Coronavirus scare stalls trial of Offa bank robbery suspects

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Fears of Coronavirus (COVID-19) have stalled continuation of trial of 5 April 2018 Offa, bank robbery suspects at the Kwara State High Court.

Doors of the court of the trial judge, Justice Haleema Saleeman were under lock and keys.

Heavily armed prison officials with the suspects arrived at the court premises at 9.05 am but there were no officials to open the courtroom for them.

The accused are Ayoade Akinnibosun, Ibikunle Ogunleye, Adeola Abraham, Salahudeen Azeez, and Niyi Ogundiran, all of whom were in the court’s premises.

READ ALSO: ‘How kidnappers killed my 15-year-old son after collecting N1.5 million ransom’

Investigations at the Ilorin High Court premises showed the state judiciary had been 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 High Court Mrs Ibijoke Olawoyin said the court decided to shut down because of “the risks associated with public gathering.”

The circular reads: “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 gathering 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 13 July 2020 stay at and work from home while the remaining view essential officers that come to work should wear face masks, regularly wash and sanitise their hands and maintain reasonable social distancing.”

Another notice posted on the wall of the court indicates the state judiciary will commence its annual vacation from 3 August till 21 September 2020, signaling that the continuation of the Offa banks robbery trial has been stalled.

Justice Saleeman, at the last sitting on 10 July, adjourned till Wednesday after taking evidence from one of the defendants, Azeez Salawu.

Salawu had told the court how six suspects were killed in his presence by the policemen in Abuja.

He said that the policemen extracted confessional statements from him under duress, forcing him to admit his alleged participation in the bank robbery attacks in Offa, where over 30 persons, including policemen, were reportedly killed.

The suspects were eventually ferried away by the prison officials in their vehicle at 9.50 am when it was clear the court would not sit.

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