Godwin Tsa, Abuja
After eight years of trial, a Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday sentenced Charles Okah and Obi Nwabueze to life imprisonment after pronouncing them guilty for the October 1, 2010 Independence Day bomb blasts in Abuja.
The sentence, according to the court, was in line with the provisions of section 15 (1) (2) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Act, upon which they were charged.
Although their lawyers, Emeka Okrafor and Oghenovo Otemu, pleaded with the court to temper justice with mercy by passing a mitigating sentence, Justice Gabriel Kolawole said in view of the gravity of the offence and the plight of families of victims of the bomb blasts, it will be in the interest of justice to apply the law.
At least 12 persons were said to have died, with many others injured, in the incident which occurred near Eagles Square in Abuja during the Independence Day celebration.
Before Wednesday’s judgment, Justice Gabriel Kolawole had earlier dismissed the defendants’ no-case submission which they had filed after the prosecution called its 17 witnesses and tendered documentary exhibits as evidence to prove its case.
The judge held that, contrary to the contention of the defendants, the prosecution led by Dr. Alex Izinyon had made out a prima facie case against Okah and Nwabueze, warranting them to offer explanations in respect of the charges preferred against them.
Justice Kolawole ruled that “The prosecution has made out prima facie case through testimonies of witnesses which linked the defendants with the charges.
“It requires them to offer explanations.”
In his six-hour judgment contained in 145 pages, Justice Kolawole held that the prosecution counsel, Dr. Alex Inziyon had proved his case against beyond a reasonable doubt.
Justice Kolawole said:
“In the final analysis, using the judicial compass to navigate through the oral and documentary evidence of witnesses and legal submission by counsel, I answer in the affirmative that the N2 million was used to purchase the cars that were used in the bomb blasts under the instructions of the 1st defendant, Charles Okah.
“The dynamite code-named ’yam’ were laden in the cars and detonated through the use of timers.
“The prosecution has proved the indictment under section 15 (1) (1) of the EFCC Act against the defendants beyond reasonable doubts.
“With regards to the October 1, 2010 Independence Day twin bomb blast in Abuja, the event at the Eagle Square were not disrupted as the event went on. However, the incident lead to loss of twelve innocent lives and properties.
“Certified medical reports from National Hospital and pictures obtained from the scene of the blasts showed mangled bodies of victims and destroyed cars, with some bodies burnt beyond recognition.
“This is the consequence of the act of terrorism, which the 2nd defendant (Obi Nwabueze) carried out under the instructions of the 1st defendant (Charles Okah).
“I have no doubt that the 2nd defendant made himself available as a foot soldier to Okah, to run his evil errands, to which he admitted, he was rewarded.
“The prosecution has proved his case against the 1st defendant beyond reasonable doubts on counts 1 and 8 as provided for under section 135 of the Evidence Act.
“On count 5, 6 and 7, the prosecution has also proved his case against the 2nd defendant beyond a reasonable doubt as set out in section 135 of the Evidence Act.”
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 with the October 1, (Independence Day) 2010 bomb blast.
Francis-Osvwo died later in detention, while Ebiware, who had his trial conducted separately, had been convicted in 2013 for the same set of offences and is currently serving a life sentence.
The developments left Okah and Nwabueze to face trial for the offences.
After a series of interlocutory applications that stalled the two men’s trial for years, trial finally commence on April 23, 2015.
It will be recalled that Charles Okah’s elder brother, Henry, who was a former leader of militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, had been prosecuted and convicted in South Africa for the Abuja bomb attack.