An Oredo Magistrate’s Court Six, sitting in Benin, Edo State capital, yesterday granted bail to one of the Libyan returnees, Jude Ikuenobe, over an alleged conspiracy and malicious damage of public property
But Ikuenobe, who was arraigned before Magistrate V. E. Oyekpen, however, pleaded not guilty to a three-count charge.
He was alleged to have conspired with others, now at large, to commit the offence at Museum Ground, Ring Road Area of Benin on March 12, 2018.
Ikuenobe was also accused to have caused malicious damage to four industrial fans valued at N24, 000 each, which the total cost was put at N96, 000, while on the third count was a breach of public peace.
The offences are punishable under Section 249 and Section 516 of C/C cap 48 Vol. II of Bendel State Laws of 1976, now applicable in Edo State.
The Magistrate, however, granted the accused bail at the sum of N80,000 with a surety of like sum, who would be resident within the magisterial jurisdiction.
Subsequently, the Magistrate adjourned the case to April 17, 2018.
It will be recalled that the Senior Special Assistance to the Governor on Human Trafficking and Illegal Migration, Mr. Solomon Okoduwa, was on March 12 escaped death by whiskers when some aggrieved Libya returnees in Benin held members of the state government’s Taskforce on Human Trafficking and Illegal Migration hostage for several hours during a town hall meeting and empowerment programme organised for them by the state government.
A large number of the returnees were said to have stormed the National Museum complex located on the Kings Square Benin, venue of the event, where they disrupted the programme.
The returnees had accused the taskforce officials and the state government of alleged insincerity and selective approach in carrying out the empowerment programme.
Properties including public address system, canopies, chairs and six industrial fans were destroyed during the mayhem, while the official vehicle of the Special Adviser, who is also a member of the taskforce committee, was damaged and the tyres deflated by the angry returnees.
The event was part of the community advocacy programmes of the state government to empower them.
However, normalcy was restored following the intervention of security personnel drafted from the Oba Market Police station to restore law and order to the troubled area.
Trouble started in the early hours of the day, when one of the returnees, Jude Ikuenobe, was said to have mobilised others to protest against non-payment of their monthly stipend and alleged selective process in the empowerment exercise.
He chided members of the task force saddled with the responsibility for the skill acquisition training and empowerment programme of the returnees that they had failed.
Ikuenobe said: “They have given some of those that just returned N1 million while those of us that came before them are yet to get anything from the state government.
“With this in mind, how then do you explain the rationale behind given some individuals, who arrived in December, N1 million as empowerment. This is why some returnees have gone back to Libya,” the returnees added.