From Joseph Amedu, Lokoja
The alleged gunrunning offence leveled against embattled Senator Dino Melaye before a Senior Magistrate Court in Lokoja has suffered a major setback as accused persons who allegedly implicated senator Dino Melaye in the alleged offences of criminal conspiracy, illegal possession of firearms and illegal arms dealing have declared the offences as false.
Kabiru Seidu, 31, aka “Osama” and Nuhu Salihu, 25, aka “Small” who appeared before Kogi Senior Magistrate Court, Lokoja on Monday along with the senator declared that the allegations were false and they were not guilty when their pleas were taken.
The alleged offences according the prosecution led by Dr Alex Izinyon (SAN), are contrary to section 97(1) and the Penalty Code and section 27(1)(a) (1) of the firearms Act CAP P28, laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004.
Izinyon had opened his case with an update on the saying that the state High Court presided over by the Chief Judge, Justice Nasir Ajanah had released the Senator on bail.
He said that the status of first and second defendants remained same in police custody as ordered by the magistrate court on May 3.
Izinyon reminded the court that the pleas of the defendants were not taken on arraignment as he submitted that the court jurisdiction to try the case and should therefore go ahead to take their pleas.
When the charges were read afresh to the defendants, Melaye as well as Seidu and Salihu, 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 urged, would then attend the court to adopt the depositions and have their depositions cross examined.
Mr Yemi Mohammed, holding brief for Chief Mike Ozekhome, lead counsel for the 3rd defendant (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 short cut 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 he 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 everyone 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 and will be ready to take evidence day-to-day if need be”, he said.
Abdullah therefore adjourned to July 26, for commencement of hearing.