Jimoh Abdulsalam, Counsel to some chiefs in Oko Community, Oyo State, on Thursday, disagreed with the Inspector-General (I-G) of Police over terrorism charge filed against his clients.
Abdulsalam vehemently opposed to the move by counsel to the police, Orji Kalu, to arraign the defendants before Justice Obiora Egwuatu of a Federal High Court, Abuja, on charges bordering on terrorism.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that while the I-G is the applicant, Chiefs Sunday Aderinto, 87 years and Samson Ogunmola, 76 years, including Timothy Adewale Aderinto, a son to Sunday, were brought to court as defendants. Although the traditional ruler of Oko, Oba Solomon Akinola, was included in the 11-count charge, the monarch was not in court.
In a charge number: FHC/ABJ/CR/458/2021, Oba Akinola, Chief Jimoh Asimiyu, Chief Segun Gbadebo, Chief Oluwole Ogundeyi, Akintaro Mathew Piamo, Rafiu Ganiyu, Adejare Adeleru, Zachaeus Adeleru and others were said to be at large. They were accused in count one of conspiring among themselves to commit the offence on May 10, 2021 at Aagba Community in Surulere Local Government Area of Oyo State. Shortly after the three defendants were docked for arraignment, Kalu informed that the defendants had been served and he prayed the court for the charge to be read so that they could take their plea.
However, Abdulsalam raised objection to the taking of their plea to the alleged offences.The lawyer predicted his objection on the validity of the charges, insisting that his clients were victims of land dispute between Oko and Aagba Communities near Ogbomoso in Surulere Local Government Area of the state.
According to him, the matter stemmed from land dispute which has gotten through High Court, Court of Appeal and is presently at Supreme Court.“It was after we filed a fundamental rights enforcement that they brought this charge.“In this circumstance, we shall be applying to file our preliminary objection to the competency of the charge.
“My lord, I am objecting to the plea being taken; I maintain that we are raising a serious objection to the validity of the charge,” he said.
Abdulsalam, who challenged the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the matter, also argued that the offence was committed outside Abuja and that it was only the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) that could handle terrorism charges.
He expressed displeasure that police coloured a communal land dispute as terrorism act, arguing that the offence did not involve criminal charge. “Their plea should be suspended pending the time we file our preliminary objection,” he stated.
He said his clients, who had spent 37 days in police detention, were not properly arraigned before the court.Justice Egwuatu, however, told Abdulsalam that if he had any issue on jurisdiction, he should file application to the regard and join issues with the prosecution.
The prosecution, however, did not counter the oral objection of the defence with any authority of the law. Kalu then applied that the defendants be transfered to a correctional centre pending the arraignment but the judge disagreed, saying since they had not been arraigned, he could not grant such prayer. Egwuatu fixed Feb. 14 for the arraignment.
Meanwhile in an interview with counsel to the defendants shortly after the sitting, Abdulsalam debunked the allegation that Oba Akinola was at large.
He said the traditional ruler had, at several times, honoured the police invitation on the matter. “The oba is always around and I can give you his phone number to talk to him,” he said.