The planned arraignment of a traditional ruler in Oyo State, Oba Solomon Akinola, on terrorism charges at the Federal High Court in Abuja was stalled on Thursday due to vehement objection to the jurisdiction of the court to conduct the trial.
Though Oba Akinola was not physically present in court to take his plea, three of his high chiefs, Sunday Aderinto 87 years, Samson Ogunmola, and Timothy Adewale Aderinto were brought to court under heavy police security.
However, shortly after the three chiefs were called to the dock, their counsel, Mr Jimoh Abdulsalam, raised objection to the taking of their plea to the offences alleged to have been committed between May 10 and 21 last year.
The counsel predicted his objection on the validity of the charges insisting that the three chiefs, aged between 87 and 71 years, are victims of a land dispute between Oko and Aagba communities near Ogbomoso in Surulere Local Government Area of Oyo state.
He told the court that it is only the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) that can handle terrorism charges and expressed displeasure that police coloured a communal land dispute as a terrorism act, adding that the chiefs cannot take pleas on terrorism charges.
The lawyer also challenged the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit, noting that the chiefs who have spent 37 days in police detention were not properly before the court.
The problem was compounded by the inability of the prosecution to counter the oral objection of the defendants with any authority of the law.
Following the vehement objection to the arraignment on jurisdiction, Justice Obiora Egwuatu directed the defense counsel to put his objection in writing and serve the same on the prosecution.
Other chiefs billed for arraignment but said to be at large are Jimoh Asimiyu, Segun Gbadebo, Oluwole Ogundeji, Akintaro Mathew Piamo, Rafiu Ganiyu, Adejare Adeleru, and Zacheus Adeleru.
Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, filed the terrorism charges against them through an officer in the legal department of the Force Headquarters, Mr Orji Kalu.
The criminal charges among others indicated that the defendants while armed with dangerous weapons comprising cutlasses and knives allegedly conspired and invaded Aagba Community in Oyo State and kidnapped three people in addition to inflicting various degrees of injuries on their victims.
Those said to have been kidnapped are Atanda Akinwale, Olayiwola Gbadebo, and Olusola Agbebi contrary to section 1 (2) of the Terrorism Prevention Act 2013.
Also, they were accused of inflicting injuries on Muritala Alimi, Omilabu Oluwasegun, and Mrs Rachel Bamidele.
The charges also indicated that 4 tyres of Honda Pilot Jeep belonging to Baale of Aagba, Chief Adesola Ajiboye, a motorcycle worth N300, 000, a borehole, windscreen, pipes, and a bulldozer a farm were destroyed.
The defendants were further accused of stealing 15 bags of cement worth N450,000.
Meanwhile, Justice Egwuatu has fixed the matter for February 14 to take the objection of the defendants to the charges.