Stephen Olufemi Oni, Ilorin
The trial of the suspects of the April 5, 2018 Offa bank robbery could not continue on Wednesday as the doors of the court of the trial judge, Justice Haleema Saleeman, were under lock and key.
Though prison officials arrived the court premises at 9.05 am with all the five suspects, there were no court officials to open the court room for them.
However, findings by newsmen, who had thronged the Ilorin High Court premises cover the proceedings, revealed that all the courts in the premises were shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A circular pasted on one of the walls in the court premises signed by the Chief Registrar of the State High Court, Mrs Ibijoke Olawoyin, stated that the court decided to shutdown in order to avoid the risks associated with public gatherings.
“It has been observed that the recent resumption of work in the state judiciary has led to an upsurge in the number of staff and members of the public trooping into the court premises without strict compliance with COVID-19 protocols put in place by the state technical committee on COVID-19 particularly as it relates to categories of workers allowed to attend office.
“It is in view of the risks associated with such public gatherings and the desire of the state government to ensure the prevention and curtailment of the spread of the dreaded coronavirus that His Lordship, the Chief Judge of Kwara State, in compliance with Kwara State Technical Committee on COVID-19 directs that all officers of the state judiciary below grade level 14 should as from Monday 13th July, 2020 stay at and work from home while the remaining few essential officers that come to work should wear face masks, regularly wash and sanitise their hands and maintain reasonable social distancing.”
Another notice pasted on the wall of the court indicated that the state judiciary would commence its annual vacation on August 3 to September 21, 2020, signalling that the continuation of the Offa bank robbery trial has been stalled.
At the last sitting of the court on July 10, Justice Saleeman had adjourned till Wednesday, July 22 after taking evidence from one of the defendants, Azeez Salawu.
Salawu, had told the court how six suspects were allegedly killed in his presence by the policemen in Abuja, adding that the police did that purposely to coerce him to admit his alleged participation in the bank robbery attacks in Offa, where 18 people, including policemen were reportedly killed.
The accused are Ayoade Akinnibosun, Ibikunle Ogunleye, Adeola Abraham, Salahudeen Azeez and Niyi Ogundiran.
They were taken away by the prison officials at 9.50 am when it was certain that the court would not sit.