The Abuja division of the Federal High Court on Thursday ordered the remand of five Port Harcourt-based men arraigned by the Federal Government on terrorism charges at Kuje Prison, Abuja.
They were arraigned on a seven-count terrorism charge for invading, vandalizing, and burning down Rivers State House of Assembly in the wake of the political crisis in the state
Justice Bolaji Olajuwon who made the order said they are to remain in prison custody till February 2 when their respective bail applications would be determined by the court.
The five defendants are Chime Eguma Ezebalike, Prince Lukman Oladele, Kenneth Goodluck Kpasa, Osiga Donald, and Ochueja Thankgod.
Besides allegedly burning down the State House of Assembly, they were also accused of killing a Superintendent of Police, (SP) Bako Agbashim, and five police informants in the Ahoada community of the state.
The police informants alleged to have been killed are Charles Osu, Ogbonna Eja, Idaowuka Felix, Paul Victor Chibuogu, and Saturday Edi.
The government also accused them of using various cult groups, namely- Supreme Viking Confraternity, Degbam, Iceland, and Greenland to unleash mayhem on the people of the state and their commercial activities.
However, when the charges against them marked FHC/ABJ/CR/25/2024 were read, they all pleaded not guilty to the offences.
Although the immediate past factional Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Hon Edison Ehie was not listed in the 7-count terrorism charges, he was however represented in court by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria SAN, Oluwole Aladedoyin on the ground that his name featured prominently in the alleged offences.
He challenged the allegations that he was at large alongside other suspects.
Justice Olajuwon did not however allow further arguments on the ground that he was not yet a defendant in the charges.
Shortly after the arraignment, the leader of the prosecuting team, Audu Garba applied for a date for a full-blown trial of the defendants.
However, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria SAN, Lukman Fagbemi who stood for Chime Eguma Ezebalike and Prince Lukman Oladele who are 1st and 2nd defendants, sought to move applications for their bail on the ground that they have been in police custody since last year.
The government lawyer, Audu Garba vehemently opposed the reason that he had just been served with the bail applications and needed time to study them and file a counter affidavit.
Justice Olajuwon agreed with the prosecution lawyer that the bail applications were not ripe for hearing and fixed February 2 for the hearing of all bail applications.
Pending hearing and determination of the bail applications, the Judge ordered that the five defendants be taken to Kuje Prison on remand and be returned to court on the adjourned date.
Specifically, the defendants were alleged to have on October 29, 2023, at Moscow Road in Port Harcourt conspired to commit acts of terrorism by the wilful destruction of public properties by invading, attacking, destroying, and burning the Rivers State House of Assembly, an offence punishable under section 26 of the Terrorism Prevention and Prohibition Act 2022.
Part of the charges read, “That you, Chime Eguma Ezebalike, 37 years, a businessman of Street 5, Radio Estate Ozuoba, Port Harcourt, Prince Lukman Oladele, 47 years of Okocha Street, Port Harcourt, Kenneth Goodluck Kpasa, Hon Edison Ehie, and others now at large on 29th of October 2023 at Moscow Road in Port Harcourt, while acting in concert conspired together to commit felony to wit: acts of terrorism by the wilful destruction of public properties by invading, attacking, destroying and burning of the Rivers State House of Assembly and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 26 (1) of the Terrorism Prevention and Prohibition Act 2022.
“That you Chime Eguma Ezebalike, 37 years, a businessman of Street 5, Radio Estate Ozuoba, Port Harcourt, Prince Lukman Oladele, 47 years of Okocha Street, Port Harcourt, Kenneth Goodluck Kpasa, Hon Edison Ehie, and others now at large on 29th of October 2023 at Moscow Road in Port Harcourt, while acting in concert and armed with dynamite, iron rods, lighters, and other offensive weapons willfully and maliciously invaded, attacked and set fire on the Rivers State House of Assembly Complex and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 1 of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap M17 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.