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Accused persons recant allegations against Melaye on firearms possession

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Senator Dino Melaye flanked PDP senators Eyinnaya Abaribe (L) senator Ben Murray Bruce (R)

Two accused persons, who allegedly named Senator Dino Melaye as sponsor in alleged offences of criminal conspiracy, illegal possession of fire-arms and transfer of fire-arms, have denied all the allegations.

The three accused persons, Seidu, 31, a.k.a. “Osama”, Nuhu Salihu, 25, a.k.a. “Small” and Senator Melaye were earlier arraigned in court to answer a seven-count charge that bordered on illegal possession of fire-arms, criminal conspiracy and illegal transfer of fire-arms, among others.

When their pleas were taken, the accused persons, who appeared before Kogi Senior Magistrate’s Court, Lokoja, yesterday, along with the senator, said the allegations were false and they were not guilty.

The alleged offences, according the prosecution counsel led by Dr. Alex Izinyon (SAN), are contrary to Section 97 (1) of the Penalty Code and Section 27 (1)(a) (1) of the Fire-arms Act Cap P28, Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004.

Izinyon had opened his case with an update that the state High Court, presided over by the Chief Judge, Justice Nasir Ajanah, had released the senator on bail.

He said the status of the first and second defendants remained same in police custody as ordered by the magistrate’s court on May 3.

The prosecution counsel reminded the court that the pleas of the defendants were not taken on arraignment as he submitted that the court has jurisdiction to try the case and should therefore go ahead to take their pleas.

When the charges were read afresh to the defendants, Melaye, Seidu and Salihu, they pleaded not guilty as they said the seven charges were all false.

After the pleas were taken and the defendants pleaded not guilty, Izinyon applied for the leave of the court to have prosecuting witnesses to have their depositions forwarded to the defence.

The deponents, he said, would then attend the court to adopt the depositions and have them cross-examined.

But counsel to the third defendant, Mr. Yemi Mohammed Esq., who was holding brief for Chief Mike Ozekhome, the lead counsel for Melaye, objected to the application, saying that the case was a criminal one in which witnesses must give their testimonies in the open court.

Mohammed said the front-loading system, the prosecution was urging the court to adopt, amounted to a shortcut that would be prejudicial to his client and reduce the chances of the public getting to know the truth.

“It amounts to closure of the trial by about 50 per cent. Justice is a three way traffic – the prosecutor, the accused and the society and that is why trials are done in the open court”, he said.

In his ruling, the Senior Magistrate, Mr. Sulyman Abdullah, said he would “wholeheartedly” want trials in his court to be concluded speedily but would have to look at the rules of the court.

“Where they are no such rules, I harken to look at the provisions of Section 479 (4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Kogi State.

“This is a case that this court will appreciate that all put what they have on the table. I am not comfortable with sworn depositions replacing oral testimonies of witnesses.

“The application of the prosecution is refused and I want this trial to be concluded in the normal ways trials are done,” he said.

He, therefore, adjourned commencement of the hearing to July 26, 2018.


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