Dramatic Eruption! That is one phrase that can best describe what happened at the Bamenda military court, June 5, 2017. The incident clearly shook the presiding judge and the military prosecutor (Commisaire du Gouvernement) on the one hand and generated profound curiosity among onlookers. The judge had allowed a defendant who opted to comment on the proceedings in a murder case which could land him a death sentence or at best life jail if found guilty of involvement in the murder of a visiting Cameroonian American, Kum Joseph, five years ago in Bamenda.
The said defendant, Ferdinand Ngwotta who has been in prison custody for five straight years now seized the opportunity to expose serious contradictions in the trial which he said are depriving him and at least four others of fair and rapid justice. Ferdinand eloquently recalled incidents and omissions being deliberately committed by the military prosecutor and the presiding judge. In deed he described as a “Mafia”, what is taking place in the court where he said key suspects, some with crucial evidence are being protected or simply left out in the case; whereas some of them with lighter accusations are being framed.
With such fibrous accusations, the presiding judge did not charge the defendant for contempt of court. Rather, the responded that “this is not America; this is Cameroon” and he was not the one to direct the court on what to do. Even so it was clearly visible that both the judge and the military prosecutor had been ruffled by the aggrieved defendant. Ferdinand had bared his mind to prove that the court was protecting some key witnesses by either freeing them or refusing to arraign them in court. For example, he asked why is the prosecutor (Commissaire du Gouvernement) ignoring the appeal court ruling that the elder brother of the slain man Kum Martin who was present at the murder scene when it happened should be brought to court. More so, it is the same prosecutor who had appealed the Bamenda appeal court to order the said Kum Martin to appear in court and answer charges for the murder. “Why are you no more interested in seeking the truth?”, Ferdinand quizzed the military prosecutor in open court, packed full of curious observers.
Both the prosecution and the judge did not hide their fury against the man who was challenging them so unswervingly. They told him he has nothing to say and advised that he should wait for the day of submissions. In deed the lawyers for the defence are expected to make their submissions in the murder trial that has been on for five years. Ferdinand and four others in the trial fear that their fate will be sealed if the submissions take place without the Kum Martin are not docked as ordered by the Bamenda Court of Appeal. That is why he openly attacked the court and the Commissaire du Gouvernement. Ferdinand had told the court that they are in the same case but some of them have been in jail whilst others are hopping around freely or have been carefully moved elsewhere, virtually beyond the arm of the law.
DRAMA SPARKS OFF
Meanwhile, during the court hearings of June 5, 2017, Ferdinand raised his hand stating that there is a lot going on in the trial that he does not comprehend. The judge permitted him to proceed. “Do you remember when you took over this case after your transfer to Bamenda; I asked you if we were going to have free and equal justice in your courtroom and you said yes?” The judge answered, yes. Then Ferdinand went on stating that he was going to narrate a few things for the judge to gage if this is fair justice”.
Ferdinand reminded the court that a police officer has been summoned before the court three times but he has failed to show. And this is an officer who earlier in the trial admitted that he collected bullet casings from the crime scene and pellets removed from the victim’s body during the autopsy. None of these evidence have been brought before this court! You have summoned this man three times but he has never shown up. And now you people seem to have turned a blind eye and are let him go free!”
“Secondly, this is Kum Martin against whom the Commisaire du Gouvernement took an appeal against his release by an examining magistrate. It took one year for the appeal to bear fruit. The Appeal Court sent him back to face the military court on 15 November, to come and face justice. Now that the appeal court cancelled everything that the examining magistrate did, he was supposed to be brought back to jail to wait for another examining magistrate. But he is still free outside there, doing his business and we are locked up here.
“Now, the worse of it is that you people have taken Biyeke Joseph and transferred him to Mbengwi to answer charges in another murder case. Now that the case is over, why is Biyeke not brought back here? He is a free man because he is free to go to town every day and come back in the evening” Ferdinand lamented. The said Biyeke Joseph had told investigators that he knew who ordered the killing of Kum Joseph in their family home in Foncha Street that fateful August 14, 2012, for a fee of five million francs CFA.
Although he cited names of the sponsors of the murder, Ferdinand told the court that the said Biyeke Joseph is slipping off the arms of justice as he has been removed from the Bamenda Prison and taken to Mbengwi where he had been in custody for another murder case. “Now that the case is over, why has he not been brought back here?” Ferdinand asked the court? “You people told us that we are here for a murder case and cannot be given permission (to go out).
Our family members and loved ones have been dying and we are not allowed to go pay our last respects while Biyeke Joseph and all these three people have been set free – the people who have proofs that they knew something about this killing. People who have interest in killing the guy. They are free but we are locked up here. Why is this so? Is this the fair justice you said we would get?” Ferdinand questioned.
That is when the presiding judge stated that what he was saying is not useful. He told the grief-stricken defendant that he should reserve what he has to say for the day of submissions. That is July 3, 2017. But this is exactly why Ferdinand is going berserk. He fears that once the submissions are done without the said three persons being heard, the court would then proceed to close the case with its judgement. And those who are currently being held would be doomed. coutersy: The Voice newspaper