The appeal to dismiss terrorism charges against five followers of Governor Siminalayi Fubara of Rivers State was on Friday, declined by the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon, also declined the request made by the current Chief of Staff to the Governor, Edison Ehie, to terminate the charges.
Recall that that the Abuja Court ordered the arrest of Edison Ehie, in connection with the burning of the State House of Assembly.
The court ruled that Ehie, who also served as the factional Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly, did not possess the legal authority to seek the dismissal of the charges.
The Judge upheld the argument presented by Simon Lough, counsel to the Inspector General of Police (IGP), asserting that Ehie was not yet competent to make any application until he appeared in court to enter his plea in the terrorism charges.
Ehie, represented by his lawyer, Oluwole Aladedoye, had sought to have the criminal charges against him and others dropped on various grounds.
He argued that only the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) can prosecute them on terrorism charges, not the IGP
He contended that the Federal High Court lacked jurisdiction to oversee the trial as the alleged offenses were committed in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
According to him, the police had not formally charged him for any offense.
The police lawyer referenced Section 396 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act ACJA 2015.
The Judge said that while section 5 of the Terrorism Prevention Act confers responsibility of gathering intelligence and investigation on Police, the same section gave rights to Police to initiate criminal charges in a competent court of jurisdiction.
Specifically, Justice Olajuwon held that while the AGF, under section 174 of the 1999 constitution can lawfully take over, continue or terminate any initiated criminal charges, such right does not make trial an exclusive right of the AGF.
“From the cursory look at all the authorities cited by lawyers for and against the IGP rights to initiate the instant criminal proceedings, one thing is clear and clearly too, that police can rightly initiate criminal charges including terrorism charges,” he said.
In a concise ruling, Olajuwon rejected the former Speaker’s request and supported the arguments presented by the IGP.
The Judge noted that the charge sheet only indicated that Ehie is at large and has not been listed on the charge as required by law.
He advised the Chief of Staff to surrender himself to the police or appear in court to enter a plea before he could be eligible to make any application.
Olajuwon said the preliminary objections to the trial by the defendants were incompetent, lacking in merit and subsequently dismissed them.
The five defendants charged with terrorism include Chime Eguma Ezebalike, Prince Lukman Oladele, Kenneth Goodluck Kpasa, Osiga Donald and Ochueja Thankgod.
Justice Olajuwon however fixed Monday, February 5 for ruling in their respective bail applications and ordered that the five defendants be returned to Kuje Prison pending the decision of the Court to allow them on bail or not.