By: Oluwatosin Adesola
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, on Monday, ordered all courts in the country to shut down from Today as part of measures to stop spread of deadly Coronavirus disease in the country.
In a statement issued on the official website of the National Judicial Council (NJC), the CJN, asked all Heads of Courts to suspend court sittings for an initial period of two weeks at the first instance, except in matters that are urgent, essential or time-bound according to the extant laws.
“In view of the reality of the COVID-19 in the country and in order to take further preventive steps, all Heads of Courts are, from tomorrow, the 24th day of March, 2020, directed to suspend court sittings for an initial period of two weeks at the first instance, except in matters that are urgent, essential or time bound according to our extant laws.
“Your Lordships are hereby directed to bring the content of this circular to the notice of all stakeholders in justice administration, please.”
However, the directive by the CJN may delay the trial of Prophet Alfa Babatunde and five other members of Sotitobire Miracle Centre, at an Ondo State High Court sitting in Akure over the alleged missing of one year old boy, Gold Kolawole.
Baby Gold got missing since 10 November, 2019 and this led to arrest of Pastor Babatunde and his church workers and their trial had started since last month before Justice Olusegun Odusola.
During the last sitting of the court four days ago, Justice Odusola adjourned the case till April 6, 2020 for further hearing of the case, after mother of the missing boy, Mrs Modupe Kolawole testified against the Prophet.
Modupe Kolawole was the third principal witness to be examined and cross- examined on circumstances sorrounding Gold’s whereabouts.
After over 8 hours of proceedings on March 20, Justice Odusola adjourned the case till the 6th April to enable the four remaining witnesses of the state give their testimonies.
For some of his church members who spoke with SUNSHINETRUTH in Akure on the condition of anonymity, they want the state judiciary to continue with the trial since Justice Odusola had promised accelerated hearing of the case.
One of the church members said “we want the case to continue so that the whole world will know that our Pastor is a victim of conspiracy, he knows nothing about that missing boy, they just want to tarnish his image, we are hoping in God.”
Another member simply noted that, “the trial can be done with crowd in the court so that our Pastor will prove his Innocent, he is staying too much in prison, we are praying for him.”
It is yet to be known what decision of the Ondo state judiciary will be on the Prophet’s fate concerning his trial, but for now, he is still being remanded at Olokuta Correctional Centre, Akure (formerly Akure Prisons).