Prison places Okah on suicide watch …to undergo psychological evaluation

The Nigerian Prisons Service has placed Charles Okah, the suspected mastermind of the October 1, 2010 bombing under watch, following his attempt to commit suicide at the Federal High Court, Abuja on Tuesday.

The prison authorities had on Wednesday concluded arrangements to conduct a psychological evaluation on him to determine his mental state.

Okah, who is Henry’s brother, a former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, serving jail terms in South Africa for the bombing near the Eagle Square, Abuja, on October 1, 2010 in which about 12 persons died.

He had after ending an emotion-filled comment about his protracted trial during the court session, attempted to break a window in order to jump out from the courtroom located on the third floor of the five-storey building.

His frustration was ignited by his lawyer’s absence in court.

The defence lawyers – Mr. Samuel Zibiri and O.O. Otemu – were provided by the Legal Aid Council, after Okah dispensed with the services of his former lawyer, Festus Keyamo, in October, 2014.

Shortly before making the attempt, Okah had addressed the trial judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, in an emotion-laden voice, saying, “I have been incarcerated for about five years now, and I have a family to cater for. My children would grow up without feeling the warmth of their father. I’m tired of this endless trial.”

According to reports, it was standard practice to subject inmates who exhibited eccentric behaviour to psychological evaluation to know if they were mentally alright and fit to be kept among other inmates.

Sources said that the Kuje prison authorities had placed Okah under surveillance to prevent him from harming or killing himself.

“Okah has been placed under heightened watch to prevent him from harming or killing himself based on the strange behaviour he exhibited in court on Tuesday. He will also be made to undergo psychological evaluation to determine his state of mind; the evaluation will show if he is depressed, mentally stable or unstable and it would help us to decide whether it is safe for us to keep him among other inmates,” a source explained.

The Prisons Service Public Relations Officer, Francis Enobore, confirmed that Okah had been placed under watch, adding that it was standard practice to subject him to mental evaluation.

He said, “Once you are under trial, we dedicate some time to watching your behaviour, utterances, what you do, who visit you and so on, that is the standard maintained at every prison formation.

“Yes, the incident would make us to pay attention to him, and we would send our psychologist to talk to him; We will talk to him, ask him questions why he exhibited that behaviour in court, it’s our way of ministering to those in custody.”

Giving an update on Okah’s behaviour after the court incident, Enobore explained that he had not exhibited any violent conduct since he was taken back to the prison after his court appearance on Tuesday.

According to him, Okah woke up on Wednesday and performed his daily routine, including exercise, noting that he related well with other inmates and did not betray any untoward signs.

“I can assure you that since he came back from the court, he has not exhibited any violence either to the staff or other inmates.

“He woke up hale and hearty on Wednesday, did his routine, went for his morning exercise, took his bath and that is all. He has been relating normally with other inmates and staff, he did not even betray any signs of what he did in court,” Enobore said.

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