Kanu Tells Judge By The Time I Finish, There Will Be No Nigeria
By Clifford Ndujihe & Ikechukwu Nnochiri
Trial Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court in Abuja has granted the Federal Government the nod to shield identities of witnesses billed to testify against the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu. ARRAIGNED: Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, with a Prisons official, at the premises of a Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday.
In a ruling, yesterday, Justice Nyako held that names of all the prosecution witnesses, who are mostly security operatives, would not be disclosed in any record of the court proceedings. She said the witnesses would be allowed to testify against the defendants behind a screen that would be provided by the court. Justice Nyako, however, stressed that both the defendants and their counsel would be allowed to see the witnesses who she said would enter and exit the courtroom through a special door. Besides, the trial judge directed the prosecution and defense lawyers to appear tomorrow to test-run the trial procedure. Kanu rejects ruling meantime; Kanu immediately rejected 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 bellowed 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 him. Similarly, the other defendants through their various lawyers said they would not submit themselves to any form of secret trial. They said they would only subscribe to an open trial. I’ll expose secrets that will sink Nigeria — Kanu Meanwhile, shortly after the court fixed January 10, 11 and 12 January to commence the trial, Kanu, who could no longer bottle his anger, flared up again, saying he would in the course of the trial, expose things that would sink 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 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 fumed. The IPOB leader is facing an11-count charge alongside three other pro-Biafra agitators, Mr. Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi. Charges against the accused persons border on reasonable felony and their alleged involvement in acts of terrorism. The defendants had earlier alleged plot by the Federal Government to import foreigners to testify against them.
Counsel to the 4th defendant, Mr. Maxwell Okpara, told the court that most of the proposed witnesses were imported from neighbouring countries. “My lord, we have uncovered their plan to bring Ghanaians and people from Cameroon to appear in this court to testify against the 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 stated. The defendants made the allegation on December 1, a day the court declined to release them on bail. It was equally a day scores of pro-Biafra protesters besieged the court, chanting war songs. The protesters, most of them wearing jewish apparels, equally stormed vicinity of the court on Tuesday, brandishing various Biafra insignia, also chanting pro-Biafra songs. Armed security operatives however barred them from gaining access into the court premises.
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 only bailable offences, but also not felony punishable with death. Arguing that the presumption of innocence under the Nigerian constitution was in their favour, the defendants said their release from detention would enable them to properly defend the charge 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. They maintained that IPOB which they said has been registered in over 30 countries has not been proscribed or declared as a dangerous organisation under any law.
They defendants expressed their readiness to produce reasonable sureties before the court. However, FG, vehemently opposed release of any of the defendants on bail. Government lawyer, Mr. Shuaibu Labaran, told the court that the defendants would constitute “a threat to national security”, once freed from prison 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, FG, stressed that Onwudiwe was a major threat, 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 directed that they should not be released on bail.
The Judge held that President Buhari, being a citizen of Nigeria, was at liberty to exercise his freedom of speech. She maintained that the President lacks the capacity to 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 denied them bail. “The offences 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 offence along with others now at large, on diverse dates in 2014 and 2015, in Nigeria, London and United Kingdom. It told the court that the defendant conspired among themselves to broadcast on Radio Biafra which is monitored in Enugu and its environs, preparations they were making for states in the South-South zones and other communities in Kogi 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 arrow-head behind the “hate broadcasts”, it fingered Onwudiwe as the National Coordinator of the IPOB movement. The defendants had on November 8, pleaded not guilty to all the charges against them, even as the court adjourned to hear their bail applications. Kanu was previously 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. 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 masking all the witnesses billed to testify against them. The defendants maintained 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 offence 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”, encouraging the “secession of the Republic of Biafra”, from Nigeria. The IPOB leader 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 and Benue States to secede from the Federal Republic of Nigeria with a view to constituting same into a Republic of Biafra and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 516 of the Criminal Code Act, CAP.C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2000”. Kanu’s trial no longer judicial — UWAZURUIKE In a related development, President of Aka-Ikenga, the Igbo intellectual group, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike, yesterday, said the trial of IPOB Leader, Nnamdi Kanu has become political, given the nod given by the court to try him in secret. He told Vanguard via SMS text message: ‘’The trial of the Radio Biafra Director, Nnamdi Kanu has lost all pretence of judicial trial. It is now a political trial in all in its ramifications. Nnamdi is the first person to be tried in secret since 1999. Is this a fallout of the raid on judges? History is never kind to those who try to murder justice.’’
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