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• Court bars IPOB leader from public rally, press interview
• Fayose, Chidoka, Fani-Kayode in court
• Bayelsa court frees 44 IPOB members
From Godwin Tsa, Abuja and Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
Detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, yesterday got some reprieve, as a Federal High Court in Abuja granted him bail on health grounds.
Kanu and three other pro-Biafra agitators, Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi, are standing trial on charges bordering on treasonable felony.
This is coming at a time 44members of the IPOB were yesterday set free by Yenagoa Magistrate’s Court in Bayelsa.
Justice Binta Nyako, who released Kanu, said he must produce three sureties, including a “highly respected and recognised Jewish leader.”
Besides the production of a Jewish leader, the court also asked Kanu to produce a “highly placed person of Igbo extraction, such as a senator” as well as “a highly respected person, who is resident and owns landed property in Abuja” as sureties.
Justice Nyako ruled that each of the sureties should deposit N100million each.
In addition to the above bail conditions, Kanu was barred from attending any assembly with more than 10 people or granting any form of interview.
The judge ruled: “I must stress it here that the defendant must not attend any rally. He must not be in a crowd exceeding 10 persons.”
The court equally held that Kanu, who has been in detention since October 14, 2015, when he was arrested by security operatives upon his arrival to Nigeria from the United Kingdom, must sign an undertaking to make himself available for trial at all times.
Kanu was further ordered to surrender his Nigerian and British international passports, even as the court compelled the Federal Government to return to him, his wedding ring and reading glasses.
According to the judge, “Count one of the charge, upon which the defendants are standing trial, is a treasonable felony, a more serious charge, adding: “However, as it relates to the 1st defendant (that is Nnamdi Kanu), the applicant has deposed extensively on his health and appeals to the court on health grounds to allow him bail on any condition.”
The court further held: “Overtime that the defendants have appeared in court, the 1st defendant maybe having some health issues as he (Kanu) always sits down and sweats profusely.
“I am of the opinion that the 1st defendant needs a better health attention that the prisons service is unable to provide. I hereby use my discretion and grant the 1st defendant bail on the following conditions: three sureties in the sum of N100 million each. One of the sureties must be a highly-placed person of Igbo extraction, such as a senator.
“The second surety shall be a person highly respected and recognised Jewish religious leader in Nigeria. The third surety must be resident in Abuja, highly respected with landed property and the Certificate of Occupancy verifiable.”
She also requested for a monthly medical report on Kanu’s health status that must be filed before the court, adding that the 1st defendant shall not grant press interviews nor attend public rallies.
In a related development, the court struck out an application that sought to prevent the Federal Government from shielding the identities of prosecution witnesses in the suit.
Specifically, the defendants had argued that since the court had struck out some of the charges that bordered on terrorism, they were at liberty to ask for a variation of the court’s earlier order, which granted the prosecution leeway to shield the identities of its witnesses.
However, the court held that count one of the charge, which borders on treasonable felony, allows the identities of the witnesses to be protected.
The judge said: “The fact still remains that the 1st count of the charge against the defendants is still based on treasonable felony. It is a serious offence, which allows the witnesses to be screened. The security operatives who will testify still need their identities protected.
“Witnesses that are security operatives will still give their evidence protected from the public. So, this motion fails and it’s is hereby struck out.”
It was a different fate for the three other pro Biafra agitators, Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi, as they were denied bail by the court, which has fixed July 11 and 12 to commence their trial.
Meanwhile, Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State who was in the Abuja court as early as 9: 00am hugged and had a brief chat with Kanu before the court started sitting.
Fayose, who wore an Igbo chieftaincy red cap, was temporarily denied entry into the courtroom by security operatives, which sparked a mild drama. It took the intervention of lawyers to persuade the security men to let him into the courtroom.
Former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, who is equally facing criminal charges instituted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), upon his arrival at the court to face his trial, sought to gain entry into the sister court handing Kanu’s case, but was blocked by operatives of the Department of State Service (DSS).
Also, the immediate past Aviation Minister, Chief Osita Chidoka, was among dignitaries that attended the court proceedings yesterday.
Fayose, who said he was in court, in solidarity with the Biafra leader added that he salute Kanu’s spirit adding that the IPOB leader will one day walk as a free man in the country.
He said even though he was not from the Igbo extraction, he decided to come to court to show solidarity as somebody who believe in justice, as, according to him, the country belongs to all Nigerians.
It was, however, a different fate for the three other pro-Biafra agitators, Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi, standing trial with Kanu, as they were denied bail by the court, which has fixed July 11 and 12 to commence their trial.
It was a tense atmosphere within the court complex, which was heavily guarded by security men, with many pro-Biafra supporters brandishing different Biafra insignia and flags, chanting at a distance, as they were also barred from the perimeters of the court premises
Journalists equally faced tough hurdle to gain entry into the courtroom, with a few that managed to squeeze in ordered to surrender their handsets.
In a related development, 44 IPOB members were yesterday set free by Yenagoa Magistrate’s Court.
The detained members of the IPOB were arrested in October 2016 by men of the Joint Military Task Force code named ‘Operation Delta Safe’ during a meeting at a lounge along Okaka area of the state capital and handed to the police authorities for prosecution. The accused were charged to court by the police on three-count charges bordering on conspiracy, breach of public peace and unlawful gathering.
According to the court, the case against the detained 44 IPOB members had a no case submission and subsequently discharge and acquitted the accused.
Delivering ruling yesterday on the case, before striking out case, the Presiding Magistrate, Magistrate Penawei Mukoro, declared that the prosecution was unable to establish a prima-facie case against them.
Barr. Kingsley Nwosu, the counsel to the arrested IPOB members, had argued before the court on a no case submission, describing the arrest and trial of the IPOB members as a deliberate attempt to intimidate and violate the fundamental rights of people to freedom of gathering.
Nwosu said the prosecution, the Nigerian Police, failed to produce a credible witness to substantiate the three-count charges against the IPOB members.
“It is a case where there is serious intimidation. And the prosecution could not produce credible witness.”