Offa Bank Robbery: Covid-19 stalls continuation of trial

By Mumini Abdulkareem

The trial of the suspects of April 5, 2018 Offa bank robbery could not continue yesterday as the doors of the court of the trial judge, Justice Haleema Saleeman were under lock and keys.

Though, the prison officials arrive the court premises at 9.05am with all the five suspects, there were no court officials to open the court room for them.

However, findings by newsmen who had thronged the Ilorin High Court premises to cover court proceedings showed that the courts have been shut down due to COVID-19 pandemic.

A circular pasted on one of the walls in the court premises signed by the chief registrar of the State High Court, Mrs Ibijoke Olawoyin, stated the court decided to shutdown because of “the risks associated with public gathering”.

“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 13th 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 pasted on the wall of the court indicates that the state judiciary will commence its annual vacation on August 3 and will last till September 21, 2020, signalling that the continuation of the Offa banks robbery trial has been stalled.

At the last sitting of the court on July 10, Justice Saleeman had adjourned till yesterday 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 interrogating him did that purposely to coerce him to admit his alleged participation in the bank robbery attacks in Offa, where 18 people, including policemen were reportedly killed.

All the accused; Ayoade Akinnibosun, Ibikunle Ogunleye, Adeola Abraham, Salahudeen Azeez and Niyi Ogundiran were present in the court’s premises yesterday.

They were taken away by the prison officials at 9.50am when it was cleared that the court would not sit.

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