Thursday, 8 March 2018

Independence Day Bombing: Court Sentences Okah To Life Imprisonment

The Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday sentenced Charles Okah and his co defendant, Obi Nwabueze, to life imprisonment for masterminding the bomb blasts which occurred in Abuja on October 1, 2010, and earlier in Warri, Delta State, on March 15 of the same year. The two convicts were said to have planned the attacks with Charles elder brother, Mr. Henry Okah, the leader of the defunct Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, who had been convicted of the same offence and sentenced to 24 years imprisonment by a South African court in 2013.

Justice Gabriel Kolawole convicted the two men in his 145 page judgment which its delivery lasted four hours, 45 minutes on Wednesday. With the allcocutus (plea for mercy) and sentencing proceedings conducted after the main judgment was read, the day's court session which ended at about 6.56 pm lasted close to six hours. The judgment was delivered amid heavy presence of policemen surrounding the court premises as early as 8.30 am ahead of the judgment which the judge started delivering about 1pm. Delivering judgment in the case which commenced on December 7, 2010, when the convicts took their pleas, Justice Kolawole ruled that the prosecution, led by Dr Alex Izinyon (SAN), proved the charges preferred against Charles and Nwabueze beyond reasonable doubt.

The two men were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment on each of the five out of the eight counts preferred against them and two others. The rest of the three counts were in relation to their former co - defendants, Edmund Ebiware, who had been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in a separate trial which he requested. The convicts, including Ebiware, were charged under sections 15 (1) and (2) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004, which prescribe life imprisonment as punishment. Justice Kolawole, also in his judgment, ordered the forfeiture of the army uniforms and other military paraphernalia recovered from the vehicles used for the Abuja blasts to the Federal Government.

He ordered the prosecuting counsel to personally ensure that the materials were submitted to the appropriate authority and inventory of the said materials submitted to the court after the handover. Okah and Nwabueze, alongside Edmund Ebiware and Tiemkemfa Francis - Osvwo (aka General Gbokos) were first arraigned before the court on December 7, 2010, in connection with the 2010 Independence Day and Warri bomb blasts. Francis Osvwo died later in detention, while Ebiware, who had his trial conducted separately, had been convicted on January 25, 2013, for the same set of offences and currently serving a life sentence. At least 12 persons were said to have died with many others injured and property, including cars, burnt in the incident which occurred near the Eagle Square in Abuja, venue of the Independence Day celebration, which was presided over by the then President Goodluck Jonathan.

Also one person was confirmed dead and many others injured in the explosions which occurred on March 15, 2010, near Delta State Government House Annexe in Warri, Delta State. Charles was clad in a gold colour French suit with red fitted trousers, while his co - convict wore a checked shirt on blue jeans. Their countenance remained unchanged from the beginning of the proceedings till the end. After the allocutus proceedings, they were seen discussing in hushed tones as the judge was writing his decision on the sentence. Charles put on a red cap immediately the judge rose and receded into his chambers. He shook hands and hugged some of his loyalists who had witnessed the proceedings.

Prison officials handcuffed them as soon as they stepped out of the courtroom located in the five storeyed court building. As he approached cameras mounted outside the court building, he waved and with a smile on his face, he said, "It's a trumped up charge. ”He and his co - convict were led into prison vehicles and driven away at about 7.30 pm on Wednesday. Reviewing the evidence of the 17 prosecution witnesses, the six defence witnesses and exhibits tendered in the case, Justice Kolawole ruled that there was no doubt that Henry provided the total sum of N3.2m for the purchase of six fairly used cars used for the attacks in both Warri and Abuja.

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