Mr. Festus Keyamo, whose law firm, had been defending him since the inception of the case.

After Okah dispensed with Keyamo’s law firm in October 2010, th‎e court on December 4, 2014 ordered the Federal Government-owned Legal Aid Council to assign lawyer to Okah and his co-accused when the issue of non-availability of lawyers to defend them was constituting a further delay in the case.

In compliance with the court’s order, Mr. A.S Abula‎ of the Legal Aid Council appeared in court on Thursday and sought time to study the record of proceedings and other necessary documents relating to the case for adequate preparation for the defence.

The judge granted the request, adding that despite the delay which the case had suffered, ‎”in a matter such as this the court should make haste slowly‎.”

‎Two others were initially charged along with Okah and Nwabueze. One of them who chose to have his case tried separately was decided on January 2, 2013, while the other person died in custody.

Charles Okah, a brother to a former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, Henry Okah, is being tried alongside Obi Nwabueze for the bomb attack near the Eagle Square in Abuja.

Henry had been tried and is already serving jail terms in South Africa for the attack in which about 12 persons were said to have died.

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