Posted by From Charles Onyekamuo in Awka on
Former Anambra state Governor, Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju, will remain in prison custody till January 19, when the suit brought against him, alleging conspiracy with others at large to murder the former chairman of Onitsha branch of the Nigerian Bar Association
Former Anambra state Governor, Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju, will remain in prison custody till January 19, when the suit brought against him, alleging conspiracy with others at large to murder the former chairman of Onitsha branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Barnabas Igwe, and his wife, Amaka, would have been transferred to a court with higher jurisdiction for adjudication.
This followed the refusal yesterday by chief magistrate Mabel Mbakwe of magistrate court 1, Onitsha, in the Onitsha magisterial division to grant a bail application by Mbadinuju's counsel, Mr. Rowland Otaru.
The magistatre refused the plea by Mbadinuju's lawyer that his client, re-arrested less than 24 hours after the Jabi magistrate court in Abuja granted him bail with very stringent conditions, which were all met, was presumed innocent under the Nigerian law and would not jump bail.
As soon as Mbadinuju was arraigned at about 10.30am yesterday, a charge No: Mo/1/c/2006: "Commissioner of Police Vs Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, "male", containing a three count charge was read to him in the dock :
"That you, Dr. clement Chinwoke Mbadinuju, 'M' and others at large on or about the 1st day of September, 2002, at MCC junction, Onitsha in the Onitsha magisterial district conspired with one another to commit murder and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 494 of the criminal code cap 36. vol.11, Revised laws of Anambra State of Nigeria, 1991.
"That you, Dr. clement Chinwoke Mbadinuju, 'M' and others at large on the 1st day of September, 2002, at the same place in the aforesaid magisterial district unlawfully killed one Barrister Barnabas Igwe and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 274(1) of the criminal code cap. 36 Vol. 11 Revised Laws of Anambra state of Nigeria, 1991.
"That you, Dr. clement Chinwoke Mbadinuju, 'M' and others at large on the same date, at the same place in the aforesaid magisterial district unlawfully killed one Barrister Amaka Blessing Igwe and thereby committed a punishable offence under section 274(1) of the criminal code cap 36 Vol. 11 Revised laws of Anambra state of Nigeria, 1991."
The charge sheet was dated January 5, 2006, and signed by the prosecution counsel, Mr. Columbus Odaro, a Deputy Commissioner of police.
But Mbadinuju's defence team of three lawyers led by Mr. Rowland Otaru applied for bail for the accused person, citing relevant section of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria, which presumed him innocent until proven guilty, adding that the defence should be given adequate time to prepare.
He said that section 35(4) (B) of the said constitution provides for bail for his client either conditionally or unconditionally and that there is no where it is provided in the 1999 constitution subsection 1 (3-8) that bail cannot be granted his client on the basis of the charges preferred against him.
The accused, he noted, was the Governor of Anambra state between July 29, 1999 and July 29, 2003 and has neither being indicted or convicted for any offence(s) whatsoever before yesterday. He also urged the court to take judicial notice of section 74 of the Evidence Act, cap 112, laws of the Federation, 1990, and the fact that the accused was granted bail by the chief magistrate court, Jabi, within the Federal capital Territory, Abuja on 3/1/06.
The stringent bail conditions imposed by that court, he further said, were duly fulfilled, one of such was that the accused should deposit his international passport which he did, stressing that if granted bail, would not jump it.
Otaru, said his client would also provide reliable and dependable sureties if granted bail, and would also give a very solemn undertaking that would not interfere with investigations by the police into the matter, more so, "from what the prosecution has said investigation has been completed".
Bail, he said had even been granted in cases of murder and cited Mr. Joel Omodara Vs the state, 2004, INWLR, part 853, page 80, particularly at pages 89-90, and emphasised that the main objective of bail was to ensure that the accused person has to prepare himself for trial and not to be taken as a punitive measure. He submitted that Mbadinuju would definitely come for his trial and craved the indulgence of the court to refer to the case of chief Moshood Kashimowo Abiola Vs Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1995, INWLR, part 369, page 155, particularly at page 183-186. He said that Abiola, though was charged for treason and treasonable felony, was granted bail.
"It is an inalienable right of the accused to be granted bail", he said, adding that though the prosecution submitted that his client be remanded in the prison custody at the state police command, Awka, for security reasons, but that again would not serve any purpose.
The former chairman of the NBA, Onitsha branch, Mr. Chuka Obele Chuka, he said distributed leaflets with the photographs of the slain Igwes, saying that the intention was to curry undue sentiments and bias the minds of spectators and other lawyers within the court premises, pronouncing judgment on the accused before the trial and urged the court to grant Mbadinuju bail.
The prosecution counsel, Columbus Odaro, (DCP) had submitted that the magistrate court lacked the inherent powers to grant the accused bail because going by section 77 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Laws (CPL) of Anambra state, 1991, a person charged with any offence punishable by death shall not be granted bail, adding that section 243 of the same CPL of Anambra state objected to granting such bail.
He further cited C.O.P. Vs Chinemelum, 1995, 4NWLR, part 390, page 519, and said that bail is not granted ex-judicio where the offence allegedly committed is a capital one. He said that the former governor was merely arraigned at the Jabi magistrate court, Abuja for offences of abatement, concealment of facts, which are punishable by death, and that though he was granted bail, but that the charges preferred against him yesterday were different.
"But here, the charges are simply over murder", he said and urged the court to refuse the application for bail and remand Mbadinuju in custody pending when the matter would be taken to a higher court.
F.A. Andy, counsel to Barnabas Igwe's elder brother Vincent, when Mbadinuju's former commissioner for works, Mr. Kenneth Emeakayi was being tried over the same allegation, came in as a friend of the court and said the issue of bail application was very clear and governed by section 73 of the criminal procedure law, of Anambra state, 1991, and that though the court has jurisdiction to grant or refuse bail, the said section confers on the chief magistrate, only one jurisdiction in the matter which is to remand the accused because the allegations of murder is a capital offence.
The court, he said should bind over all the accused including Mbadinuju and the witnesses and sends their case file to the state Director of Public Prosecution for advice.
The court rose for 15 minutes and when it reconvened, chief magistrate Mbakwe said her court lacked the jurisdiction to grant bail on a criminal case of murder for which the accused was charged. She said the case had been transferred to the Attorney-General of Anambra state, and when it is transferred to a higher court, the accused can apply for bail.
She subsequently ruled that Mbadinuju will remain in prison custody until 19/01/2006 when he is expected to be brought to a higher court, while the witnesses were also bound over to the High Court to give evidence, failure of which attracts a fine of N10,000.
The former governor, who was dressed in a red shirt atop a black trouser with a black sandal, told repoters afterwards that he had no case to answer and, "if you have no case to answer, nothing can happen to you".
He further said: "If you look at the circumstances of this case since two years ago, you will find that I have no blemish. They said I conspired with others to commit this murder. Who are these others, don't they have a name?", he queried, adding that he would not have conspired with anybody to kill the Igwes whom he described as very close friends.
Moreover, he said he was away to attend the World Igbo Congress (WIC), meeting in Houston, USA, when the murder took place and that if he is being roped into the murder, it would certainly be that the alleged conspiracy took place spiritually and not physically. He expressed the fear that his arraignment and trial had taken a political colouration.