For the second time in less than one month, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja yesterday rejected a fresh psychiatric test result produced by the Abuja National Hospital on Mr. Charles Okah.
Okah is facing terrorism charges before the court, along with others for purportedly masterminding the October 1, 2010 twin-bomb blasts in Abuja, which left 12 people dead and several others injured.
The trial judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, said he would not be able to rely on the National Hospital result following disagreement between the Federal Government and Okah over the validity of the result.
The result, according to the Federal Government, indicated that Okah was fit to face trial but the accused faulted the result on the grounds that it was not representative of his mental status.
The first result was similarly rejected by Okah, who said that the language of the report was esoteric and difficult to understand.
The court had ordered a fresh test, which should be written in a layman’s language.
But both parties openly maintained their contradictory positions on the test result yesterday, a situation that made the trial judge to adopt a mid-course solution that an independent psychiatrist should re-examine the accused to determine his actual mental status and fitness for the trial.
According to the court, the test, which will be carried out by independent psychiatrists is to ascertain if he is mentally fit to proceed with his trial.
The case could, however, not go on yesterday because of the need for independent psychiatrists to examine the suspect.
The trial judge and the parties in the matter met in the chambers to examine the report of his mental state that was brought from the National Hospital, where it was agreed that independent psychiatrists should be consulted to ascertain his mental state.
The matter was adjourned to April 2, 2014 for the assessment of the three reports.
One of the alleged masterminds of the bombing, Mr. Osvwo Tekemfa Francis, a.k.a ‘General-Gbokos’, died in prison while the trial was going on, even as the high court, in a separate judgment, sentenced another accused, Edmund Ebiware, to life imprisonment.
His counsel, Mr. Festus Keyamo, had consistently accused the prison authorities of denying his client adequate medical care, saying that it was the sole reason why the accused, despite spirited efforts, could not stand in the dock to face trial.
Counsel to the Federal Government, Dr. Alex Izinyon, SAN, maintained that the accused person was deliberately trying to hoodwink the court into believing that he was not fit to stand trial.
Izinyon argued that the legal requirement that the accused must be fit to stand trial did not imply that he must be able to stand on his feet in court.
He contended that the law stipulated that he must be of sound mind and be conscious enough to understand happenings around him.
Part of the report by the medical experts at the National Hospital was that by his conduct, there was need to subject Okah to psychiatric evaluation to ascertain his mental state.
Consequently, the court held that in view of such expert opinion, there was need to ascertain the exact mental status of the accused person.
“I am ready to exercise a little more patience”, the judge stated, even as he ordered that the accused be taken to the National Hospital for psychiatric evaluation within seven days from today.
The judge also ordered that the report of the examination should be made available to the court through the court’s Deputy Registrar (Litigation).