COVID-19 scare stalls trial of Offa bank robbery suspects

Fears of COVID-19 have stalled continuation of trial of April 5th, 2018 Offa, bank robbery suspects at the Kwara state High Court.

Doors of the court of the trial judge, Justice Haleema Saleeman were under lock and keys.

Heavily armed prisons officials with the suspects arrived the court premises at 9.05am but there were no officials to open the court room for them.

The robbery, which took place on April 5, 2018, had resulted in 33 fatalities, including pregnant women and 12 police officers.

Those standing trial are Ayoade Akinnibosun, Ibikunle Ogunleye, Adeola Abraham, Salahudeen Azeez and Niyi Ogundiran, all of whom were in court on Wednesday.

On July 10, Haleema Saleeman, the trial judge, had adjourned the case till July 22 for continuation.

However, when prison officials arrived at the court premises with the suspects at about 9:05 am, the courtroom was locked.

Finding revealed that the courts were shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a circular pasted on the walls of the court premises, Ibijoke Olawoyin, chief registrar of the state high court, explained that the court decided to shut down due to “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,” Olawoyin said.

“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 essential officers that come to work should wear face masks, regularly wash and sanitise their hands and maintain reasonable social distancing.”

Another circular on the wall indicated that the annual vacation of the state judiciary would take place from August 3 till September 21, 2020.

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