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Rivers Court Commences Trial of Three Ex-Soldiers, Others For Robbery

A Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has commenced the trial of three former soldiers and 10 other individuals charged with armed robbery, burglary, and receiving stolen property.

 The trial began after the Nigerian Police Force arraigned the suspects on three charges.

During Wednesday’s hearing, the prosecuting counsel, F. D. Sokari, representing the Inspector-General of Police, presented their first witness, Emmanuel Nwogu. 

Nwogu testified and consented to his extrajudicial statement made to the police being tendered and admitted as evidence.

However, the defense counsel, Monday Stephen-Akpekon, objected, arguing that the written statement on oath of the complainant, a fundamental document, had not been served on them.

 Following the objections, Sokari moved for an adjournment.

Presiding Judge Justice G. O. Ollor directed the prosecution to ensure that the necessary documents are provided before the next hearing. 

The matter was adjourned to July 17, 2024, for the continuation of the hearing.

Outside the courtroom, defense counsel Stephen-Akpekon maintained his client, West Isaac, is innocent, criticizing the Nigerian Army for dismissing him without proper investigation.

 “He (West Isaac) was a soldier fighting Boko Haram in the North-East and was given a pass for medical treatment. 

“Upon arriving in Port Harcourt, he was accused of armed robbery, despite not being caught with any weapon,” Stephen-Akpekon said.

He further alleged that the Nigerian Army conducted a media trial rather than a thorough investigation, dismissing the soldiers and handing them over to the police without due process.

 “After police arrested and detained them, they were maltreated, returned to the army, dismissed without proper investigation, and sent back,” he added.

Prosecutor Sokari noted the case initially involved 13 suspects, but one was removed on health grounds.

 He expressed confidence in the prosecution’s progress, stating, “We opened our case today with our PW1 testifying.

 The extrajudicial statement was admitted as Exhibit A. The court adjourned the case to July 17, 2024, and further proceedings are scheduled for October 2 and 16, 2024, for cross-examination of PW1.”

The Rivers State Police Command, in a statement by its spokesperson Grace Iringe-Koko on May 27, announced the arrest of the 13 suspects, including the soldiers, for alleged armed robbery, hijacking of food trucks, and diverting them to other locations.

 Among those arrested was a member of the syndicate who is also an operative of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps.

The police statement revealed that the arrests followed an initial investigation into a burglary at a private warehouse in Elimgbu community, Ohio/Akpor Local Government Area.

 The Nigerian Army subsequently dismissed the implicated soldiers following their arrest.

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