A Lokoja Chief Magistrates’ Court on Thursday remanded a senator, Dino Melaye, and two others in police custody until June 11 over alleged gun running.
The accused are standing trial on a seven-count charge bordering on criminal conspiracy and unlawful possession of firearms.
This is contrary to Section 97 (1) of the Penal Code and Section 27 (1) (a) (1) of the Firearms Act CAP P28, Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004.
Earlier, Alex Izinyon, lead counsel to the prosecution, urged the court to remand the other defendants Kabiru Seidu, 31, and Nuhu Salihu, 25, in police custody.
The Senior Advocate said this was to assist the police in furtherance of their investigations.
He, however, pleaded that Mr. Melaye be remanded in prison custody because he is influential and could jeopardise investigation.
He pointed out that the minimum sentence upon conviction was 10 years imprisonment under the Firearms Act.
But Mike Ozekhome, leading six other lawyers for the defendants, in his oral application, prayed the court to grant bail the senator.
He said the senator should be granted bail because he was asthmatic and sick and needed more medical attention.
Mr. Ozekhome said that Melaye was only on Wednesday granted bail by a court in Abuja on liberal terms and had been in police custody.
The senior advocate said it was discriminatory for the prosecution to ask the court to keep other defendants in police custody and ask that the senator be remanded in prison custody.
“We can apply for bail for this traumatised senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria lying here before your worship on a stretcher.
“Melaye here is not charged with murder in this case; the senator, who is seen every day on the floor of the Senate making laws for the country, will stand his trial.
“To send him to prison is to encourage him to breach the bail condition granted him yesterday.
“I humbly urge my lord to grant bail in self recognisance to the fourth defendant because he will not jump bail; he will stand his trial and meet the bail conditions,” he said.
In his ruling, the Senior Magistrate, Sulyman Abdullah, said the essence of bail was to secure the attendance of the defendant before a court of competent jurisdiction.
“However, this application is not granted as a matter of course. It is anchored upon certain well timed, honoured principles of the law that would guarantee the production and appearance of the defendant.
“The court however has a grave responsibility to exercise such discretion with utmost caution and to act within the accepted principles of administration of justice.
“Having gone through all the submissions of counsels in respect of this oral application, I decline to exercise my discretion in favour of the fourth defendant; the oral application is accordingly refused,” he said.
Mr. Abdullah further ordered the Inspector-General of Police to furnish the senator with all medical needs he required and adjourned the case until June 11, for further mention.
The judge’s ruling indicates that the police could choose to keep Mr. Melaye in their custody till June 11.
Speaking in an interview, Mr. Ozekhome rationalized that the senator got some form of victory from the Thursday court decision.
He explained that the decision of the court was for the Inspector-General of Police to “take adequate care of the defendant.”
“What happened was that the prosecution asked the court to remand him in prison, but the judge refused and rather said the Inspector-General of Police should take care of Mr. Melaye until he fully recovers.”
Mr. Ozekhome said he believes the police will have no alternative but to return Mr. Melaye to the National Hospital Abuja, ‘‘especially since hospitals in Kogi State are all on strike”.
Efforts to get the Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood to react was not successful.
It is not yet clear if the police will bring the senator back to Abuja or keep in Lokoja.
Mr. Melaye was earlier arraigned at an FCT Magistrate Court for attempted suicide and destruction of public property, among other allegations on Wednesday.
He reportedly jumped out of a moving vehicle when the police attempted earlier to move him to Lokoja to face trial a few days ago. He was thereafter hospitalised for a few days under the close watch of police personnel.
Mr. Melaye was arraigned after he was confirmed fit for trial, the police said, although the lawmaker appeared at the court session on a stretcher.
He was thereafter taken to Lokoja after the Abuja judge granted him a N90 million bail.