Federal High Court in Abuja Trial Justice Binta Nyako has just permitted Federal Government to shield identities of witnesses ready to testify against the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu.
In her rulings, 2days ago, Justice Nyako insisted that names of all the prosecution witnesses against Kanu, who are mostly security operatives, would not be disclosed in any record of the court proceedings.
Justice Nyako said the witnesses would be permitted to testify against the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, behind a screen that would be provided by the court.
Justice Nyako, went further to stress that the defendants and their counsel would be permitted to see the witnesses testifying against them, who she said would enter through a special provided door which can only be accessed by the defendant and their counsel.
However the trial judge has directed the prosecution and defense lawyers to appear the following day to test-run the trial procedure.
Kanu turns down ruling
Meanwhile, Kanu immediately turned down the court ruling, insisting that it was against the tenets of justice and fair-hearing.
“I won’t stand this travesty of justice. Buhari spoke in public, he accused me in public. I must also be allowed to stand my trial in public,” Kanu spoke from the dock.
“Please sit down and allow me to handle this issue. I am your counsel. You briefed me to represent you, so please, allow me to handle it. I did not travel all the way from Aba for you to take over the brief, unless you want to debrief me”, Kanu’s lead counsel, Mr. Chuks Mouma, SAN, pleaded with Kanu.
Similarly, other defendants through their various lawyers, also insisted that the trial must be in the open since they were accused in the open saying they would not subscribe themselves to any form of secret trial.
They said they would only subscribe to an open trial.
I will expose secrets that will sink Nigeria says Kanu
Just shortly after the court must have fixed January 10, 11 and 12 of all in January to commence the trial, IPOB leader Kanu, who could no longer hold the anger in him, angrily stood up again, saying he would in the course of the trial, expose things that would break Nigeria.
“This is nonsense. I will give testimony before this court. By the time I finish, there will be no Nigeria. This is no Sharia court. It is a court that operates under the Nigeria common law.
“There will be no screening of witnesses, no fake identities or fake addresses. I cannot be tried in secret. No. Nnamdi Kanu cannot be jailed in secret. They are mad. Why must I be tried in secrecy by a government that does not obey court orders?
“They are killing my people in public. After killing my people, they want to try me in private? That person is mad. I won’t allow it,“ Kanu flared.
Kanu IPOB leader is facing an11-count charge (treasonable) alongside three pro-Biafra agitators, Mr. Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi.
The defendants had earlier alleged plot by the Federal Government of Nigeria to import foreigners from neighbouring countries to testify against them.
Counsel to the 4th defendant (David Nwawuisi), Mr. Maxwell Okpara, told the court that most of the proposed witnesses were imported from neighboring countries.
“My lord, we have uncovered their strategy to import Ghanaian s and people from Cameroon to appear in this court to testify against my defendants.
“We as Nigerians will resist that plot. It cannot work. That is why they are insisting that they should testify behind screen. That plot has failed, it will not work”, Okpara disclosed.
The defendants made the allegation on the 1st of December, a day the court refused to release them on bail.
It was also a day pro-Biafra protesters paraded at the court, chanting war songs.
The protesters, putting on Jewish apparels, stormed the premises of the court on Tuesday, brandishing various Biafra insignia, also chanting pro-Biafra songs.
However armed security operatives barred them from entering into the court room.
The defendants had predicated their bail applications on sections 158, 162 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, as well as section 35 and 36 of the 1999 constitution, as amended.
They contended that charges against them were not felony punishable with death, and that the offenses were also bail able.
Contending that the presumption of innocence under the Nigerian constitution was in their favor, the defendants said their bail from detention would enable them to properly face and defend the charge leveled against them.
Besides, they insisted that their right to self determination was guaranteed both by the Nigeria constitution and Article 20 of the Africa Charter on Peoples and Human Right.
According to IPOB leaders they insisted that IPOB has been registered in over 30 countries, and has not been proscribed or branded as a dangerous organization under any law.
The defendants expressed their preparedness to produce valuable sureties before the court.
However, FG, adamantly opposed the release of any of the defendants on bail.
Mr. Shuaibu Labaran, the Government lawyer told the court that the defendants would constitute “a threat to national security”, once made freed from custody.
Labaran, who further applied to the court for protection of witnesses billed to testify against the defendants, drew attention of the court to the fact that the 1st defendant, Kanu, has dual citizenship.
He argued that Kanu who he said has both Nigerian and British passports, would escape out of the country if released on bail.
While praying the court to allow the defendants to attend their trial from Kuje prison, Federal Government stressed that Onwudiwe was a major threat to the Government saying he was the only one facing a particular count of “preparatory to commit an act of terrorism”.
In her ruling, Justice Nyako, held that charge against the defendants “are very serious in nature”, and therefore not ordinarily bailable.
“Irrespective of what the charge is, the court has to exercise its discretion on way or the other”, the Judge held, adding that some of the charges against the defendants could attract life imprisonment if proved by FG.
Justice Nyako also dismissed contention by the defendants that President Muhammadu Buhari had openly ordered that they should never be released on bail no matter what.
The Judge held that President Buhari, being a citizen of Nigeria, has the right of liberty to exercise how he feels concerning the matter.
The Justice maintained that the President can not influence the decision of the court, saying the defendants did not place any new fact or law capable of persuading the court to reverse an earlier ruling of the court that refused them bail.
“The offenses are serious in nature and carries very severe punishment if proven.
“I hereby therefore refuse bail of the applicants. But in the alternative, I hereby order accelerated trial of this matter to almost commence immediately, but not later than two months”, the Judge held.
Specifically, FG had in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/383/2015, alleged that the quartet conspired to commit treasonable felony contrary to and punishable under section 516 of the Criminal Code Act, CAP. C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2014.
FG alleged that they committed the offense along with others who are nowhere to be seen, on different dates in 2014 and 2015, in Nigeria, London and United Kingdom.
It told the court that the defendant planed among themselves to broadcast on Radio Biafra which is monitored in Enugu state and its environs, preparations they were making for states in the South-South zones and other communities in Kogi,rivere,akwa ibom and Benue states, to secede from the Federal Republic of Nigeria with a view to constituting same into a Republic of Biafra.
Whereas FG identified Kanu as the source- behind the “hate broadcasts”, it pointed Onwudiwe as the National Coordinator of the IPOB movement.
The defendants had on November 8, pleaded not guilty to all the count charges against them, even as the court adjourned to hear their bail applications.
Kanu was at the past facing a six-count treason charge with Madubugwu and Nwawuisi, before FG amended the charges to include Onwudiwe as one of the defendants.
Justice Nyako is now the third judge to handle the trial after two judges withdrew from the case.
It will be recalled that the former judge handling the matter, Justice John Tsoho had on September 26, disqualified himself from presiding over trial of the defendants.
Justice Tsoho who earlier denied the defendants bail, premised his decision to hands-off the case on a petition pending against him before the National Judicial Council, NJC.
Kanu and his co-accused persons had in their joint petition, alleged that Justice Tsoho indulged in act of “judicial rascality”, by delivering conflicting rulings on the same subject matter.
They alleged that the judge summarily reversed his previous ruling that barred the Federal Government from shielding all the witnesses billed to testify against them.
The defendants insisted that the Judge denied them fair hearing on the day he gave FG the nod to produce “masquerades” to testify against them.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed who was the first judge Kanu was taken to by FG, had in a bench ruling he delivered on December 23, 2015, also distanced himself from the matter.
Kanu who was hitherto the Director of Radio Biafra and Television, has been in detention since October 14, 2015, when he was arrested by security operatives upon his arrival to Nigeria from his base in the United Kingdom.
The defendants were alleged to have committed treasonable felony, an offense punishable under Section 41(C) of the Criminal Code Act, CAP C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
FG alleged that they were the ones managing the affairs of the IPOB which it described as “an unlawful society”.
Kanu was alleged to have illegally smuggled radio transmitters into Nigeria, which he used to disseminate “hate broadcasts”, assisting the “secession of the Republic of Biafra”, from Nigeria.
The IPOB leader had earlier denied the charges, even as the court, on January 20, ordered remand of the defendants at Kuje prison in Abuja.
Count one of the charge against the defendants read: “That you Nnamdi Kanu, ‘M’, Onwudiwe Chidiebere ‘M’, Benjamin Madubugwu ‘M’, David Nwawusi ‘M’ and others now at large, on diverse dates in 2014 and 2015 in Nigeria and London, United Kingdom, did conspire amongst yourselves to broadcast on Radio Biafra monitored in Enugu and other areas within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, preparations being made by you and others at large, or states in the South East and South South zones and other communities in Kogi rivers, akwa ibom and Benue States to secede from the Federal Republic of Nigeria with an aim to constituting same into a Republic of Biafra and you thereby committed a punishable offense under section 516 of the Criminal Code Act, CAP.C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2000”.