There was a mild drama at Chief Magistrate Court Number Two, Tunga Minna, on Thursday when four suspects who were to be convicted and sentenced made a U-turn to plead not guilty to the two-count charges earlier brought against them by the men of the Niger State Police Command.
The four defendants had earlier pleaded guilty to the two-count charges brought against them by the police after the charges were read to them by the presiding Chief Magistrate, Hajiya Fati Umar Hassan.
The four defendants, Suleiman Ahmadu, Bello Adamu, Harisu Usman, and Umar Isiaka were standing trial on two counts of criminal conspiracy, aiding, and abetting.
According to the police prosecutor, DSP Mayaki Abdullahi, the two counts of charges contravened sections 97 and 85 of the penal code.
They were earlier arraigned before Minna Chief Magistrate Court Number 2, and they all pleaded guilty to the two counts of charges earlier read to them.
The four defendants were alleged to have conspired among themselves to contribute money for one Bala Kato, who was alleged to have been a principal suspect in the killing of one Alarama Umar Tasiu, and escaped to the Niger Republic.
Bala Kato was said to have escaped to the Niger Republic after killing Alarama Umar Tasiu, who was killed early last month at London Street in Minna.
However, when the charges were earlier read to them by the presiding Chief Magistrate, Hajiya Fati Umar Hassan, they all pleaded guilty to the charges, and the police prosecutor had prayed to the court to invoke the provisions of Section 190 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Niger State.
The Chief Magistrate then reserved their conviction and sentencing for November 6, 2023.
When they were brought on substituted First Information Report (FIR) Thursday by the men of the Niger State Police Command, in a turn of events, they quickly made a U-turn by denying the earlier charges of being guilty to the offence.
After they pleaded not guilty, the police prosecutor then objected to their bail on the ground that they would interfere with the ongoing police investigation to arrest the principal suspected killer of the deceased.
The presiding Chief Magistrate, Hajiya Fati Umar Hassan, while granting them bail as objected by the police prosecutor, asserted that, "having perused through the first information report, the defendants were not alleged to have conspired with the principal suspected killer.
"And the prosecutor had told the court that the offences were bailable offences. I want to use my discretion to admit them on bail in the sum of N2 million with reasonable surety who must reside within the jurisdiction of the court.
"One of the sureties must be a Chief Imam of any of the Juma'at Mosque in Minna, and the second surety must be a businessman who has up to $5,000 in his account, to deposit his national ID card with his recent passport, and to write an undertaking to produce the defendants in court or to face the charges brought against them should they escape prosecution", she ruled.
She then adjourned the case till December 15, 2023, for further mention, while they were remanded in correctional custody pending when they would perfect and meet the bail condition.
Niger State Governor, Hon. Mohammed Umaru Bago, has promised to enhance take-home for pensioners after sanitising the system.
Governor Umaru Bago, who spoke through his deputy, Comrade Yakubu Garba, made the promise on Thursday at the commissioning of the new secretariat complex of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (Pensioners' House), Niger State Council, located along Madela Road, Minna.
He disclosed that there was a plan on the ground to deploy technology to solve the issue of pensions and gratuities in the state, as they will soon embark on the verification of pensioners in the state.
The governor explained that they have engaged the services of a consultant who will capture the state pensioners and then do automation and analyse the data collected to sanitise the system, after which the results will be used to enhance the take-home of the pensioners.
He observed that there were a lot of anomalies in the pension system and that until all those issues were corrected, the government would not be able to improve the take-home pensions of the pensioners.
He observed that lack of genuine patriotism caused the backwardness of the state in almost all the sectors, observing that even states created after Niger were far more developed than Niger State, but that things will change for the better when we have genuine patriotism in our hearts.
He thanked members of the union, particularly the leadership, for their foresight and commitment, which resulted in the union having its own secretariat complex, urging the leadership to ensure they have mechanisms in place to ensure that the edifice stands the test of time.
The governor advised the union leaders not to demand any assistance from the government or politicians because of the kind of politics we are doing today, adding that while doing something for humanity, it should not be politicised.
He urged the union leaders to concentrate on things that have to do with the welfare of their members, such as the issue of gratuities, promising that the present administration in the state will do its best to put the records straight in terms of pensions and gratuities in the state despite the numerous challenges it has inherited.
Earlier in his address, the state chairman of the union, Comrade Ishaku Ndagi, said the occasion was historic and unique because the Pensioner's House was a dream come true and a morale booster for not only the present executives of the union but the entire pensioners in the state.
He disclosed that the entire building was built with pensioners' money and no dime was received from either the government or any organisation, adding that they did not borrow nor take loans from any bank or organisation for the purpose of the project.
While assuring the governor of the union's continued support at all times, the NUP Chairman said the leadership of the union will not go to sleep until all matters that concern the plight of senior citizens are factored into the New Niger Agenda.
In his goodwill message, the national President of the Union, Comrade Godwin Abuusi, said the state council had joined the league of state councils with their own secretariat, adding that the beauty of the whole thing lies in the fact that the structure was built with pensioners' money from start to finish.
He said he was humbled to see the kind of edifice erected by the state council, adding that the leadership of the council had left a legacy worthy of emulation by other unions and politicians in office, calling on other state councils to learn from the Niger council.