The war of words in the Oyo State traditional institution has now shifted to the law court. With this a former House of Representatives member representing Oyo Federal constituency, Hon. Kamil Akinlabi, and two Oyo traditional Chiefs were recently arraigned before an Oyo Division of the High Court on a four-count offence bordering on conspiracy, attempt to cause breach of peace and defamation of the character of the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi.
The two Chiefs arraigned along with the former All Progressives Congress (APC) two-term lawmaker were Jacob Oluokun (77) and Isola Sulaiman (71). All the accused persons, who were represented by Abiodun Abful Raheem, however pleaded not guilty to all the counts and were granted bail by Justice Bayo Taiwo based on self-recognition.
According to the charge brought by the prosecutor, Mr J.I. Ebosereme, the accused persons committed the offence on January 31, 2016 in Oyo town within the Oyo judicial Division of Oyo State. They allegedly “conspired to commit misdemeanor to wit: defamation of character of a prominent traditional ruler in the state, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi”.They were alleged to have committed the offence by publishing a defamatory story in the Sunday edition of a national newspaper on the said date alleging that Oba Adeyemi was trying to plant a bomb somewhere in Oyo town, “which was false”.
They were also accused of conducting themselves “in a manner likely to cause breach of the peace of the state.
The offences according to the prosecution were “contrary to and punishable under Sections 517, 375 and 249 of the Criminal Code Laws of Oyo State, 2000”.
Leading eight other counsel, Abdul Raheem, prayed the court for bail of his clients on liberal terms, as according to him, the offence being bailable.
The counsel impressed it on the court that his clients deserved to be granted bail in line with the provisions of Section 35 (5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as well as Section 118 (3) of the Criminal Code bordering on the offence of misdemeanor.
He further argued that “I humbly inform this honourable court that the accused persons came to this court on their own volition without being served by the prosecution. This means that they are ready to meet up with the trial of the case.
The first accused person happens to be a former representative of this community in the House of Representatives. He is a reputable person who will not jump bail.
“The two other accused persons are of advanced ages. The second accused person is 77 years old, while the third one is 71 years old. With regard to Section 120 of the Evidence Act, I seek to apply for their bail on most liberal terms”, he said.
In spite of the prayer, the prosecutor raised an objection to the bail application, saying that it was merely oral. “There is no formal summons for bail on behalf of the accused persons. Issue of bail is always at the discretion of the court. I oppose the oral application on the ground that there is possibility that the accused persons will not be ready to face trial. The first accused person is a man of means; he can take flight and simply travel out of the country.
“On the issue of age as raised by my learned colleague, age has nothing to do with granting or refusing of bail. So, I humbly urge my Lord to refuse the bail application”, Ebosereme submitted.
Abdul Raheem further countered the prosecutor’s argument, saying that no provision made it mandatory that formal bail application be filed on the first day of arraignment. “The position of the court is that on the first arraignment, the accused can bring bail application either oral or formal”, citing the case of Abiola and the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1 NWLR, pt. 170, page 175 and 177 paragraph b, c, page 178(j) of the Criminal Procedure Law to buttress his averments.
He also noted that “A prosecutor must not oppose bail application just for the sake of it. What evidence does anybody want if the accused persons have come to court on their own volition? The defence counsel asked.
In his ruling, Justice Bayo Taiwo who granted the accused persons bail on self recognition, said “in view of the fact that the accused persons came to court on their volition, as well as the nature of the charge.