A Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday finally commenced the trial of Charles Okah, the alleged mastermind of the October 1, 2010 twin bombings at the Eagle Square, Abuja, and his co-accused, Obi Nwabueze, after almost five years of delay due to interlocutory applications.
Okah, a brother to Henry Okah, a former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), is standing trial with Nwabueze over the twin bomb blasts which killed at least twelve people and wounded many others.
His brother, Henry, has been tried, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in South Africa, where he is serving the jail term.
At Thursday’s proceedings, the trial judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, had to move the proceedings out of the courtroom to the car park of the High Court complex for the inspection and the tendering of the car exhibit allegedly used by the accused in carrying out the attack.
At the proceedings which lasted well beyond 5pm, the prosecution, led by Dr. Alex Izinyon (SAN), called its first witness, Mr. John Afolabi, who is an exhibit keeper at the Department
of State Services (DSS).
Afolabi, in his evidence-in-chief submission, tendered 14 exhibits which he claimed were retrieved by DSS investigators at “scenes of investigation” into the bombings.
Among the items tendered by Afolabi and admitted by the court were an old Mazda 626 car with registration number LAGOS BY 318 FKJ; military wears and camping materials; 10 camouflage bulletproof jackets; 30 black military belts; 21 black jungle booths; five green pairs of camouflage, jungle booths; five pairs of brown camouflage jungle booths and 34 pairs of water bottle hostlers.
Okah and Nwabueze, who were initially represented by Lagos lawyer, Festus Keyamo, until October, 2014, were on Thursday represented by separate lawyers, Mr. Samuel Zibiri and Mr O.O Otemu, respectively.
The commencement of the trial was a remarkable departure from the past when the case suffered protracted delay due to series of interlocutory applications filed by the counsel to the accused persons since the terrorism charges were instituted against them in December 2010.
Two other accused persons were initially charged along with Okah and Nwabueze. One later died in custody, while judgment was delivered on January 2, 2013, in the case of the other who chose to have a separate trial.
Justice Kolawole adjourned further proceedings in the trial until April 27.