ELEWEOMO: SENATE LEADER, 3 OTHERS RELEASED, MURDER CHARGES STRUCK OUT
An Iyaganku Chief Magistrate, Mrs Shakirat Badru, yesterday in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, struck out the two-count charge of conspiracy and murder filed against the Senate Leader, Senator Teslim Folarin, and three others by the state Commissioner of Police and ordered their immediate release.
Magistrate Badru also struck out the remand order she slammed on them and directed that the police should not re-arrest them based on the struck out charges.
The striking out of the charges preferred against Folarin and his co-accused by the Chief Magistrate Badru, followed the withdrawal of the charges by the complainant, the state Commissioner of Police, who said 'it would enable further interrogation for the just determination of the allegation against the accused/respondents'.
Folarin, alongside Ramoni Jayeola Bankole, Olaide Raji and Raimi Ismaila, were ordered remanded at Agodi prison by Badru on January 4, 2011 after they were fingered in the gruesome murder of the factional leader of the proscribed National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in the state, Alhaji Lateef Salako (a.k.a Eleweomo).
Before they were brought to court yesterday at about 12.55 p.m. in a prison ambulance, the Police boss had, through the prosecutor, filed a Motion on Notice that there was an urgent need to abridge the adjournment date to enable the withdrawal of the case against the accused persons.
The application was accompanied by a seven-paragraph affidavit deposed to by the state Commissioner of Police.
'After Mr. Mathew Ojeh, the prosecuting counsel, moved the application, Chief Adeniyi Akintola (SAN), who led 12 other defence lawyers, did not object to the application to withdraw the case. He, however, urged the court to strike out the matter and order the immediate release of the accused persons from the prison 'since there was nothing to predicate their detention on.'
She then stood down the case for a couple of minutes to allow prison authorities to bring the accused to court.
Drama, however, ensued at the resumed sitting when the state Director of Public Prosecution, Mr. H. F. Sule, announced his appearance alongside four other lawyers for the prosecution. Ojeh, who is the deputy officer-in-charge of the legal department of the State Criminal Investigation Department, also introduced himself as appearing for the prosecutor. It was at that point that Akintola told the court that Sule was not known to the court and, therefore, should not be granted audience.
In her short ruling, Badru declared that in pursuant of section 284 of the criminal procedure law of Oyo State of Nigeria (2000), a complainant has the right to withdraw a case, which he had earlier instituted, adding that the Oyo State Commissioner of Police in the present circumstances was the complainant and he had filed a notice of abridgement of date.
She also said although the DPP had the right to attend any court proceeding, but since Ojeh was the one that brought the case to the court, he should remain in charge of the prosecution.
Badru added that the court, being a temple of justice and that the complainant, who brought the case had sought for the withdrawal of same, 'the complainant is hereby allowed to withdraw the charge against the accused persons and others at large. The charge is hereby struck out.'
Despite the jubilations that followed the ruling, Akintola still demanded from the Chief Magistrate to reverse the order of remand she made last week since it was her court that made the order ab initio.
In compliance with the prayer, Magistrate Badru then ordered that, 'the charge, having been withdrawn by the complainant, and that the accused persons were ordered remanded by this court, they are hereby ordered to be released from the remand.'
At the court yesterday were loyalists and political associates of Senator Folarin, among whom were Senator Lekan Balogun, Ayoade Adeseun, Alhaji Sarafadeen Alli, Yemi Aderibigbe, Alhaji Yunus Akintunde, Alhaji Hazim Gbolarumi, Alhaji Alli Oyedeji, Mrs Esther Babalola, Senator Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi, among others.
Meanwhile, at the Agodi prison where the embattled senator and his three co-accused persons were being held, thousands of his admirers and loyalists had besieged the premises of the prison on hearing the 'rumour' that Folarin would be released yesterday.
The security operatives had hectic time controlling the crowd, who had stormed the premises of the prison as early as 8.am awaiting the release of their leader. They defied the presence of the stern looking anti-riot mobile policemen, with the combined efforts of the men of the prisons service and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), who had been stationed strategically to forestall any security breach.
Those who were at the prison yesterday were Folarin's political associates, including Alhaji Abass Oloko, a former Governor Akala's aide, former chairman of Ibadan South-east local government, Akeem Ige, Mr. Yemi Aderibigbe, the former coordinator, Yaradua/Akala 2007 project among others. They were all in a joyous mood, rendering various songs while also cursing the perceived 'enemies' of their leader.