The Sun News

Biafra: Kanu, others know fate April 25

… IPOB kicks against secret trial

From Godwin Tsa, Abuja

A Federal High Court in Abuja, will on April 25 decide whether or not the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, should be released on bail pending his trial. 

Three other pro-Biafra agitators, Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi will also know their fate on the adjourned date.

Justice Binta Nyako has equally fixed April 5 to rule on the merit or otherwise of application by the defendants, seeking to vary the order allowing the prosecution  to shield identities of all the witnesses billed to testify against them. 

In her ruling, Justice Nyako further granted an order permitting prosecution witnesses to use pseudo names. 

Though the court agreed to mask the witnesses from the public, it held that the defendants and their lawyers would be allowed to see them. Miffed by the ruling of the court, the defendants filed separate  applications asking  for a review of the ruling, saying they would not submit themselves to any form of secret trial.

 Kanu had insisted that he would want the public and members of the press to be allowed to see  faces of those testifying against him.

“I was accused in public and I must be tried in public. No one can try me in secret. No secret trial. I will not accept that, no way,” Kanu bellowed from the dock at the last appearance in court.

While praying the court to grant them bail, the defendants, who are standing trial on a five-count criminal charge  that all the allegations the Federal Government levelled against them were bailable offences.

Kanu’s lawyer, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, stressed that the court had, in a ruling on March 1, struck out six out of 11 count-charge the Federal Government initially slammed against the defendants.

He noted that the charges that were struck out by the court bordered on criminal conspiracy and alleged involvement of the defendants in acts of terrorism. According to Ejiofor, that aspect of the charge having been expunged by the court, there was no basis for both Kanu and other defendants to still remain in prison custody. 

His argument was adopted by counsel to all the other defendants, who maintained that going by the pending charges, they no longer posed security threat to warrant their continued detention. 

Justice Nyako, had in an earlier ruling, struck out six charges against the defendants on the premise that they were not supported by the proof of evidence the Federal Government filed against them. The judge held that none of the six charges established a prima-facie criminal case against any of the defendants. 

She said the fact that IPOB was not an organisation registered in Nigeria, did not make it an illegal society. “It may be true that IPOB is not registered in Nigeria, but does that make it an illegal organisation,” the judge queried. Whereas the court branded some of the terminated charges as “hollow” and “scanty,” it however, sustained five charges against the defendants.

For instance, the court noted that the Federal Government  failed to produce any evidence to support allegation in count-nine of the charge that the 2nd defendant, Onwudiwe, as national coordinator of IPOB and Nwawuisi who was serving as MTN field maintenance engineer in Enugu State, conspired to install Radio Biafra transmitters on MTN masts sited at Ogui Road, near St. Michael Church, Enugu, having agreed for the payment and receipt of N150, 000.

As well as the allegation that Onwudiwe committed an act preparatory to an act of terrorism by carrying out research for the purpose of identifying and gathering of improvised explosives device, IED, making materials to be used against the Nigerian security operatives carrying out their lawful duties.

According to Justice Nyako, the Federal Government ought to have charged Onwudiwe before a Magistrate Court over his alleged intention to commit an act of terrorism. She said FG did not establish any ingredient of crime in its allegation that Kanu had between March and April 2015, imported into Nigeria a radio transmitter known as TRAM 50L kept in a container that was left in custody of the 3rd defendant.

Meanwhile, a mild drama played out yesterday between security operatives and journalists who were in court to cover the trial. Security operatives who claimed to be acting on the orders of Justice Nyako, barred journalists from entering the courtroom with  their phones and cameras.

According to the security  operatives: “Madam (the judge) gave the order; she said journalists should not be allowed inside with phones and cameras.”

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