- Drama as suspects’ protest delays ruling
There was a mild drama yesterday at an Ekiti State High Court sitting in Ado-Ekiti.
Seven persons accused of complicity in the killing of a former National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) Chairman, Omolafe Aderiye, protested the prosecution’s bid for adjournment.
A letter from prosecution counsel, Ahmed Tafa, calling for a fresh adjournment, sparked an outrage from suspects, their families and supporters.
The Seven accused standing trial for the alleged murder are: Adebayo Aderiye (first), Adeniyi Adedipe (second), Sola Durodola (third), Ajayi Kayode (fourth), Oso Farotimi (fifth), Sola Adenijo (sixth) and Rotimi Olanbiwonnu (seventh).
Lawyers to the defendants – Biodun Fasakin (1st-4th); Lekan Olatawura (fifth and seventh) and Ibrahim Olanrewaju (sixth) – opposed Tafa’s request for bail and prayed the court to discountenance it.
Fasakin cited the Supreme Court case of PCN v Etim 13 NWLR Part 1581, Page 1 at pages 41 and 42.
The courtroom drama started as the the judge, Justice Lekan Ogunmoye, rose to write the ruling in his chambers.
The accused wailed, condemning what they called the prosecution’s ploy to keep them in custody after failing to establish their complicity in the alleged murder.
Adedipe said: “We have spent one-and-a-half years at the Appeal Court and complainants have abandoned the case. Why are they keeping us behind bars for when they have failed to prove their case?”
Durodola said: “Our children are suffering. This is great injustice which higher judicial authorities should investigate. This is our third year in custody, yet the prosecution is still holding the court to ransom.”
Adenijo said: “Is it proper for the state government to determine what happens in court?”
Olanbiwonnu said: “Are we not entitled to bail? If they have found anything against us, let them release us on bail.”
As Justice Ogunmoye began writing his ruling, the noise from the accused, their families and associates enveloped the courtroom.
Justice Ogunmoye rejected the prosecution’s request for adjournment on the grounds that the application was not properly filed and paid for at the court’s registry.
He added: “It has been held by the Supreme Court that an application must be properly filed before having the force of law. Most adjournments have been at the instance of the prosecution.
“This application is hereby discountenanced and defendants should proceed with their defence.”
Aderiye (aka Ojugo) was the first to mount the witness box after the ruling was delivered.
He denied complicity in the killing of the former NURTW chief who he described as his cousin.
The accused, who is a former state chairman of the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), told the court that he did not conspire with his co-defendants to kill Omolafe.
Ojugo said he travelled to Igbemo-Ekiti for the town’s New Yam Festival on the day Omolafe was killed and did not return to his office at Ajibade Park in Ado-Ekiti till 5.30 pm.
According to him, he learnt of Omolafe’s killing at 7.30 pm through some commercial motorcyclists and he ordered his subordinates to leave the park for their homes.
Ojugo said his house was razed by suspected hoodlums same day.
He tendered the pictures of the burnt house, which were marked and admitted as exhibits “ID A-H.”
The accused also told the court that Olanbiwonnu, who was RTEAN chairman in Southwest, was in Abuja on the day Omolafe was killed.
Ojugo added that he only met Adenijo and Durodola in custody.
Justice Ogunmoye adjourned the matter till October 25 for prosecution to cross-examine the witness.