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8 Mar 2018

Okah gets life sentence for Oct. 1 bombing

A Federal High Court in Abuja has sentenced Charles Okah and Obi Nwabueze to life imprisonment for the 2010 explosions in Abuja and Warri.

Justice Gabriel Kolawole, in a judgment that lasted about six hours, held that the prosecution proved its case against the two defendants in the five counts.

Okah and Nwabueze were charged with financing and actual participation the the act of terrorism in relation to the March 15, 2010 bomb blast in Government House Annex, Warri, Delta State and a similar blast on October 1, 2010 at Eagle Sqaure in Abuja.

The judge rejected the plea for mercy by lawyers to the defendants and insisted that they must be subjected to the maximum sentence prescribed under Section 15(1) and (2) of the Economic and Financial Commission Act

The offences are terrorism financing and carrying out of actual acts of terrorism as contained in counts 1, 5, 6, 7 and 8 of the eight-count charge on which they were arraigned on December 7, 2010.

Okah was convicted on counts 1 and 8. Nwabueze was convicted on counts 5, 6 and 7.

Okah, Nwabueze, Edmund Ebiware and Tiemkemfa Francis-Osvwo (aka General Gbokos) were initially arraigned before the court on December 7, 2010 in relation to the offence.

Francis-Osvwo died in prison custody on November 2, 2012. Ebiware, who had his trial conducted separately, is serving life sentence upon his conviction and sentencing in 2013.

Justice Kolawole, in his 145-page judgment, upheld the evidence led by the prosecution through its 17 witnesses.

He held that the defendants, through their six witnesses – Okah called two and testified for himself; Nwabueze called three, but chose not to testify- failed to puncture the prosecution’s evidence linking them to the crimes.

Justice Kolawole held that the prosecution, led by Alex Iziyon (SAN), established that the two explosions were financed with the N3.2million provided by Okah and his senior brother Henry Okah, who is serving  a jail term in South Africa.

The judge also held that the prosecution also established that Nwabueze got a total of N3.2m from Charles and Henry Okah with which he bought six used vehicles, four of which were utilsed for the two bomb.

Justice Kolawole raised four questions, which he resolved against the defendants, using the evidence led by the prosecution.

He noted that there was evidence that Henry and Charles Okah provided Nwabueze with funds to buy six cars.

The judge said: “There was evidence that the 1st defendant (Okah) provided N2m cheque to the 2nd defendant (Nwabueze), which he cashed on the 13 Sept 2010 at 12.47pm in a bank in Apapa, Lagos.

“The 1st defendant did not provide concrete evidence of what the N2m was used for other than as shown by the prosecution.

“What was the real object or purpose for which the funds were provided? Evidence shows that the funds were used to procure cars, a total of six, which were bought by 2nd defendant.

“And what were the cars used for? It is clear that the purpose for what the funds were provided was to purchase cars to be weaponsied to be used to cause blasts.”

“I have no doubt that the 2nd defendant made himself available as a foot soldier for the 1st defendant and Henry Okah for which he was handsomely rewarded.

“The prosecution has proved the offences charged beyond reasonable doubt. The defendants are found guilty on the five counts relating to them and are hereby convicted,” the judge said.

Okah and Nwabueze looked unruffled as the judge made his pronouncement. They intermittently spoke to each other and smiled as they stood in the dock.

Justice Kolawole regretted that the case that started on December 7, 2010 was just being decided on March 7, 2018. He called for a total review of the criminal justice system and relevant constitutional provisions to ensure that criminal cases were swiftly determined.

After his pronouncement, the defence lawyers, Emake Okoroafor (for Okah) and O. O. Otemu (for Nwabueze) pleaded with the judge to be lenient in sentencing the defendants.

They argued that, being first time offenders, the defendants were remorseful and were willing to turn a new leaf.

Izinyon objected to the defence lawyers’ request for the judge to pass lesser sentence on their clients.

He urged the court to consider the interest of victims of the twin blasts, their relatives and the trouble the defendants took the court through by resorting to playing pranks at a point in the trial.

Justice Kolwaole noted that since Ebiwari, who did not waste the court’s time, got life imprisonment, Okah and Nwanbueze cannot get less sentence.

Unlike in Ebiwari’s case where Justice Kolawole asked that he be considered for parole after 35 years, the judge was silent on parole in yesterday’s judgment.

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