Mild drama in court as suspects change pleas from guilty to not guilty at point of sentencing
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.