Tuesday, February 9, 2016 9:48 pm
The Federal Government on Tuesday asked a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to allow the trial of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to be done out of public glare. Mohammed Diri, the prosecution counsel filed an application before the Court presided over by Justice James Tsoho asked for protection of witnesses in the case.
Diri told the court that some of the witnesses already lined up to prove the case of treasonable felony against the Kanu and his co accused are already complaining of intimidation.
However, Chuks Muoma, the lead counsel to Kanu and his two co accused opposed the application.
He urged the court to dismiss the application by the prosecution seeking protection of the witnesses due to the nature of the case and that the defendants be tried secretly.
The defence counsel told the court that the defendants are not facing terrorism charges and therefore the question of facing secret trial.
On his part, the defence counsel also asked the court to order the Department of State Services (DSS) to release the money seized from Kanu when he was arrested as well as his Nigerian and British passports.
“We are told that investigation has been completed in this matter and certain items belonging to the defendants have been indicated as materials which the prosecution will use in the course of trial,” he said.
“Therefore we are requesting that some items be released. We apply to the court to direct that the following items or property not needed for the conduct of the prosecution’s case be released. They are: $2, 200; N87, 000, and international passports –British and Nigerian – all belonging to the first defendant.”
He added that since bail has been denied the defendants and they are in prison, they can not escape or run away.
Diri, who opposed the request told the court that all the items being held by the prosecution are relevant to case.
According to him, the defence counsel ought to have directed the application to the Attorney General of the Federation who has the power to release those exhibits and not the court.
“The fact that Kanu is before this court today indicated that he sneaked into the country without using both his British and International passport.”
He therefore asked the court to dismiss and discountenance the application seeking for the release of evidence.
In his ruling, Justice Tosho dismissed the application for lack of merit. He therefore adjourned the case to 19 February.
The trial of leader of IPOB and two others arraigned with him on charges of treasonable felony by the Federal Government had began on a dramatic note amidst tight security at Federal High Court, Abuja on Tuesday morning.
Kanu, on arrival at the court from Kuje prison where he was ordered to be remanded by the court, had refused to come down of the prison vehicle or allow the warders take off the handcuffs he was brought to court in.
The IPOB leader had insisted that he will go inside the courtroom with the handcuffs, so that the Judge can see the way he was brought in when the trial began.
He actually went into the court with the handcuffs and resisted attempts by warders to remove it before the commencement of the trial.
But his lawyer’s intervention resolved the dispute that may have led to the delay in the commencement of the trial.
Justice James Tshoho of Federal High Court, Abuja division had on Friday, 29 January denied Kanu and his two co accused bail. He ordered them to be remanded in prison custody pending the outcome of his trial.
The Judge had based the denial of bail on the fact that the offences the IPOB leader were charged with borders on national security. He also said Kanu’s possession of dual citizenship enhances his possibility of escaping from Nigeria if granted bail, as argued by the prosecution counsel.
The Judge however, ordered an accelerated hearing of his case as he adjourned trial till February 9, 10, 11 and 12.
Kanu, who is also a director of Radio Biafra was arrested by operatives of Department of State Security Service (DSS), on October 2015 in an hotel in Lagos.
He was arraigned on charges of treason and other offences bordering on his agitation for the secession of the Republic of Biafra from Nigeria on 20 January alongside Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi.
The charges against them include “That you, Nnamdi Kanu and other unknown per sons, now at large, at London, United Kingdom, between 2014 and September, 2015 with intention to levy war against Nigeria in order to force the President to change his measures of being the President of the Federation, Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation as defined in Section 3 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) by doing an act to wit: Broadcast on Radio Biafra your preparations for the states in the South- East geo-political zone, South-South geo-political zone, the Igala Community of Kogi State and the Idoma/Igede Community of Benue State to secede from the Federal Republic of Nigeria and form themselves into a Republic of Biafra, and thereby committed an offence punish- able under Section 41(C) of the Criminal Code Act, CAP C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
“That you, Nnamdi Kanu and others, now at large, between 2012 and September, 2015 at South-East geo-political zone and the South-South geo-political zone of Nigeria within the jurisdiction of this honourable court manage an unlawful society with more than 10 members to wit: unregistered with the Corporate Affairs Commission or any other registration authority to wit. The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) thereby committed an offence which is punishable under Section 63 of the Criminal Code Act, CAP C38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.”
“That you, Nnamdi Kanu between the months of March and April, 2015 imported into Nigeria and kept in Ubulusiuzor town in Ihiala local Government Area of Anambra State within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, a radio transmitter known as TRAM 5OL concealed in a container which you described as containing household items, which you so declared and that, you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 47(2) (a) of the Customs and Excise Management Act.”
The counts four and five accused the trio of being involved in the management of unlawful society and unlawful possession of firearms.
“That you Benjamin Madubugwu in the month of April, 2015 at Ubulusiuzor town, Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State of Nigeria within the juris- diction of this honourable court assisted in the man- agement of an unlawful society known as the In- digenous People of Biafra (IPOB) by doing an act to wit, accepted and kept in your residence a container housing a radio transmit- ter known as TRAM 50L, with knowledge that the said transmitter belongs to an unlawful society (known as IPOB) and that you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 63 of the Criminal Code Act, CAP C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004,” the sixth count read.