A Federal High Court in Abuja has dismissed an application seeking the dismissal of the terrorism charge brought against five supporters of Governor Siminalayi Fubara of Rivers State in relation to their alleged involvement in the last attack on the state House of Assembly complex.
The five are Chime Eguma Ezebalike, Prince Lukman Oladele, Kenneth Goodluck Kpasa, Osiga Donald and Ochueja Thankgod.
Justice Bolaji Olajuwon, in a ruling on Friday, held that the seven-count charge, marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/25/2024 was properly filed by the Inspector General of Police (IGP).
Justice Olajuwon upheld the argument by the lawyer to the IGP, Simon Lough (SAN) that the Nigeria Police Force (NGF) is empowered by the Terrorism Prevention and Prohibition Act (TPPA) 2022 to institute and prosecute terrorism offences.
The defendants had urged the court to dismiss the charge on the grounds that the police lacked the power to prosecute terrorism offences and that such power lies exclusively with the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) under the TPPA.
Justice Olajuwon held that by the provision of Section 5(4) of the TPPA, “law enforcement and security agencies are not only to investigate offences, as the defendants’ counsel had argued, their officers can also prosecute offences of terrorism, terrorist financing, etc.
“A cursory look at Section 74 of the Terrorism Act (TPPA) will make one to accept the submissions of the learned counsel to the first and second defendants that it is only the AGF.
“This is, however, not the case, as the Act itself has shown by asking law enforcement agencies to improve on the training of their officers that prosecute terrorism,” she said.
Relying on the provision of the Constitution, Justice Olajuwon added: “Since the institution and prosecution of criminal proceedings are not within the exclusive preserve of the AGF, the police (as authorities and persons as envisaged by Section 174 of the Constitution) can rightly institute criminal proceedings albeit terrorism as envisaged under the Terrorism Act.”
Lawyer to the first and second defendants (Ezebalike and Oladele), Lukman Fagbemi (SAN) had, while arguing the preliminary objection raised against the charge by his clients, contended that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case on the grounds that the charge was filed by the IGP.
Fagbemi noted that the offences contained in the charge are mostly terrorism related, which he argued, the IGP lacked the power to prosecute under the TPPA.
Faulting Fagbemi’s argument, Lough urged the court to dismiss the application for lacking in merit.
He added that besides sections 4 and 66 of the Police Acts that empower the IGP to institute and prosecute terrorism-related offences, Sections 5 and 99 of the TPPA also grant the police the powers to prosecute terrorism offences, which power the IGP is exercising in filing the current charge against the defendants.
After the ruling, Justice Olajuwon heard the bail applications filed for the first and second defendants by Fagbemi and another filed for the third defendant, Kpasa by his lawyer, Mohammed Ibrahim (SAN).
While Fagbemi and Ibrahim urged the court to grant their clients bail, Lough prayed the court to reject the bail applications.
Justice Olajuwon has scheduled a ruling for Monday, February 5.
Earlier, the judge equally dismissed a motion by Fubara’s Chief of Staff, Edison Ehie, in which he prayed the court to strike out the charge for want of jurisdiction.
Justice Olajuwon held, I’m a ruling, that Ehie’s motion was incompetent on the grounds that he was not a party to the charge.
The judge held that the mere fact that Ehie’s name was reflected on the body of the charge as being “at large” was of no moment.
She added that if indeed Ehie is not at large, as claimed by the prosecution, he should turn himself into the police or apply to the court to be joined as an interested party in the case before he can have the legal right to challenge the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case.
Justice Olajuwon further held that since Ehie had not been joined as a defendant, he lacked the legal standing to present such an application.
Ehie, who resigned as a member and factional speaker of the assembly to become the Chief of Staff, was implicated among the suspects charged by the IG for alleged terrorism and other offences related to the arson at the Rivers House of Assembly.
In the 7-count charge, the defendants were accused of terrorism offences by invading, vandalizing and burning down Rivers State House of Assembly during the wake of the political crisis that rocked Port Harcourt in October last year.
Besides allegedly burning down the State House of Assembly, they were also accused of killing a Superintendent of Police, (SP) Bako Agbashim and five police informants at Ahoada community of the state.
The police informants alleged to have been killed are Charles Osu, Ogbonna Eja, Idaowuka Felix, Paul Victor Chibuogu and Saturday Edi.
They were also accused of using various cult groups, namely- Supreme Viking Confraternity, Degbam, Iceland and Greenland to unleash mayhem on the people of the state and their commercial activities.
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