Lack of legal representation by three of the 11 suspected killers of four undergraduates of the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT), at Umuokiri-Aluu in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, in October 2012 stalled the trial of the case for a second time.
The affected persons included Ikechukwu Loius Amadi, Ellis Chinasa opera and Ozioma (3rd, 4th, and 10th accused respectively).
Thursday’s proceedings was supposed to be for formal arraignment and taking of plea by the accused persons to kick off the matter, but the matter could not continue because of legal representation.
Justice L. L. Nyordee of the state High Court said the accused persons would be allowed to take their plea when all of them get legal representation, and said the matter would be directed to the Legal Aide Council (LAC) for assistance.
Nyordee said: “Owing to the critical nature of the matter and the fact that the charge against the accused persons is capital in nature, and in view of the fact that some of the accused persons have no legal representation in court today (yesterday), especially the 3rd, 4th and 10th accused persons, it is obvious that they do not have money to hire a lawyer to represent them.
“Plea for all the accused persons will be delayed pending when all of them get legal representation.
“The attention of Legal Aide Council will be drawn to this development, so they can assist by providing legal representation for the three accused persons.”
When the matter came up early March, Justice T.S. Orji to whom the case was initially assigned rejected the file on the grounds of her relationship with the both parties.
According to her, while she hails from Okrika, home town of two of the victims (Tekena Elkanah and Lloyd Mike Toku), she is married to Aluu, the scene of crime and traditional domain of the Alhaji Hassan Welewa, an accused in the case.
Apart from the trio, all other accused persons were represented. The Aluu monarch, Welewa was represented by the former President of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), O. C. J. Okocha (SAN).
This is the 3rd time he is changing his lawyer since the case began last year. The Solicitor-General (SG), of the state, Rufus N. Godwin, led other lawyers including the state Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Ibikiri Otorubio, for the prosecution. The judge later inquired from them in the open court whether they would like to prosecute their cases themselves or they would like a lawyer to represent them? Each of them expressed the desire to be represented by lawyer.
The case was adjourned till August 1 for plea. Father of one of the victims, Tekena Elkana, Friday Elkana, expressed worry that the matter was getting unnecessarily delayed.
He said: “The case is delaying so much, this incident happened since last year, up till now nothing seemed to be happening. Let the government do well to facilitate the proceedings.” He insisted he wanted justice on the case.