Layi Olanrewaju, Ilorin
The trial of the suspects of April 5, 2018, Offa bank robbery could not resume on Wednesday as the doors of the court of the trial judge, Justice Haleema Saleeman, were under lock and key.
Though the prisons officials arrived at the Ilorin court premises at 9:05 am with all five suspects facing trial, there were no court officials to open the courtroom for them.
The courts have been shut down due to COVID-19 pandemic, reports indicate.
A notice posted on one of the walls in the court premises signed by the Chief Registrar of the Kwara State High Court, Mrs Ibijoke Olawoyin, stated the court had decided to shut down because of ‘the risks associated with public gathering’ associated with the pandemic.
‘It has been observed that the recent resumption of work in the state judiciary has led to an upsurge in the number of staff and members of the public trooping into the court premises without strict compliance with COVID-19 protocols put in place by the state technical committee on COVID-19 particularly as it relates to categories of workers allowed to attend office.
‘It is in view of the risks associated with such public gathering and the desire of the state government to ensure the prevention and curtailment of the spread of the dreaded coronavirus that, the Chief Judge of Kwara state, in compliance with Kwara state technical committee on COVID-19, directs that all officers of the state judiciary below grade level 14 should as from Monday 13th July 2020 stay at and work from home while the remaining view essential officers that come to work should wear face masks, regularly wash and sanitise their hands and maintain reasonable social distancing.’
Another notice posted on the wall of the court indicates that the state judiciary will commence its annual vacation on August 3 and will last till September 21, signalling that the continuation of the Offa banks robbery trial has been stalled.
At the last sitting of the court on July 10, Justice Saleeman had adjourned till Wednesday after taking evidence from one of the defendants, Azeez Salawu.
Salawu had told the court how six suspects were killed in his presence by the policemen in Abuja.
He said that the policemen interrogating him did so purposely to coerce him to admit to his alleged role in the bank robbery attacks in Offa, where 18 people, including policemen, were killed.
All of the accused – Ayoade Akinnibosun, Ibikunle Ogunleye, Adeola Abraham, Salahudeen Azeez and Niyi Ogundiran – were present in the court’s premises.
They were taken away by the prisons officials at 9:50 am when it was clear that the court would not sit.