Accused, Kabiru Seidu, 31, aka “Osama” and Nuhu Salihu, 25, aka “Small” who appeared before Kogi Senior Magistrates’ Court, Lokoja on Monday, have declared that the allegations against them and Senator Dino Melaye were false.
The accused persons, including Melaye, declared that the allegations were false and they were not guilty when their pleas were taken.
The accused persons were reported to have implicated Melaye in the offences of criminal conspiracy, illegal possession of firearms and illegal arms dealing.
The embattled senator had refused to honour police’s invitation to answer to the allegations, leading to his arrest.
The 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 reminded the court that the pleas of the defendants were not taken on arraignment as he submitted that the court had jurisdiction to try the case and should therefore go ahead to take their pleas.
When the charges were read afresh to the defendants, including Melaye as well as the prime suspects, Seidu and Salihu, pleaded not guilty. They said that the seven charges were all false. Izinyon thereafter, applied for the leave of the court to have deposition of prosecuting witnesses 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 Esq., holding brief for Chief Mike Ozekhome, lead counsel to Melaye, objected to the application. He said that the case was a criminal one in which witnesses must give their testimonies in the open court.
Mohammed said that the front-loading system which 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.