Twin bombings: Lack of psychiatric report stalls Okah’s trial

The non release of a psychiatric report to ascertain the mental state of suspected terrorist, Charles Okah, on Wednesday stalled his trial before Justice Gabriel Kolawole of a Federal High Court.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Okah and Obi Nwabueze are charged with being masterminds of the October 1, 2010 twin bombing at the Eagle Square, Abuja.
When the case came up on Wednesday, parties were informed that the fresh medical report, which the judge ordered to be conducted on Okah at the last sitting, was not ready.
The initial report read in part: Okah suffers from “psychotic depression, fatigues disorder and auditory/visual hallucinations”.
The said report, dated January 9, 2014, was signed by a Senior Consultant Psychiatrist with the National Hospital, Dr. O. T. Ephraim Oluwanuga.
Alex Iziyon (SAN), lead prosecution counsel, had earlier told the court that based on the initial report, Okah was fit to stand trial and urged the court to go on with the trial.
Kolawole had observed that the report contained some medical terms, which even he could hardly comprehend.
He then ordered that the fresh medical examination should be conducted at the National Hospital, Abuja by two or three psychiatrists, who must jointly sign the report.
He further directed that the report should be written in common English language that can easily be understood by a layman and submitted to the court three days before February 5.
Justice Kolawole held that it was the position of the law that an accused person must be medically fit to stand trial.
He observed that the indictment against the accused person was weighty and attracts severe punishment.
He said although the court’s rules require that criminal cases be heard promptly, he would rather make haste slowly in the instant case.
Kolawole reasoned that this was to avoid wasting judicial time and resources in conducting a trial that could be nullified by the appellate court on health ground.
He then adjourned the case to April 2 to enable him to continue with the trial upon studying the fresh medical report on Okah’s health status.
Kolawole had in a ruling in January ordered that a fresh medical examination be conducted on Okah within 15 days to confirm his mental state, after rejecting an initial one.
The ruling followed an observation raised by Okah’s counsel, John Ainetor, who had argued that there were some inconsistencies contained in the report.
Four people, believed to be members of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, were in December 2011 arraigned over the bombings.
Henry Okah, leader of the group, was later convicted and sentenced to jail in South Africa.
One of them, Tiemkemfa Osvwo, aka General Gbokos, died later, while another, Edmund Ebiware, who was tried separately, was sentenced to life imprisonment.