There was a brief session at Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday, as the trial of the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, resumed without his presence in court.
When the matter was called up, the prosecution counsel, M. B. Abubakar, informed the court that the matter was slated for hearing and that they were ready to continue.
Consequently, Justice Binta Nyako later ruled that the trial cannot continue in the absence of Kanu since he was not available to stand his trial.
However before the court decision, Kanu’s lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, had informed the court that there was a pending application before the court to transfer Kanu from the custody of the Department of Security Services (DSS) to the correctional centre.
Later on, reacting to the matter, Justice Nyako called on the DSS to produce the IPOB leader in court for trial, as she court adjourned to October 21, 2021, for the continuation of hearing.
The full details
A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday declined the request of the Leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, to be moved to Kuje Correctional Service Centre.
Justice Binta Nyako, in a ruling, turned down the application by Nnamdi’s Lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor.
Earlier when the matter was called, the leader of the IPOB was not brought to the court by the Department of State Services (DSS).
Counsel to the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), M. B. Abubakar, informed the court that though he was ready to proceed, the defendant (Kanu) was not in court.
Ejiofor, however. expressed worry over the absence of Kanu in court.
The lawyer alleged that his client was subjected to dehumanising conditions and that he had no access to his lawyers while he was in the custody of the DSS.
Ejiofor, who said he had not seen his client for over10 days, told the court that the information reaching him was that Kanu had been taken away to an unknown destination.
He said he had a motion on notice filed before the court, seeking for “an order of this Honourable Court directing the transfer of the Applicant from the custody of the National Headquarters of the State Security Service to the Nigerian Correctional Service Centre in Kuje, Abuja, within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, where he was originally detained before he was granted bail, pending the determination of the charge.
“AN ORDER of this Honourable Court directing the Defendant/Applicant’s custodian, to grant access to his Medical Experts/Doctors for the purpose of carrying out a comprehensive independent medical examination of the Defendant/Applicant’s health condition/status, while in custody.”
Nyako said though the earlier remand order at the DSS facility still subsisted,, she made an order for the lawyers to be given access to their client (Kanu).
“No, I am not transferring him to correctional centre. I am keeping him there (DSS custody) and I am going to make an order that you should be given access,” she said
The judge, however, noted that the access to Kanu would be regimented.
“But it is not going to be all conners affairs; it will be regimented. You can’t get up at night and say you want to visit your client,” she stated.
Justice Nyako, who condemned the prosecution’s act for not producing Kanu in court, ordered that Kanu should be produced in court in the next adjourned date.
“Before you can take a criminal case, the defendant must be in court. I have been sitting down here since waiting for you.
“I will not take this kind of practice in the conduct of this case. When I give you a date, I want you to continue on that date.
“And you cannot continue until the defendant is present,” she held.
Nyako said he had not make any order for the trial to continue in Kanu’s absence, hence he must be brought to the court to stand his trial.
“Please do the needful and don’t allow this to happen again,” she told the prosecution.
She also noted that since the court vacation had started, a fiat from the Chief Judge of the court, Justice John Tsoho, would be needed to give the matter accelerated hearing.
She adjourned the matter until Oct. 21 for trial continuation.
Besides the former Governor of old Anambra, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife who was in court to monitor the proceeding, the Ohaneze Ndigbo was represented by a lawyer, Chief A. G. Nwanzuruike, while Barrister M. C. Udebuani appeared for an association of all the Igbo lawyers in Abuja (Otuotiwu).
Recalled on June 29, the judge had ordered the IPOB leader to be remanded at the Department of State Services (DSS) facility pending the hearing and determination of the matter
The order followed an application by Counsel to the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Shuaibu Labaran, that Kanu, who jumped bail and rearrested, be remanded in the DSS custody.
The court also granted the request that the matter be given accelerated hearing to guard against delay in justice and fixed today for trial continuation.
Kanu, who was rearrested on July 27 abroad, was said to have jumped bail around September 2017.
He was, however, produced before the trial judge, Nyako, on June 29 to stand his trial.
The judge had, on March 28, 2019, issued a bench warrant for Kanu’s arrest after she revoked the bail that was earlier granted him.
Relying on Section 352(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015, the court equally okayed Kanu’s trial in absentia.
Kanu was arrested on Oct. 14, 2015, on 11-count charge bordering on terrorism, treasonable felony, managing an unlawful society, publication of defamatory matter, illegal possession of firearms and improper importation of goods, among others.
He was charged alongside three other pro-Biafra agitators; Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi.
Shortly after he was declared “missing,” Justice Nyako, on Feb. 20, 2018, okayed separate trial for the other three defendants.
The IPOB leader who has dual citizenship was before his arrest reportedly sighted at various locations outside the country, including Jerusalem and the United Kingdom (UK).
Kanu who was the Director of Radio Biafra, was initially arrested by security operatives on Oct. 14, 2015 upon his arrival to Nigeria from his base in the UK.
He was subsequently arraigned in court on January 20, 2016, and remanded at Kuje prison in Abuja.
After he had spent about a year and seven months in detention, the trial court, on April 25, 2016, released Kanu on bail on health ground.
To secure his release, Sen. Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP–Abia), an Accountant, Mr. Tochukwu Uchendu and a Jewish High Priest, Emmanu El- Salom Oka BenMadu, on April 28, 2016, signed an undertaking to ensure his attendance in court.
Following Kanu’s disappearance after he was released on bail, the court, on Nov. 14, 2018, ordered the three sureties to forfeit the N100 million bail bond they each consented to.
All the sureties had since approached the Court of Appeal in Abuja to challenge the ruling.
Kanu’s lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor had equally protested the revocation of his client’s bail, even as the court rejected his request for time to file an affidavit evidence to explain why he jumped bail.
Ejiofor had insisted that Kanu’s disappearances was occasioned by the unwarranted invasion of his home at Afaraukwu in Abia State by the Nigerian Army.
The claim Kanu restated when he was brought before the court after his rearrest.