The Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday awarded N150,000 cost against Olawale Bakare, the co-defendant of Omoyele Sowore, the publisher of Sahara Reporters.

The two men are being prosecuted for treasonable felony by the Attorney-General of the Federation’s office.

Trial judge, Ijeoma Ojukwu, initially awarded N100,000 cost against Mr Bakare for his absence from court on Thursday.

She, however, added N50,000 to it after the defence lawyer said it was impossible for the defendant to be available for the hearing scheduled for Friday.

Mr Sowore arrived at the proceedings late, but early enough to avert being slammed with similar fine.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how Mr Bakare moved to the UK to pursue an academic programme despite the ongoing court case.

Hearing

At the resumed hearing Thursday morning, neither the defendants nor their lawyers were present.

But the judge noted that the defence team led by Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, sent in a letter dated January 29 asking that the trial scheduled for Thursday and Friday be postponed to another day.

Reacting, the prosecuting counsel, Aminu Alilu, said the letter failed to adduce any reason for the request to be granted.

He urged the court to revoke the bail granted the defendants and award costs against them for their absence.

The judge stood the matter down till after mid-day to rule.

By the time the hearing resumed in the afternoon, a lawyer from the defence team, Marshall Abubakar, appeared, and about 25 minutes into the proceedings, Mr Sowore too walked in.

Mr Abubakar said the defence team had not been informed of any counter-directive from the judge or a counter-opinion from the prosecution concerning the defence’s January 29 letter.

So both the defence lawyers and the defendants had presumed that the proceedings fixed for Thursday and Friday had been postponed as requested in the letter.

He insisted that the letter by the defence had given enough notice and constituted sufficient grounds for the request contained in it to be granted.

He said “As your lordship is aware, January 25, this matter was scheduled to go on and we were ready and in court.

“However, owing to the demise of Justice Watila of Abeokuta Division, the court could not proceed.

“It was hoped that if the proceeding had gone on, we would have informed your lordship that today’s date would not be convenient for the defence.”

Responding, the prosecuting counsel described Mr Abubakar’s submission as “very shocking and alarming that this honourable court for the second time will be waiting for these eminent defendants.”

He recalled how the court awarded N200,000 cost against the prosecution for causing a delay last year.

He urged the court to revoke the bail granted the second defendant who was absent.

Ruling

Ruling, the judge said the presumption by the defence that the case had been fixed for another date on the basis of their letter that was anchored on no reason was baseless.

She said she would refrain from revoking Mr Bakare’s bail, but she awarded the cost of N100,000 against him.

The court awarded another N50,000 cost against him after the prosecution urged the judge to order the trial to continue Friday as earlier scheduled and the defence lawyer made it clear that it was impossible for Mr Bakare to travel from Osogbo in Osun State and be in Abuja by Friday.

It will be recalled that the judge had in her ruling granting bail to the defendants restricted Mr Sowore to Abuja and Mr Bakare to Osogbo, except when he needed to travel to Abuja for his trial.

Mrs Ojukwu said the total cost of N150,000 awarded against Mr Bakare on Thursday was to discourage “inordinate delay” in the case.

She adjourned the trial till April 28 and 29.

The Attorney-General’s office accused the two defendants of organising a protest tagged #RevolutionNow allegedly aimed at toppling President Muhammadu Buhari.

Source

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