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  • Terrorism trial: Court rejects Fubara loyalists’ bid to challenge jurisdiction orally

    The Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday rejected a bid by five loyalists of Rivers State Governor Sim Fubara to use an oral application to challenge the territorial jurisdiction of the court, which is prosecuting them for alleged terrorism.

    The five Fubara loyalists, charged with terrorism offences by Police, are Chime Eguma Ezebalike, Prince Lukman Oladele, Kenneth Goodluck Kpasa, Osiga Donald and Ochueja Thankgod.

    They had made an oral application to challenge the territorial jurisdiction of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court on the ground that the alleged offences were committed in Rivers State.

    However, the oral application was turned down by the court which insisted that, being a court of record, all applications and motions must be brought before it in writing as required by law.

    Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon rejected the oral application sought to be moved by counsel to the 1st and 2nd defendants, Lukman Fagbemi, SAN.

    At Thursday’s proceedings, the Inspector General of Police, IGP, through his lawyer, Simon Lough, SAN, had sought to kick-start the trial of the defendants by calling his witness when Fagbemi cut in and attempted to proceed with the oral application.

    Justice Olajuwon, who was taken aback by the mode, rejected the move and advised the lawyer to come formally with any motion or application.

    The Judge said that the senior lawyer should be diligent in the conduct of proceedings in relation to the case of his clients.

    Justice Olajuwon also turned down the request by the defendants to adjourn the case until their proposed application to challenge the territorial jurisdiction of the court is determined, one way or the other.

    The Judge held that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA 2015, did not permit granting of such requests.

    However, the counsel to the 4th and 5th defendants, Adeolu Salako, asked the court for an adjournment that was granted.

    Salako, who appeared for the first time in the trial, informed the court that he had just been engaged and needed time to study the charges against his clients.

    Justice Olajuwon agreed with the counsel to shift the trial till another date in the interest of fair hearing.

    The trial was subsequently shifted till March 12 to enable the new lawyer study the charges and for the IGP to open his case against the defendants.

    All the defendants were ordered to be returned to Kuje Prison in Abuja to continue their remand, having been denied bail due to the nature of charges against them and flaws in their applications for bail.

    The IGP had on January 25 slammed terrorism charges on the five Port Harcourt-based men for allegedly invading, vandalizing and burning down Rivers State House of Assembly last year.

    They were alleged to have committed the alleged terrorism offences in the wake of the political upheaval that rocked Port Harcourt in October last year following a face-off between Fubara and Minister of the Federal Capital Terrritory, Nyesom Wike.

    In the charges against them marked FHC/ABJ/CR/25/2024, the police alleged that apart from burning down the State House of Assembly, some of them were said to have killed a Superintendent of Police, (SP) Bako Agbashim and five police informants at Ahoada community of the state.

    The police informants said to have been killed by the defendants 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.

    Specifically, they were alleged to have, on October 29, 2023, at Moscow Road in Port Harcourt, conspired to commit acts of terrorism by wilful destruction of public properties by invading, attacking, destroying and burning of the Rivers State House of Assembly, an offence punishable under Section 26 of the Terrorism Prevention and Prohibition Act, 2022.

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