By Unini Chioma – July 25, 2019
A middle-aged man, Peter Oko has told an Enugu High Court that he has spent three years and four months in prison custody without trial.
It would be recalled that the Presidential Committee on Prisons Reform and Decongestion headed by Justice Ishaq Bello was in the state between July 3 and 4 for their work.
Bello had during their sitting frowned at a situation where criminal proceedings were initiated against people and such cases abandoned while the defendants rot in jail.
He directed the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) to review such cases, including that of Oko and present such matters before the chief judge on an agreed date.
At the resumed hearing on Thursday, Oko, who was standing trial for murder said that he had been in prison custodyin Nsukka since 2010 and was granted bail on March 24, 2016 but had remained in custody.
He said that a lawyer whom he paid to secure his release abandoned the agreement they had, adding that he had not been to court since 2016.
The defense counsel, Mr U. E. Davis requested the court to discharge his client in view of the warrant showing that the defendant was granted bail over three years ago.
Davis said that the nine years his client had so far spent in custody would have been more than enough to serve out his term had he been convicted.
“It is obvious that the state has refused to diligently prosecute the matter. I, therefore, apply that he be discharged for want of diligent prosecution,” Davis said.
The DPP, Mr Paul Ugwueze told the court that the case was before Justice A. Onovo, adding that one A.C. Ozioko, a legal officer, was handling the matter.
Ugwueze confirmed that Oko was standing trial with two others but was granted bail over three years with his co-defendants.
Responding, Emehelu said that there was no reason for the defendant to remain in custody having been granted bail.
She said that additional information was needed on the circumstances of the matter before a decision would be taken.
Emehelu adjourned the matter to July 29, 2019 and ordered the registrar of the court that granted the defendant bail to appear with the case file.
The CJ also directed the prosecutor to appear on the adjourned date.