A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has rejected an oral application challenging its jurisdiction in the case of five loyalists of River State Governor, Siminalaye Fubara.
The police on January 25, arraigned Chime Ezebalike, Lukman Oladele, Kenneth Kpasa, Osiga Donald and Ochueja Thankgod on seven counts of terrorism-related offence, murder of police officers and vandalising and burning down of Rivers House of Assembly building.
On October 30, 2023, an explosion destroyed the state House of Assembly building, coinciding with purported efforts by certain lawmakers to impeach Fubara.
The trial judge, Justice Mobolaji Olajuwon, had at the last proceedings rejected the bail application filed by three of the defendants.
At the proceedings on Thursday, the counsel for the first and second defendants, Lukman Fagbemi, (SAN) moved an oral application to challenge the court’s jurisdiction to hear the matter.
Fagbemi said, “My Lord, we are not ready for trial. We are constrained to challenge the territorial jurisdiction of this court to hear the matter and until that is decided, we can’t proceed with the matter.”
But the judge said he ought to have filed a written application and not make the application in oral form.
She said, “This court is a court of record, if you were diligent enough, you would have applied for this. ”
Fagbemi, however, insisted that the issue of jurisdiction is fundamental which could be done in written and oral form.
He said, “The issue is fundamental. I am not a lawyer that will stampede. It can be raised orally. ”
The judge then sought the views of other counsel in the matter.
The third defendant’s counsel, M.S Ibrahim, aligned himself with the position of Fagbemi.
The counsel for the fourth and fifth defendants, Adeolu Salako, said he was just briefed about the matter.
The counsel for the prosecution, Simon Lough, told the court that they were ready for the trial, adding that their witnesses were on the ground.
Lough said, “The matter is for trial and we have our witnesses ready. Jurisdiction can be challenged at any time of the trial. ”
The judge, however, said she was adjourning the matter because of Salako who had just been briefed on the matter.
She said, ” I am not adjourning for an application not before the court. I am only doing so because of the counsel that had just been briefed for the sake of a fair hearing.:
Justice Olajuwon subsequently adjourned the matter till March 12, 2024.