There was mild drama at the Bayelsa State High Court sitting in Yenagoa, on Thursday, as Perekeme Kpodoh, a former state security aide, refused to open his defence in the case of rape brought against him by the state government.
Instead, Kpodoh asked the presiding judge, Justice Ineikade Eradiri, and the state Special Prosecutor, A.S. Arthur, to disqualify themselves from handling his case.
His counsel, E.G. Okele, said the legal team should have opened Chief Richard Kpodoh’s defence before the court presided over by Justice Eradiri, but the case asking the presiding judge to disqualify himself is before the Court of Appeal. He added that the state government fiat handed to Arthur to prosecute the accused has expired with his eleviation to commissioner in the cabinet of Governor Seriake Dickson.
Kpodoh is standing trial for the rape of a 26-year-old (name withheld), who claimed she was invited by the accused to his office in the hotel at about 8pm, after which he locked the doors and forcefully overpowered and raped her.
He was brought before the State High Court 7 headed by Justice Eradiri in 2018, and is being prosecuted by Arthur, based on a special fiat by the Dickson administration to prosecute violent crimes in the state.
At the resumed hearing of the Court yesterday, the defence counsel led by Okele declined to open its defence citing the pending case at the Appeal Court over the call on the judge to disqualify himself from the trial, as well as the issue of status of the fiat handed the State Special Prosecutor, A.S. Arthur to continue the process on the case due to his elevation as a Commissioner in the state without the renewal of the fiat.
Okele and Arthur disagreed on the application filed before the Court of Appeal as the reason for not commencing the defence case.
Okele told the presiding judge that the special prosecutor’s right to appear on the case against Kpodoh was covered by the fiat from government, but noted that “the fiat does not cover him anymore”.
“If he is to continue, he has to be given a fresh fiat from the attorney general,” he added.
Arthur, however, defended his position as a special prosecutor stating that: “I am still the Bayelsa State Special Prosecutor. It is in my letter of appointment; it was clearly stated. I still hold the office. Only the Attorney General can reverse it or when I am appointed a magistrate”.
He continued: “Even if I become a deputy governor of the State, I can decide between using the fiat or not. I am still in the employment of the government as special prosecutor and commissioner.”
The claim threw the court into uproar as the defence counsel threatened to drag the Bayelsa prosecutor to the Code of Conduct Bereau (CCB) over the alleged collection of double salaries from the state government.