Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court in Abuja, on Wednesday, awarded N200,000 against the Attorney General of the Federation as the cost for a frivolous request for adjournment in the trial of the Publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore.
Ms Ojukwu gave the order after the AGF’s lawyer, Aminu Alilu, asked for an adjournment to enable him to serve on the defendants the amended charges.
She held that the prosecution’s request for an adjournment is frivolous and added that the action was an attempt to delay the case.
Mr Sowore and a co-accused, Olawale Bakare, are standing trial on a seven-count charge of treasonable felony, fraud, cyberstalking and insulting President Muhammadu Buhari.
Messrs Sowore and Bakare were arrested on August 3 by the State Security Service (SSS) for planning a protest popularised with the hashtag #RevolutionNow.
The SSS had on December 6 rearrested Mr Sowore at the premises of the Federal High Court in Abuja a day after he was released from their custody. The publisher and Mr Bakare were released the night before on the order of Ms Ojukwu after spending 124 days in SSS custody.
Mr Sowore was later released on December 24, 2019.
At the resumed trial on Wednesday, the prosecution lawyer, Mr Alilu, a chief state council from the ministry of justice, informed the court that the office of the AGF has taken over the prosecution of the case and has file amended charges but yet to effect service of the charges on the defendants.
Mr Alilu told the court that the office of the AGF took over the case late last year.
He applied to arraign the defendants based on the amended charges.
The charges as seen by PREMIUM TIMES are as follows:
Count one:Conspiracy to commit treasonable felony, contrary to Section 516 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap. C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and punishable under the same section of the Act.
Count Two: Treasonable Felony, contrary to Section 41(a) of the Criminal Code Act, Cap. C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and punishable under the same section of the Act.
Responding, a lawyer from Femi Falana’s chambers, Olumide Fusika, debunked the prosecution’s claim on the ground that the prosecution team had served them processes before now so it is untrue that the office of the AGF is just taking over the case.
Mr Fusika urged the court to strike out the suit for want of diligent prosecution.
He said the prosecution is always interested in seeking adjournment in order to punish the defendants who are forced to stay in Abuja at the mercy of friends and well wishers.
Mr Alilu, replying the defence lawyer, asked the court to discountenance the application to strike out the suit.
He urged the court to grant an adjournment till Thursday to enable them effect service of the amended charges on the defendants.
But Mr Fusika countered Mr Alilu’s argument saying that the prosecution is not in a position to continue the matter tomorrow as they are yet to serve them the list and statements of their witnesses despite the order of the court to do so.
In a short ruling, Justice Ojukwu, quoting section 396(6) of the Administrative of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015, said the prosecution’s request for adjournment was frivolous.
Ms Ojukwu ordered the prosecution to pay N200,000 to the defendants for the frivolous application for adjournment.
She adjourned the matter to February 13 for arraignment.