The Nigerian government has filed a three-count amended criminal charge against seven persons, alleged to have been involved in the 2017 killing of indigenes of Idumuje-Ugboko community of Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta.
The initial charge had involved three persons, but following a bench warrant issued by the Federal High Court, Abuja, four additional defendants were arrested and added to the charge.
The seven defendants were said to have conspired with others in May 2017 to unleash terror on the community by burning houses and killing one Cyprian Kumaorun within the community.
The defendants, as named in the charge, are Nwochie Light, Aikhomo Omezi, Okey Ifejoku, Godwin Aniemeke, Nonso Omefe, Dennis Nwoko and Emeka Bidoku.
When the matter was called on Wednesday, the prosecuting counsel, Mr Shuiabu Labaran, told the court that although the business of the day was arraignment, not all the defendants were in court.
“Due to the uncertainty on the roads, the correctional centre in Kuje was unable to produce the 1st and 2nd defendant in court. We are also in receipt of an affidavit of facts stating why the 3rd defendant is not in court.
“Considering the facts deposed to, we have no reason to counter it. However, we recall that this court issued a bench warrant with effect on April 3 against some new defendants consequent upon which about four of them were arrested.
“This necessitated the prosecution to file further amended charges to bring the defendants to seven on the charge sheet.
“We, therefore, seek the leave of the court to amend the earlier charge,” Labaran stated.
He, however, added that since all the defendants were not in court, rather than have the arraignments in piecemeal, the matter should be adjourned to allow all the defendants present in court for arraignment.
The counsel also prayed the court for an accelerated hearing of the matter since it was terrorism-related.
Counsel to the 3rd defendant, Mr M.O Omorogbe, had earlier told the court that his client was unable to attend the court hearing because he was “stuck in Asaba”.
“My client informed me that he received a text from the airline he was scheduled to fly with on Tuesday that the flight had been cancelled because of the #EndSARS protest.
“We have filed an affidavit of facts demonstrating the 3rd defendant’s inability to be in court, and we apologise as the situation is beyond our control,” the counsel said.
Counsel to the second defendant, Prof. Agbo Madaki, had also told the court that his client had fulfilled his bail condition and what was left was for the court to sign the release warrant to be sent to the correctional centre.
The presiding judge, Justice Okon Abang, adjourned the matter until October 30 for amendment of the charge and fresh arraignment adding the four new defendants.
The judge also ordered that the third defendant be present in court unfailingly on the next adjourned date as he had deposed to in his affidavit of facts.
Upon arraignment, the prosecution is expected to call 14 witnesses to give evidence during the trial.