ABUJA—The case between Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra and the Federal governmnet of Nigeria came up for hearing today, 20th March 2017 following its adjournment on the 3rd of March 2017.
Justice Binta Murtala Nyako of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, proceeded to deliver rulings on the 5 sustained charges leveled against the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra and three other defendants.
The sustained charges are bordering on conspiracy to commit treason, treasonable felony, publication of defamatory materials, and Kanu’s importation of goods contrary and punishable under section 47(2a) of the Customs and Excise Management Act, Cap C45, Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004.
At exactly 11: 47am, Kanu’s case file alongside the other 3 defendants Benjamin Madubugwu, David Nwawuisi and Chidiebere Onwudiwe was called up for hearing. Following the introduction of both the Prosecution and defense counsel, barrister Ejiofor addressed the court stating that following an application dated 2nd day of February, 2017, the application praying for the sustainment of the charges bordering on importation of goods should be quashed, while reminding justice Binta that his client had hitherto been discharged by her learned colleague, Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court.
He further told the court that Nnamdi Kanu has been attacked on several (5) occasions in his cell room at Kuje Prison, praying the court to grant Kanu bail to avoid him being killed in detention. He further told the court that he is relying on all the argument on the filed application dated 15th day of March, 2017 to seek dismissal of the charges against his client.
He also maintained that the poor evidence relied upon by the Prosecution lawyer is not viable enough to deny the defendant bail, citing Nnamdi Kanu as a man of international repute who is ever ready to stand trial whenever called upon as he cannot desecrate the orders of the court.
Kanu and 3 other accused in court
On that note, he prayed the court to grant him bail so that he continues standing for trial from home.
Following barrister Ejiofor’s adumbration, lawyer to the second defendant, barr. Inalagwe Adoga, adopted Ejiofor’s application, adding that his client, Chidiebere Onwudiwe has no criminal record and that he is a responsible man and innocent of the charges levied against him.
He posited that the right to his client’s bail cannot be denied as he is been compelled by the law court to make appearances during trial and that his bail will be temporal. He further said that as long as the condition or criteria for his appearance is there, then he has a right to be granted bail which is temporary and contractual even if he was slammed with terrorism or treason charges; but so long as he has pleaded not guilty to the charges, he is entitled to bail.
Speaking further, barr. Adoga asked the court to grant conditions of bail and a surety for such bail, adding that whenever his client is to stand court trial, he will simply be produced in court.
“My client is entitled to bail, once the affidavit said I’ll make myself available, and i will ensure my client is produced in court.” He further brought to the notice of the court, a counter affidavit filed on the 15th of March, to the motion filed against his client by the Federal government Nigeria. He stated that the counter affidavit is not challenging the investigation of his client but that his rights must be protected.
Ejiofor maintained that it is outrageous for his client to continue to be in detention when he is been severely maltreated and his life threatened in prison custody, pleading the court to distance itself from the false application filed against his client.
Tendering his argument, lawyer to the 3rd defendant, Barrister I.E Eseme, stated that he wishes to adopt the application filed on 2nd day of March, 2017, for the charges against his client Benjamin Madubugwu.
He stated that his client was charged on two-count charges bordering on conspiracy to commit treason and illegal possession of firearms, adding that those charges are not meritorious and that his client cannot be denied bail when there is no evidence before the court pointing to that. He said that since his client has never been convicted of any crime, the Prosecution has no right to oppose his bail.
Barr. Eseme further said that if his client is being given temporal freedom, he will still be able to attend his business, daily routines and also stand his trial when necessary. He maintained that his client did not commit any offence that will warrant his bail denial.
In his submission, lawyer to the fourth defendant, Barrister Maxwell Okpara, pointed out an application dated 2nd March, 2017, as his basis of argument. He said that he is relying on nine solid grounds in the nine paragraphs of the application, and also in support of the comprehensive written address where sole basis for determining whether his client should be granted bail or not is enshrined.
He told the court that the Prosecution counsel to FG filed a counter affidavit in opposition to their application, and that they (defense counsels) filed their application in accordance with the law. He stated further that it is indeed laughable for someone to sit at the Ministry of Justice and presume that the defendants will jump bail if granted.
He further challenged the Prosecution to bring forward the proof of evidence against his client, but until then, the court should grant the 3rd defendant bail. He challenged the FG to come forward to prove the charges lodged against his defendants if truly it lacks merit, urging the judge to release the defendants on bail to pave way for a sound hearing on the filed charges.
Responding to all of the adumbration of the defense counsels, Prosecution to the FG, SN Labaran, said he observed that the 1st, 3rd, and 4th defendants brought their applications on grounds not obtainable in law. He said that he has reasoned through all the court processes, and there is no evidence that will warrant the honourable court to grant their applications, but rather the defendants are deliberately delaying their trial; asking the court give an accelerated hearing to the case instead of granting them bail.
Ejiofor who countered this position, posited that the standing order of the court of law by Justice Adeniyi Ademola has neither been obeyed nor vacated. Justice Nyako who interrupted him said that he should stop making reference to such instances made by Justice Ademola.
Justice Nyako said that the court’s previous ruling is still pending and has not been changed.
She stated further, “as long as they (witnesses) are security operatives, they will still testify behind the screen.
“Even if you continue to shout till thy kingdom come, the order for witnesses to testify behind the screen still stands and I cannot change it. You (Ejiofor), the defendants and the defense counsels will see them, but other people outside these people mentioned will not see them.
“You’re talking when am talking and that’s disrespectful. We need to protect the security of the witnesses not because of this case but for future references. Their names are already in your list, so what is the big deal about that.
“If you want to see their body language or observe their demeanor to see if they are lying, then they have to wear mask. So you have to choose, it is either they wear masks or they testify behind the scenes.”
She further asked Ejiofor if he read Sharia law in school and he answered negative in affirmation. She then said that her ruling is based on that law and that the witnesses either appears in masks or behind the scenes.
She told them that he (Ejiofor) has just truncated tomorrow’s trial by the new application filed by him for the review of the court’s decision to allow masked witnesses testify against Kanu and then asked him to decide if the court should adopt the application or not.
She said that if the court will determine the application, then it will continue some other time and not tomorrow. Justice Binta unyielding and not shifting grounds, proceeded to adjourn the case to 6th of April, 2017.
The ruling of Binta drew public outrage and left all present moping in bewilderment as it just dawned on all that Nnamdi Kanu is might be tried under sharia and not common law.
Anyikwa Kelechi Cynthia &
Ejike Ofoegbu Reporting From
Abuja, For Biafra Writers