BY AMOS DUNIA, ABUJA – The trial of the senator representing Kogi West senatorial district in the National Assembly, Senator Dino Melaye in the case of alleged false information dissemination brought against him by the Federal Government has suffered a major setback in Abuja.
This followed the decision of an Abuja high court trying Senator Melaye in the case to adjourn the trial sine die (indefinitely) as a result of the confirmation by the National Hospital, Abuja, where the lawmaker is on admission at the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital.
Melaye was billed to appear for trial on Thursday but his lead counsel, Mr Rickey Tarfa (SAN), in an application to justify the absence of the senator informed the court that his client was still lying critically ill at the National Hospital.
Tarfa tendered a medical report signed by Dr O O Olaniran, Director of Medical Services, which confirmed that the senator was being managed at the Intensive Care Unit.
Tarfa therefore urged the trial judge, Justice Olasunbo Goodluck to consider the ill health of the Federal lawmaker as a special circumstance that warranted his absence from trial.
He also urged the court to adjourn the trial pending the time Senator Melaye would recuperate from the sickness and be able to stand before the court to answer the two-count criminal charge against him.
However, counsel to the Federal Government, Mr Shuaib Labaran opposed the request for the adjournment on the ground that there was no fact before the court that Melaye was arrested by the police and got injured in the process.
Labaran, who is from the Federal Ministry of Justice, insisted that counsel to Melaye relied on media report in his claim of police arrest of his client and urged the court to discountenance the claim.
Besides, Labaran faulted the medical report from the National Hospital, claiming that it was not admissible in evidence because it was not a certified true copy of the original.
He also said that a counsel from Rickey Tarfa’s chambers who deposed to the affidavit on the request for adjournment was not a medical officer and therefore not in position to ascertain the health condition of the senator.
But, in her ruling, Justice Olasunbo Goodluck held that from the gamut of the entire facts placed before the court, the prosecution did not controvert the fact that the defendant was in the National Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit.
The trial judge said that the photocopy of the medical report was admissible in an interlocutory application as in the instance case and therefore rejected the submissions of the prosecution.
Justice Goodluck further held that it is fair and just for the court to examine all facts placed before it, adding that in doing so, it has been established that the defendant is having health challenges in the hospital.
She therefore adjourned the case sine die pending the recovery of the senator from the sickness to stand trial.
The Federal Government had on March 1 slammed a two-count criminal charge against Melaye on the allegation that he gave false report to the police in the alleged attempt by some people to assassinate him in Kogi State.
Speaking with judiciary correspondents shortly after the ruling, Labaran said that the prosecution will abide by the court decision but that a close watch will be placed on Melaye so as to bring him to court for trial upon his discharge from the hospital.