The prosecuting counsel in the trial of four dismissed officers, Barrister Chidi Ekeh, over the alleged torturing of five Ikokwu mechanics which allegedly led to the death of one has said that by the rules all defendants in a murder trial must be represented by their counsels before the trial can take place.
Barrister Ekeh who is of the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Attorney-General’s Chambers, Rivers State, speaking in an interview after an adjournment of the case on Wednesday, October 12 by Honourable Justice Florence Fiberesima of Port-Harcourt High Court said that the trial could not take place because one of the counsel representing one of the defendants was not in court.
Barrister Ekeh said: “It was at the instance of the defence. The counsel to one of the defendants was not in court and by the rules in a murder trial or even in any other capital offence the defendant must be represented and this is a murder trial. Each and every one of them must be represented before we can proceed. So today’s proceedings was stalled by the absence of one of the counsel to defendants”.
Barrister Kingston Nwinee, counsel to the third defendant, Ayogu Fidelis, was unavoidably absent in court as he was indisposed leading to adjournment of the case.
The prosecuting counsel said that the trial has been delayed.
“The reason why it has lingered is not the fault of the prosecution. We’ve always had our witnesses in court. The reason why it has continued to linger is because they have four different defendants and different lawyers representing each and every one of them and by the time the prosecution presents his witness they will all cross-examine and they take more than one day to cross-examine individually so that takes much time and is elongating the trial”.
Also speaking, one of the counsel representing the second defendant, Barrister O. G. Eke, said the case was adjourned because the counsel to third defendant was unavoidably absent.
Barrister Eke said: “One of the defence counsel, the counsel to the third defendant was unavoidably absent in court, was highly indisposed so we were able to relate to the court … and the court graciously obliged them for the very last time”.
The presiding judge, Honourable Justice Fiberesima, had adjourned to December 7, 8, 13 and 15 for the continuation of trial.
The five Ikokwu mechanics arrested in December 2018 for allegedly driving against traffic by officers of disbanded Eagle Crack team include Ifeanyi Onyekwere, Ifeanyi Osuji, Victor Ogbonna, Osaze Friday and Chima Ikwunado who allegedly died in detention.