The governorship candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in Akwa Ibom State, James Akpanudoedehe, has described his arrest and subsequent trial in Abuja as an attempt by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to stop him from campaigning for the governorship election in the state.
He told a Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday that his arraignment by the police was politically motivated. His counsel, Kola Awodein told the presiding judge, Adamu Bello that Mr Akpanudoedehe’s arrest in Akwa Ibom State and his quick arraignment in Abuja was designed to keep him away from the campaign trail.
Mr Akpanudoedehe, who is standing trial for treason, has been in police custody since last Friday following an order of the court that he be remanded pending yesterday when his bail application was heard. He was arraigned on a four-count criminal charge bothering on treason and felony, and pleaded not guilty to all.
The court will tomorrow rule on his bail application.
The accused, a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), was arrested over last week’s clash between supporters of his party and those of the PDP in the state during which many people were killed and properties worth millions of naira damaged.
Mr Awodein urged the court to grant his client bail pending the hearing and determination of the charge against him by the police. He argued further that the accused person be admitted to bail by the court based on his antecedent as two-time senator, former FCT minister, former Uyo Local Government Area Chairman and at present, a governorship candidate.
The counsel also told the court that there was an earlier phantom murder allegation against the accused person, in which the police searched his residences in Uyo and Abuja and found nothing incriminating.
“The applicant was compelled to approach a court of competent jurisdiction when he was being harassed to create an enabling political environment to carry out his campaign like every other candidate in the state and the court made an order restraining the police from interrupting his campaign,” he said.
He also told the court that Mr Akpanudoedehe has an ailment that requires frequent medical attention, a position he said was not countered by the prosecution. He said the prosecution’s submission that they are still investigating the matter showed that they have yet to establish a prima facie case against the accused.
But the police counsel, R. E Nkem asked the court not to grant the accused person bail in view of the nature of the offence and the severity of the punishment, if found guilty.
“The accused person is charged with treason and other pending charges like that of murder, arson and others, as such he should not be granted bail,” Mr Nkem said.
Justice Bello, after hearing from all the parties adjourned till Thursday, March 31st, 2011 to rule on the bail application.
The Police accused Mr. Akpanudoedehe of levying war against the state with intent to intimidate the governor of the State, Godswill Akpabio.
The charge sheet read: “That you, John James Akpanudoedehe, ‘M’ and others now at large as citizens of the Nigeria, on the 22nd day of March, 2011, at Ikot Ekpene in Akwa Ibom state did conspire amongst yourselves to commit felony, to wit: Treason by levying war against the state with intent to cause such levying of war as would intimidate or overawe the governor of the state and you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 37(2) of the Criminal Procedure Act Cap ‘C’ 38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
“That you, John James Akpanudoedehe, ‘M’ and others now at large, as citizens of the Nigeria on the 22nd day of March, 2011, at Ikot Ekpene in Akwa Ibom state in the Abuja Division did levy war against the state in order to intimidate or overawe the governor of the state by discharging several gun shots at him and his entourage while on his official assignment and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 37 (10 of the Criminal Code Act Cap ‘C’ 38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.”
Mr Akpanudoedehe pleaded not guilty to the four-count charge.