|Barr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor Alongside Cynthia Anyikwa and Chukwuemeka Chimerue Of Biafra Writers|
Barrister Ifeanyi Ejiofor as the public must have known by now is the legal defense counsel to the Leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and two other defendants in the criminal case of treason charges slammed against them by the Federal government of Nigeria.
After the court proceedings of the Federal High Court, Abuja on the 26th of April, 2016, he granted a very high-powered interview to the duo of Chukwuemeka Chimerue and Anyikwa Kelechi Cynthia of Biafra Writers/BTV crew.
In this interview, he bared his mind on some critical issues ranging from the striking out of the application for the stay of proceedings by Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court, the case of masked witnesses, the celebrated illegal invasion of his client's prison room by the DSS, the recent motion for resolution raised by the EU Parliament and the alleged dragging of IPOB and his client to the ICC by some human rights activists over some unfounded allegations of inhumane treatment and the murder of five Hausa/Fulani's supposedly discovered by agents of the DSS.
INTERVIEW GOES AS FOLLOWS:
BIAFRA WRITERS: Good evening Sir, please can you enlighten the public on the ruling of the Federal High Court today?
BARR EJIOFOR: What actually came up today at the Federal High court was basically the ruling on the application for the stay of proceedings, and also recall that the application was premised on the fact that we have filed an appeal against the ruling of the court delivered on the 7th of March, 2016. You know on that 7th day of March, the court sat on appeal against an order we met on the 19th of February, 2016.
So on the basis of that ruling delivered on that 7th day of March, we now filed an appeal challenging the jurisdiction of the court to proceed on the hearing of the case. Because if the court can make an order on the 19th of March and say that the trial of Nnamdi Kanu would be done in this form; that no masquerade, no witnesses should wear a facial mask and they will not testify behind the screen..., then and the matter was questioned too and adjourned to 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th of March for trial it would be a different situation.
On the 7th day of March the matter was brought for trial, the Prosecution team came and informed the court that the witnesses has refused to come to court and testify, that they will only come when the court gives an order directing that they be shielded at the point of giving their testimony; that is, they should be allowed to testify behind the screen. So invariably he(the Prosecutor) is now reopening an argument he made on the 19th of February which the court has ruled upon on that same day, and obviously, we understand that a game is going on but because ordinarily, the man wouldn't have mentioned the application for an order of submission because it was contained in the argument that was canvassed on the 19th of February, 2016, and a ruling delivered upon it.
So the court proceeded to hear him despite our vehement opposition to that effect and ruled. But in the same ruling, the court varied and moved against the ruling made on the 19th of February by now allowing the witnesses to testify behind the screen. The court then sat on an appeal against the order it made on the 19th of February which we believe cannot stand on the face of law.
So it was on that basis that we filed an appeal against that ruling at the Court of Appeal. Now there is no way this trial will continue in the mode prescribed by the court without the court delving into the subject of our appeal before the Court of Appeal. Because if the court says that we should proceed with the manner he ordered, then that means the trial will be conducted, and witnesses will give evidence behind the screen. And what we are challenging at the court of Appeal is that the High court has already made an order before then, directing that the witnesses would give evidence behind the screen.
So if we should proceed with the hearing, that means the decision or ruling that would be given at the Court of Appeal will be rendered derogatory. And under the rules of Courts of Appeals, if an application of this nature of stay of proceedings was made in a lower court; that is the Federal High court, and the court refused, the Court of Appeal allows you to place another application before it for consideration, and that was what we did today.
Confirming John Tsoho's refusal of our application today, we subsequently filed against the ruling at the Appeal court which we believe between now and Monday, we will get a date of hearing on that application for the stay of proceedings. And if the Court of Appeal begins hearing on the case, the Federal High court cannot do anything again, pending the determination of the appeal at the court of Appeal. So that was what really transpired today.
BIAFRA WRITERS: Does the striking out of the application for the stay of proceedings mean that masked witnesses will now testify behind the screen?
BARR EJIOFOR: : No, not actually masked witnesses, the masquerades has been ruled out, what they were really trying to do is that the witnesses will come in, stay in a private witness box, and then testify behind the screen so that people who are coming in to witness the proceedings will now be seeing the witnesses through the screen. So you cannot even see the person clearly, the person maybe hiding in space.
And that was not the order of the court made on the 19th of February, and by striking out this application for stay of proceedings, we have now filed a similar application for a stay of the proceeding of his trial at the court of Appeal which by next week, we must have gotten a date for the hearing on that application. So it doesn't mean that the trial can go on, you can understand that was why we kept a longer day to enable us resolve some of these issues at the court of Appeal and by the time they give us a date for hearing of the application, between that period, we must have finished the transaction of the record of appeal and then the motion in the Appeal court will now join the High court as a party. And once the court of Appeal starts the process, they(High Court) can't do anything concerning the case again, they can't be able to proceed on the matter again pending the outcome of the Court of Appeal because we would have joined the High court as a party.
BIAFRA WRITERS: Recently, there were reports that the Nigerian government is bent on making the prison uncomfortable for your client. What is your view on that?
BARR EJIOFOR: We have conducted preliminary findings on that and discovered that it was basically based on the pressure been mounted on the prison personnel by the Federal government and the Department of State Security Services(DSS), that they were acting upon the instructions given to them. Apparently that is a script being given by somebody, they are acting and we have in regards to that, let the international community to be aware of that. So we are not keeping mute, we understand what they are doing, they want to make prison environment uncomfortable for Nnamdi Kanu, so that he would start protesting in such a manner that they may come back to court and apply for his transfer to the DSS cell to enable them continue in punishing him. But we are taking care of that and in a space of time, we will make certain positions known to the public.
BIAFRA WRITERS: There were also reports of an attempted murder of your client, following the invasion of his prison room by agents of the DSS? Are you aware of this?
BARR EJIOFOR: Yes, you know that the DSS has no power to enter into prison in anyway, they have no powers under the Prison Act to enter prison custodies or invade the prison cell in any form. They can only achieve that, through mounting pressures on the prison personnel; that is the custodians of the prison to do whatever they want to do inside. But they can't enter there to carry out any act through the Prison Act. But what I understood is that they instructed the prison personnel to go inside his private cell to conduct search and harass him.
That was the instruction they carried out and we were reliably informed by our client, that they also came into his prison room on the 12th day of April, ransacked the premises of his cell, harassed him and subjected him to some ill-treatment which is quite offensive. So I might not be able to comment in details about this because we have other ideas we want to explore in that regard but possibly if we have other contraction we want to explain, we may now wish to make public as time progresses.
BIAFRA WRITERS: Recently, the EU Parliament raised a motion for resolution, calling on the Nigerian government to ensure the humane, fair treatment and trial of prisoners, including Nnamdi Kanu, what in your view is the positive side this entails for your client?
BARR EJIOFOR: It's in the view on the antecedents of the Federal government, because a government that said to have been clamouring to believe in the rule of law, and practising democracy, and in the same government we have people's right been grossly violated on a daily basis and so what do you expect the international community to do?, and they are following the charade trial of Nnamdi Kanu, they are following it everyday, and at one time or the other, we petitioned them and the relevant super powers to also keep eyes to what is happening in Nigeria and they are following up the case in Nigeria. So moving the motion, I think, is a way of reminding them their responsibilities under the constitution and under the relevant international conventions. Therefore it is about reminding them of their obligations under the relevant international conventions of which they are party to, so that they can obey and respect human rights and ensure fair trial. Are you talking about a country where a President in a media chat informed the whole world that Nnamdi Kanu cannot be granted bail? So at that moment, don't you know what it means when he said that he cannot be granted bail?, at that moment Nnamdi Kanu became a political prisoner. So that's what it means. And in other words, Nnamdi Kanu is presently detained today, not by the order of the Federal High Court but by that of Mr. President. This actually informed why we went to the ECOWAS Court to inform them of what is happening in Kanu's case.
BIAFRA WRITERS: A group of activists has reportedly dragged IPOB and your client as its leader to the ICC over some allegations of inhumane treatment on Nigerians with the alleged killing of five Fulani men. What do you have to say about this?
BARR EJIOFOR: The point I want the public to note is that they should understand that this is a clear case of diversion of attention. They want to raise this allegations to divert public attention from the real thing happening in court. But we have no problem with that. And now that they have filed this frivolous application before the ICC which are mostly unfounded at this time, until when we have access to it and I believed I had a conversation with our foreign partner today, and he mentioned to me that he has not been served with any process, so until we receive the copies of what they filed in the ICC, we will study it and know what they are talking about.
But I want you and the public at this stage to note that the machinations from the DSS has always been on relying on falsehood. They have been feeding the public with all sorts of lies. Okay let me ask you this question, the DSS said that they went to Isiukwuato forest in Abia state and discovered 55 shallow graves. Now, who conducted the test, who verified that allegation, who identified that those people found dead were Fulani's and who also confirmed that they were killed by IPOB? Now, they are talking about 5 shallow graves, they also have about 50 other shallow graves there whose identities has not been determined and without even verifying them, they now arranged for some people that will go to the ICC to file a petition.
Now, what about the Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB) that were massacred in a broad day light? They have not commented on it. What about the people that were killed at Isi Uzo-Uwani in Enugu state by Fulani herdsmen yesterday, nobody has commented on it. Neither the DSS nor the Nigerian government has commented on it. They are fully aware of these atrocities going on day by day, nobody is commenting about it, nobody has dragged anybody to the international community but we are talking about serious crimes committed by people on daily basis.
So let them not be deceived by their antics because it's a clear case of diversion of attention. So long as this matter is concerned, people should not be deceived by their antics. We understand the game and the fact is that whatever they are doing, we are ten steps ahead of them and I believe in the right judicial process and that very soon our case will be proved in court. Especially now we are in court of Appeal and we will get justice in court. I don't want people to be distracted by whatever they are doing in the ICC, let us be served with a copy of what they have filed and we are going to respond approximately.
We have several cases we have filed against them and as I speak to you, we are also filing further applications against them in another court on the issue of the rights of the 2nd and 3rd defendants. So let people don't be deceived by whatever they are doing. If I may put further posers to this, where are the video evidence of the shallow graves they discovered in Aba? I hope you remember at one time or another, there was a clear case of people that were buried in a burrow pit in Aba. Has the DSS commented on it? What about the people that were shot when they were conducting their morning prayers. So the point is that the public should be aware and alert. I don't know where we are heading to in this country.
BIAFRA WRITERS: Finally Sir, what would be your word of advice and encouragement to millions of Biafrans out there earnestly following this case as the uncertainty unfolds?
BARR EJIOFOR: I will urge them to still remain calm. I have a reason for saying this because everything they are doing now, all their machinations, and designs, plans, antics and manipulations are to provoke the Biafrans to go into activities that may be untowards to what we are doing in court. So I will urge them to remain calm. Remaining calm at this present situation will be of the best interest to what we are doing in court today because IPOB cannot be identified with violence and they are also not known as being violent. So I wouldn't want them to be provoked to go into things that will cause or destroy the matter before the court. So am pleading for their calmness, the international community is watching, the African Union is watching, the ECOWAS is equally watching, and I can assure them that they have shown interest at the present, they are showing concerns about what is happening in this country because we are letting them know the truth on daily basis. We are bringing things to bare to the public and the international communities know.
Because so many things are been covered in this trial and we are trying to expose it. You see what happened in court today, where a judge suddenly started attacking me for no just cause. This is a person that said he is a Judge and he knows what he is doing in court, because he was acting a script given by somebody, a mandate to ensure that Nnamdi Kanu is convicted and locked up for many years. And we said "No" to that, it cannot happen. If you say you have no interest in the matter, what I have said to the public is enough reason for you to disqualify yourself from continuing with the trial. A reasonable judge will say; " I no longer wish to be involved in this case, I have been accused enough, I don't have any interest in this matter, let me go." And then assign it to a new judge that can handle it. But he cannot do that because he has a special interest in the matter. But we say "no", he cannot handle that matter. And so long as we are concerned, he cannot handle it because we have no interest in him.
BIAFRA WRITERS: Alright, thank you very much Sir for keeping time with us, that will be all.
BARR EJIOFOR: Thank you too, you're welcome.
By Chukwuemeka Chimerue and Anyikwa Kelechi Cynthia, From Abuja.
For Biafra Writers.