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Inside Okah’s trial room

Posted by From MURPHY GANAGANA, Abuja on 2008/07/19 | Views: 3054 |

Inside Okah’s trial room


Justice Stephen Adah of the Federal High Court 2, sitting in Jos, the Plateau State capital, may have under-estimated the Herculean task ahead of him when he accepted to preside over the secret trial of Henry Okah, leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), who is facing charges of treason and sundry criminal offences.

•Co-accused released unconditionally

Justice Stephen Adah of the Federal High Court 2, sitting in Jos, the Plateau State capital, may have under-estimated the Herculean task ahead of him when he accepted to preside over the secret trial of Henry Okah, leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), who is facing charges of treason and sundry criminal offences.

The reality, however, may have dawned on him a few minutes after count one of the amended 80 charges were recently read to Okah, who, after pleading not guilty to the first charge, bluntly refused to enter plea for the others.

“I’ll not say anything again. I’ll not talk throughout the duration of this trial,” he reportedly thundered.

Saturday Sun gathered that Okah reportedly lashed out at the judge, calling him names. This had caused the judge to stand down the case for three minutes. He reportedly retired to his chambers to allow tempers calm down.
When the judge returned to continue proceedings, it was gathered, Okah, who hails from Amassoma in Bayelsa State, maintained his position and refused to enter a plea for the other charges, compelling the judge to record a plea of not guilty for him.

Okah’s grouse, Saturday Sun gathered, was that the judge dismissed a motion for an open trial filed by his counsel, Mr. Femi Falana as well refused an application for his bail. He had filed an appeal against the ruling.

It was gathered that a former governor of Bayelsa State (name withheld) and one of the leaders of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force (NDPVF) (name withheld) were charged along with Okah, in some of the alleged offences. Their names have, however, been dropped for undisclosed reasons.
Also, Ebikabowei, the only suspect arraigned alongside Okah, has been released unconditionally. He regained freedom in a dramatic manner when the charges against him were struck out on the first day of proceedings.

Top security sources proffered two major reasons for Okah’s secret trial. First, according to them, are the damning revelations that emerged during the period of his interrogation, linking several security goons, top politicians and oil magnets to sleazy arms deals. The second is to ensure he is adequately protected from attacks by some of the people he had implicated, most of who are described as powerful and dangerous.

“I am sure he has opened a can of worms, and we know that some powerful forces may be after him. We do not want him killed, we have to ensure that he is adequately protected,” a top security source explained.

As part of the security measures, Okah’s detention centre has remained a guarded secret. However, Saturday Sun gathered that even as a captive, he lives like a king, pampered and treated with respect by the security-men. Whenever he is to appear in court for the trial, he puts on a bullet proof vest as a protective measure against gunshots, just as the horde of heavily armed military, State Security Service (SSS) operatives and mobile policemen escorting him in a long convoy.

It’s usually not a pleasant experience for residents and staff of the various government ministries and other agencies within the Club Road, in Jos, where the Federal High Court trying Okah is located. As early as 4.pm on the eve of any trial day, plain-cloth and uniformed security operatives take over the area and adjoining streets, with a warning to staffers of the ministries as well as private businesses to close shop on the date of the trial.

Worst hit is a new generation bank on Club Road, which shares a common boundary with the court. The bank’s premises are completely sealed up whenever Okah’s trial is being held. Also, not even personnel of the Federal High Court are allowed access into the courtroom when Okah is in the dock, just as all other cases slated for the day are adjourned and notices given to parties early enough to avoid a chaotic situation.

For the South Africa-based wife of the embattled MEND leader, it has been a traumatic experience since her hubby was picked up in Angola. She had hoped and prayed that some day, when his trial commenced, she would have the opportunity to hug and kiss her heartthrob, at least within the court premises. But all that has turned out to be a misplaced optimism.

The closest she has been to her husband is hanging outside the gates of the Federal High Court, Jos, where she managed to wave and smile at him while being led in or out of the courtroom.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.