ABUJA BLASTS: OKAH'S ILL-HEALTH STALLS TRIAL
The ill-health of Mr. Charles Okah, accused of masterminding of the 50th Independence Day twin blasts in Abuja, on Tuesday, forced Justice Kolawole of a Federal High Court to adjourn his trial to January 20, 2012. At the last sitting, Okah and other suspects filed a motion, urging the court to stay proceedings pending their appeal at the Court of Appeal against the ruling of the court which held that they had a case to answer.
The blasts claimed lives and properties.
Others are Obi Nwabueze, Edmund Ebiware and Tiemkemfa Francis Osvwo (aka General Gbokos). All the accused were arraigned on an eight-count charge.
When the matter came up yesterday, defence counsel, Oghenovo Otemu, from Festus Keyamo's Chambers told the court that the treatment that was meted out to the accused persons in custody accounted for the ill health of Okah.
He had earlier told Justice Kolawole that Okah was unable to make it to the court because of he was ill. But the prosecuting counsel denied the allegation, saying that Okah's wife attempted to smuggle a phone into the prison custody of her husband.
The trial judge was forced to adjourn the case due to the absence of Okah from the court. Justice Kolawole was supposed to deliver a ruling on whether to stay proceedings in the case due to the appeal filed by the accused persons against the ruling.
The lawyer had earlier raised the alarm over the deteriorating health condition of his client whom he said was living with one kidney at the Kuje Prison under humiliating circumstances.
In a letter addressed to the Comptroller General of Prisons dated December 12, 2011, the lawyer complained over the harsh and inhuman treatment of Charles Okah and Obi Nwabueze.
Okah's letter made available to Daily Sun frowned at the refusal of the prison official to allow his wife (Okah) and his lawyers from seeing him against the directive of the court that she and other relatives be allowed access to see him.
The letter reads:
'Unlike other suspects who are also on the awaiting trial list, our clients are kept in a solitary confinement. They are deprived from worshiping God like other inmates in the worship centre, they are not allowed to participate in sporting activities and when their wives and relatives visit them, they are not allowed to see them.
On several occasions, the wife of Charles Okah was humiliated and prevented from seeing her husband. In the third week of September, 2011 the wife of Charles Okah visited Kuje prisons with drugs for her husband, but she was deprived from seeing her husband.
'Since the third week of September, 2011 till date, the officers of the Nigerian Prisons, Kuje Prisons have persistently refused Charles Okah's wife access to see her husband against the directive of the court that she and other relatives be allowed access to see him. Each time we complained, the officers of Kuje Prisons always say they are acting on instructions from above.
Most recently, when Kuje prison was fumigated on December 8, 2011 because scorpion was found in Charles Okah's cell, he was made to remain in the cell. Charles Okah was not allowed to go outside like other inmates to allow the chemicals dissipate before locking him up in his cell.
'As we write this letter, our clients, particularly Charles Okah, who is leaving on one kidney, because he had donated one to his mother about 25 years ago, is finding it difficult to breath as a result of the effect of the chemical. Other symptoms he is experiencing include chest pain, vomiting, nausea, high blood pressure, among others.
'Our clients are merely accused persons and not convicts, which means, their presumption of innocence guaranteed by the Constitution should be respected. Therefore treating our clients in a manner that suggest that they have been condemned is illegal and unconstitutional.
'We state further that this complaint has severally been made to the Kuje Prisons authority and the court. The court has on several occasions directed the Kuje Prisons officers to accord our clients the same treatment they give to all other inmates in the awaiting trial list, yet our clients are still being subjected to the same inhuman treatment in flagrant disrespect of the court's directive.'
'We also state that our complaints are not heeded to because each time we complain, the officers involved in this injustice against our clients are rewarded by the powers that be.
'We therefore urge you to use your goods offices to prevail and see that our clients are treated like other inmates in the awaiting trial list, allow our clients' relatives and wives access to our clients, allow our clients attend worship centres like other inmates, and also allow our clients partake in the daily physical exercises like other inmates.
'Take notice that should you fail or neglect to heed to our demands, we shall have no other option but to take all the different legal actions open to our client to redress this injustice our clients are made to suffer in your custody.