By; PATRICK TITUS, Uyo
For lack of essential facts to warrant prosecution, an Uyo Chief Magistrate Court has discharged and acquitted three accused persons who were standing trial over alleged conspiracy to cause breech of peace in Akwa Ibom State.
The three accused persons, Eno Kenneth, Benson Benjamin and Utibe Sunday on the date of their arrest and subsequent arraignment in court since last year, were among protesters under the aegis of Next of Kin of Late Primary School Teachers who were carrying out a peaceful protest urging the state government to pay the entitlements due to their late parents from 1991 till date
Unhappy with the conduct of the protesters who carried the act at the gate of government house in Uyo, the state capital, the police led by one ACP Abibo ordered for their arrest, filed three count charges which included felony and conspiracy against them at the Chief Magistrate Court.
Ruling on the matter, Chief Magistrate Martin Johnson said that the charges against the accused were baseless and ought not to have been brought in the first place, just as the prosecutors have failed woefully to prove the essential ingredients of the offence.
According to Chief Magistrate Johnson both the charge of conspiracy and the charge of conducts likely to cause breach of peace in the state were discountenance mainly because the prosecutors have failed woefully to prove the essential ingredients of the offence.
He went further to say even if they had proof, the case has become discredited under cross examination because the PW1, ACP Abibo said the protest was peaceful and he had no right to arrest them during that protest.
The decision by his court to discharge and acquit the three accused persons was also informed by the fact that ACP Abibo had gone further to vow and promised the court that he would never arrest people who went on a peaceful protest again.
Reacting on the verdict, the lead counsel to the accused persons, Inibehe Effiong Esq described the charges against his clients as tyranny which must not be allowed to be in the state.
His words, “You are aware that the Commissioner of Police has filed a case against the next of Kin of Late Primary School Teachers who protested for the entitlement of their late parents and relatives from1991 till date. You are also aware that the Akwa Ibom state government is owing them; despite the persistent protests the Akwa Ibom state government has deliberately refused to pay their entitlements.
“On the contrary, the police charged them to court for merely protesting peacefully in front of the government house. It was on the basis of that peaceful protest that they were arraigned in court by the police. We took up the matter pro bono and insisted that these people have to be vindicated, that we cannot have this kind of arbitrariness, this kind of tyranny in Akwa Ibom.”
Again he added, “It is a thing of collective shame to Akwa Ibom that people whose parents, relatives put in their lives to train the future leaders of the state died in active service between 1991 till date and they have not being paid their entitlements whereas the former governor is receiving a pension of N100million, and the next of kin cannot be paid their entitlement.
“This is totally condemnable. So I am calling on the Akwa Ibom state government in light of this judgment to immediately commence the process of paying their entitlement and we must also warn that this type of case must never be brought again by the police,” Inibehe Effiong Esq stated.
He however commended the trial magistrate for being fair in judgment, saying it is a victory not just for his clients but also for the judiciary in the state.
Speaking separately on the judgment, Eno Kenneth, Benson Benjamin and Utibe Sunday expressed joy that they have been vindicated of the charges brought against them by the police, adding that the victory is for over 200 next of kin of late primary school teachers who have been denied the entitlements due to their late parent.
They also commended the trial magistrate, Chief Magistrate Martin Johnson for seeing wisdom in the matter and acting accordingly.
By; PATRICK TITUS, Uyo