ABUJA— The continued trial of the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu today took another dimension as the trial judge, Justice Binta Nyako of the Court 4 Division of the Federal High Court, Abuja, stormed out of the court in anger over Kanu’s outburst and vehement refusal to be tried in secret.
Kanu had earlier objected to be subjected to any form of secret trial or shielding of masked witnesses insisting that since he was accused in the public, his trial should assume a public proceeding after the court had ruled that the witnesses would be shielded from the defendants and members of the public.
Meanwhile before today’s proceedings, the court premises was surrounded by men of the Nigerian security forces armed to the teeth with various sophisticated weapons.
Journalists and other members of the public who had come to witness the trial of the IPOB leader and three other co-accused facing charges of treasonable felony and terrorism, were confronted by these security operatives who barred them from gaining access to the court to forestall the covering of the Kanu’s trial.
During the proceedings, the defense counsel to the IPOB leader, Barrister Ifeanyi Ejiofor, informed the court that they filed an application seeking the court to squash the charges against his client for lack of merit and that his motion should be heard.
However, the FG’s Prosecuting counsel, Shuaibu N. Labaran, objected Ejiofor’s motion, saying that even though he was served less than 24 hours to the hearing, he was still prepared to reply to the motions as such, the case should continue.
The trial judge, however, adjourned the hearing till Thursday, 12th of Jan 2017 to enable the both parties exchange briefs and then come up for the continued hearing.
Barrister Ejiofor also made it known to the court about the intimidation and high handedness on the part of the Department of State Security, DSS, and other security operatives including bringing his client to court in handcuffs.
According to him, on several occasions, members of IPOB and relatives of his client have been harassed, arrested and even killed by the security officials for visiting the accused persons in prison custody.
Ejiofor urged the court to make pronouncements protecting the lives of his client’s relatives and supporters but the Prosecutor told the court that he is not aware of any such occurrences.
In her reaction to this, Justice Nyako asked Ejiofor to formally inform the court so orders can be made in response to this, but in the interim, she warned the security operatives to treat the defendants as they would treat any other persons standing a criminal trial because according to her, there is nothing so special about their case.
However, speaking to Biafra Writers’ Correspondents, Barrister Ejiofor said they had approached the appellate court because they believe their client should not be tried in camera(secret) but whether the Appeal court will agree to this remains to be seen.
“You have seen what happened in court today, this is where trouble began because before now, we have been romancing with them but now we have taken the bull by the horn because we will never accept Nnamdi Kanu to be tried in secret,” Ejiofor said.
He went further to say, “We filed an application of preliminary objection in court challenging the decision of the court to hear the charges because the charge is patently competent and effective on the ground that the poor evidence attached to the charge cannot sustain it and it didn’t disclose one of the filed cases against our client as such the matter cannot be brought up for a trial.
“You know at the point where the bail application was argued and heard, the court did not have the opportunity to look into the poor evidence and permitted to look at the reasons why it should be struck out. So this time around, we are inviting the court to look into the poor evidence attached to the charge which is the statements made by the Prosecutor including those made by the masked witnesses should be terminated by the court as those allegations could not be sustained at the point of law.
“Those charges were merely concocted to ensure that he is being continuously detained in prison custody and we say that the court should scrutinize the poor evidence attached to the charges to determine whether there is any atom of truth in it and once the court formally goes into the application, that’s the end of the case and if they say ‘no’, we go to court of Appeal.”
Ejiofor also said that the Federal government really prepared today to continue with their plan to present masked witnesses for secret trial which could lead to Kanu’s imprisonment but they objected to this, adding that they are hundred steps ahead of them.
On the application against the trial court’s previous rulings at the Appellate court, Ejiofor said, “We’ve filed an appeal against the secret trial today and also we have filed an appeal against the ruling refusing him(Nnamdi Kanu) bail which can be heard any moment from now.”
Reacting to the issue of some IPOB brethren arrested by agents of the DSS, Ejiofor said, “Today, we also brought to the attention of the court about those people being extra-judicially detained in DSS custody. These are people who went to visit Nnamdi Kanu in prison and on their way home, they were tracked from Abuja to Abia state and they arrested them; they have been in custody till date despite the fact that we have filed an application for their release before the court.
“The DSS is still holding them, there have been denial of them being in their custody and I told the court today that we have confirmed yesterday from their relatives that most of them have been killed by the DSS.
“If they have killed them, they should avail us of their corpses let us go and give them a befitting burial. We will continue to match them with whatever tactics they come up with. So be assured of good professional representation in this matter and be assured that Nnamdi Kanu cannot be tried in secret nor convicted.”
Chukwuemeka Chimerue And Anyikwa Cynthia Reporting From Abuja
For Biafra Writers