Monday, March 7, 2016 6:57 pm
By Ayorinde Oluokun/Abuja
Legal fireworks was on display on Monday as a Federal High Court ruled that witnesses lined up by the Federal Government to prove allegations of treasonable felony against Nnamdi Kanu, leader of Indigenious People of Biafra, IPOB and his two accused can testify behind a screen.
The Judge also rejected application by defence counsel, Chuks Muoma (SAN) to dismiss the charges against Kanu and his co-accused and made an order that the Department of State Security Services should not arrest or arraign them on the same or similar charges.
Justice James Tosho made the order following fresh applications by the prosecution for protection of the witnesses. Mohammed Diri, who is prosecuting the case on behalf of Federal Government on Monday morning when the case was about to start.
The prosecution counsel who is a director of Public Prosecution at the office of the Attorney General of Federation had told the court that the witnesses he intended to call to prove the allegations against the Biafran agitators said they will not come into the court until it is agreed that they will be shielded from members of the public who may come to witness the trial.
The prosecutor told the court that the witnesses said they are already receiving threats from the associates of the defendants that they will be dealt with.
“They said they are prepared to come and give evidence, but they love their lives the more. They request that their identity be shielded from members of the public who might be interested in coming to watch the proceedings,” Diri told the court.
He added that operatives of Department of State Security Services scheduled to testify in the case are also requesting for protection as they are already investigating other terrorism cases and don’t want their identities to be known.
The prosecutor further drew the attention of the court to an incident which happened between one of the defence lawyers and operatives of the DSS at the gate of the court earlier in the day.
Diri, who said he did not witness the event however read details of the altercation from a small piece of paper which he claimed officials of DSS involved wrote details of the incident.
The DSS officials had alleged that a lawyer in the defence team had contrary to the order of the court tried to forcefully bring in everybody that came to court to support Kanu into the courtroom, even after 13 family members of the IPOB leader have been allowed in.
This, he said was in contrast to the ruling of the court that only close family members of the defendants should be allowed to witness the trial.
The DSS operatives also alleged that plans are being made to abduct Kanu during the trial.