Court Halts Trial of Peace Corps Commandant, Akoh
Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday halted the trial of the National Commandant of the Peace Corps of Nigeria (PCN), Ambassador Dickson Akoh in the 13-Count criminal charges brought against him by the Nigerian Police.
The Judge stopped the trial following the persistent refusal of the Police to open the Corporate Head office of the Corps in Abuja, which was sealed by the Police since February 28, 2017.
Ruling in a motion on notice brought against the Police by Akoh, Justice Tsoho held that the Police, as an institution established by law must not be seen breaking laws and disregarding court orders and judgments with impunity.
The court said it was wrong of Police to have chosen to disobey two judgments of the court which directed it to un-seal the Headquarters of the Peace Corps, in the past one year.
Justice Tsoho agreed with counsel to the Peace Corps boss, John Ochogwu that Akoh, as a defendant in the 13-count criminal charges preferred against him by the Police had been disadvantaged in preparing for his defence as required by law.
The court held that the Police have breached Section 36 of the 1999 constitution, as amended by refusing to give the defendant adequate time and opportunity to prove his innocence in the charges against him by sealing up the office where the material for the defence was said to have been kept.
The judge said the Police which relied heavily on the speedy trial of the defendant must be seen adhering strictly to the rule of law and natural justice by ensuring that the defendant was not placed at a disadvantaged position.
“It has often been said that justice is not for one part but for all, including the state. In the instant case, Police cannot be said to be fair and just to the defendant by sealing up the office were the defence materials could be obtained and at the same time demand for a speedy trial at the court.”
“Let the point be made that the hand of the Police is not clean by refusing to obey court judgments and at the same time asking for a speedy trial in its case against the Commandant of the Peace Corps of Nigeria”, the Judge said.
“If the Police truly deserve adherence to or compliance with the law, it should first show a good example by respecting the law.”
“It cannot be reasonably encouraged to promote the hypocrisy of requiring others to be subject of the law while the Police wear the toga of an outlaw with impunity.”
The Judge said, there is a democratic norm that no person or institution is above the law and consequently stopped the trial until there is evidence that the Police has complied with the order of the court.
The police had, in 2017 slammed a 90-Count charge against the Peace Corps boss but the charges were later reduced to 13 by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation.
Recalled that, Justice Gabriel Kolawole had in a judgment on the enforcement of fundamental human rights suit filed by Peace Corps and its boss, ordered Police to un-seal the corporate head office of the corps on the grounds that the action was unlawful, illegal and breach of the fundamental right of Peace Corps members to own property.
The judge awarded N12.5 million fine against Police and in favour of Akoh and 49 others over their unlawful arrest and detention by Police.
Justice Tsoho in another judge had ordered Police to vacate the office of the organization on the grounds that the presence of Police in the office was against the law.
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