The planned arraignment of the traditional ruler of Oko in Oyo State, Oba Solomon Akinola, on charges of terrorism could not take place on Thursday at a Federal High Court in Abuja due to objection to the jurisdiction of the court to conduct the trial.
Although the monarch was not physically present to take his plea, three of his high chiefs, Sunday Aderinto, 87; Samson Ogunmola, 76; and Timothy Aderinto, 71, were brought to the court under heavy police security.
Shortly after the three chiefs were called to the dock, their counsel, Jimoh Abdulsalam, raised objection to the taking of their plea for the offences allegedly committed between May 10 and 21, 2021.
He premised his objection on the validity of the charges, insisting that the three chiefs were victims of a land dispute between Oko and Aagba communities near Ogbomoso in the Surulere Local Government Area of Oyo State.
While informing the court that it was only the Attorney-General of the Federation that could handle terrorism charges, he expressed displeasure that the police coloured a communal land dispute as terrorism act, adding that the chiefs could not take plea on terrorism charges.
The lawyer also challenged the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit, adding that the defendants, who had spent 37 days in police custody, were not brought properly before the court.
The problem was compounded by the inability of the prosecution to counter the oral objection of the defendants with any authority of the law.
Following the objection to the arraignment, Justice Obiora Egwuatu directed the defence counsel to put his objection in writing and serve the same on the prosecution.
Other chiefs billed for arraignment but said to be at large are Jimoh Asimiyu, Segun Gbadebo, Oluwole Ogundeji, Akintaro Piamo, Rafiu Ganiyu, Adejare Adeleru and Zaccheus Adeleru.
The Inspector-General of Police had filed the terrorism charges against them through an officer in the Legal Department of the Force Headquarters, Orji Kalu.
The criminal charges, among others, alleged that the defendants, while armed with weapons such as cutlasses and knives, allegedly conspired and invaded the Aagba community and kidnapped three persons in addition to inflicting varying degrees of injury on their victims.
Those said to have been kidnapped are Atanda Akinwale, Olayiwola Gbadebo and Olusola Agbebi.
The offences, according to the prosecution, contravene Section 1 (2) of the Terrorism Prevention Act, 2013.
They were also accused of inflicting injuries on Muritala Alimi, Omilabu Oluwasegun and Mrs Rachel Bamidele.
The charges also indicated that four tyres of the Honda Pilot SUV belonging to the Baale of Aagba, Chief Adesola Ajiboye, a motorcycle worth N300,000, a borehole, vehicle windscreen, pipes, a bulldozer and a farm were destroyed.
The defendants were further accused of stealing 15 bags of cement worth N450,000.
Meanwhile, Justice Egwuatu has February 14 to take the objection of the defendants to the charges.