Two key suspects Kabiru Seidu, 31, aka “Osama” and Nuhu Salihu, 25, aka “Small” who allegedly indicted Senator Dino Melaye in the alleged offences of criminal conspiracy, illegal possession of firearms and illegal arms dealing have denied committing the offences.
The suspected criminals appeared before a Kogi Senior Magistrate Court, Lokoja on Monday along with embattled lawmaker from Kogi West, Senator Melaye.
They declared that the allegations were false and they were not guilty when their pleas were taken.
The alleged offences according to the prosecution counsel led by Dr Alex Izinyon (SAN), are contrary to section 97(1) and the Penalty Code and section 27(1)(a) (1) of the firearms Act CAP P28, laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004.
Izinyon had opened his case with an update that the state High Court presided over by the Chief Judge, Justice Nasir Ajanah had released the Senator on bail.
He said that the status of first and second defendants remained same in police custody as ordered by the magistrate court on May 3.
Izinyon reminded the court that the pleas of the defendants were not taken on arraignment.
When the charges were read afresh to the defendants, Melaye as well as Seidu and Salihu, pleaded not guilty.
After the pleas were taken and the defendants pleaded not guilty, Izinyon applied for the leave of the court to have prosecution witnesses’ depositions forwarded to the defence.
Mr Yemi Mohammed Esq., holding brief for Chief Mike Ozekhome, lead counsel for the 3rd defendant (Melaye) objected to the application saying that the case was a criminal one in which witnesses must give their testimonies in the open court.
Mohammed said the front-loading system the prosecution was urging the court to adopt amounted to a short cut that would be prejudicial to his client and reduce the chances of the public getting to know the truth.
“It amounts to closure of the trial by about 50 per cent. Justice is a three way traffic – the prosecutor, the accused and the society and that is why trials are done in the open court”, he said.
In his ruling, the Senior Magistrate, Mr Suleiman Abdullah said he would “wholeheartedly” want trials in his court to be concluded speedily but he would have to look at the rules of the court.
“Where they are no such rules, I will look at the provisions of section 479(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Kogi State.
“This is a case that this court will appreciate that everyone put what they have on the table. I am not comfortable with sworn depositions replacing oral testimonies of witnesses.
“The application of the prosecution is refused and I want this trial to be concluded in the normal ways trials are done and will be ready to take evidence day-to-day if need be”, he said.
Abdullah, therefore, adjourned to July 26, for commencement of hearing.