It took a trial judge three hours to order that Charles Okah, who is standing trial for last year’s independence day bomb blast in Abuja which killed at least 12 people, be taken to a hospital after he collapsed yesterday in court.
Around 9.40am, Mr Okah, along with his co-defendants — Obi Nwabueze, Edmund Ebiware, and Tiemkemfa Francis Osvwo — stepped into the dock at the Federal High Court, Abuja, to continue their trial over alleged treason. The trial judge, Gabriel Kolawole, noticing that Mr Okah looked ill, asked him if he would like to sit or stand for the trial. At that point, Mr Okah collapsed and fell to the floor.
Mr Kolawole then rose and retired to his chamber, inviting all counsel. After taking arguments from the parties in his chamber, the judge ordered that Mr Okah should be moved to a hospital to receive medical attention.
“The first accused person shall, between 24 hours from today, be transferred to the National Hospital, Abuja to be accorded proper and comprehensive medical treatment at the expense of the federal government,” Mr Kolawole ruled.
He then adjourned the case until January 27, 2011, noting that the chief medical director of the National Hospital would, on that date, inform the court in writing whether Mr Okah was fit to stand trial.
After the ruling of the court at about 12.15pm, an ambulance belonging to the Nigerian Prison Service accompanied by a heavily-armed Prison Armed Squad and State Security Service officials took Mr Okah away from the court premises.
The court had, in December 2010, ruled that there would be no bail for the October 1 bomb blast suspects, saying that the offence which they were charged with was a “very serious one.”
“The offence which they are charged with is serious in nature and is a very serious one indeed,” Mr Kolawole said. He said he was unable to find any concrete facts or evidence that would convince him to grant the bail application. “I am not satisfied and convinced that if the accused are granted bail, they will be available to attend their trial,” he said.
The prosecution had slammed two separate charges against the accused persons which include an eight-count charge concerning the October 1 bomb blast during the nation’s 50th independence anniversary in Abuja and a one-count charge over an explosion at a post-amnesty seminar organized by Vanguard Newspapers in Delta state where governors of Delta, Edo and Imo were in attendance.