Tue. Apr 16th, 2024

The Federal High Court in Abuja has fixed March 19, 2024, to rule on the fresh bail application filed by the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu.

The court also scheduled March 20 for the commencement of the resumed trial.

Kanu had been standing trial on charges bordering on terrorism and treasonable felony since 2015.

He was earlier granted bail on health grounds on April 25, 2017, after spending 18 months in detention but he fled the country after an invasion of his residence by the military in September 2017.

His trial was put on hold after the Court of Appeal discharged and acquitted Kanu in October 2022.

The appellate court also declared illegal and unlawful, the rendition of Kanu from Kenya to Nigeria and quashed the entire terrorism charges brought against him by the Federal Government.

However, the FG appealed against the judgment at the apex court.

The Supreme Court in its judgement on December 15, 2023, ordered the continuation of Kanu’s trial.

The court held that there was no law in the country stopping a trial based on the violation of the rights of a suspect.

At Kanu’s resumed trial on Monday, both the defendant and the prosecution had new counsel.

Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) took over from David Kawse for the prosecution, and Alloy Ejimakor replaced Mike Ozehkome (SAN) for the defendant.

No explanation was provided in court for this change.

Awomolo told the court that the prosecution was ready for trial, urging the judge to be guided by the Supreme Court decision.

He said, “The Supreme Court affirmed your decision which preserved counts 1,2, 3, 4, 5, 8, and 15 were observed by your ruling in which the defendant pleaded not guilty. We urge Your Lordship to continue the hearing of the case on merit. We are ready to proceed with the matter and our witnesses are ready. We urge Your Lordship to be guided by the order of the Supreme Court.”

Ejimakor told the court he had filed an application for the bail of his client and a preliminary objection.

But Awomolo urged the court to give him more time to go through the further and better affidavit filed by the defendant.

He said, “I am opposing the bail. The further and better affidavit is voluminous. We need to attend to it but we can take the preliminary objection.”

The trial judge, Justice Binta Nyako lamented the actions of the counsel which according to her had led to proceedings being truncated in the past.

She said, “This is exactly the way this case has been going since 2015. I am talking to both sides. No one side is innocent of this. You have been truncating proceedings.I have written rulings nine times on Kanu’s bail applications in the past. An application for bail does not forestall a trial. “

Ejimakor insisted that the bail application be heard as the health condition of Kanu was deteriorating.

He also said Kanu’s continued detention by the DSS was a threat to his life.

Ejimakor said, “I urge My Lord to grant the defendant bail. We want to emphasize that there are issues raised in the further and better affidavit, dated 22 February, supported by the 22-paragraph affidavit. Five exhibits were filed in addition to the initial four. I need to emphasize that the application is for bail and not reinstatement of bail.”

Ejimakor argued that the continued incarceration of Kanu would not enable him to put up a good defence in the matter.

He said, “If we want a fair hearing in the matter, he can’t conduct an effective defence by remaining in custody. The DSS seized a process we took to him.

The DSS doesn’t allow us to take notes. They nearly naked my colleague Max Opera. They have secret listening devices in the room where we hold discussions. “

In his submission, Awolomo urged the court to dismiss the bail applicant and instead grant an accelerated hearing.

He said, “We urged your lordship to dismiss and order accelerated hearing. Section 161 which grants the court the discretion. The key words the applicants must prove there are no medical facilities to take care of to take care of him.

“They are taking care of him. He has been given drugs. He did not satisfy that condition. Nothing extraordinary, scientific, and medically provable to show that he is entitled to bail for the crime he is facing. Investigation and arraignment have been done long ago. We are ready for the trial. An order for accelerated hearing is the best.

“The issue of rendition has been determined at the Supreme Court and it can not be brought before this court. Also, other decisions of other courts are not binding on you and these judgments they are bragging about have been appealed.

“He was at a time granted bail but jumped bail that is the record of this court and until that it is set aside by your lordship. Also, in their affidavit, it is not on oath that he will not jump bail if granted one. It is in the interest of all that this matter is held on merit. We are ready and willing to go day to day on this matter so that there will be an end to this matter. “
On his preliminary objection dated February 19, Ejimakor requested the court to prevent the DSS from confiscating lawyers’ documents and prohibiting them from taking notes during discussions with Kanu at their facility.

He also urged the court to refrain from eavesdropping on conversations as well as violating Kanu’s rights.

“We also want an order that before the commencement of trial, a non-custodial centre be created for Kanu to engage with lawyers of his own choice.

“We have brought clothes to him so he could change but it has been rejected. Nothing has changed despite your earlier order. We had issues coming into court today. There is no way he can put up an effective defence in detention, “ he added.

On his part, Awolomo said the preliminary objection is a complete abuse of the court process.

He noted that with the process, the defendant was dictating to the court on what to do, describing it as an insult to the court.

Awolomo said, “This is a complete abuse of court process. It is not founded in ACJA and is unknown to our law. It is dictating to the court what must be done by a defendant before a trial can be commenced, not even a counsel of any caliber should do that. This is an insult to the court.

“The application is meant to annoy and delay proceedings. There was agreement that only letters from the lead counsel were to be accepted. He was never prevented from changing his counsel as he has always done. The DSS has a duty to protect his live. Also, the attire brought is related to IPOB.”

The trial judge ordered that Kanu be allowed to wear any plain cloth given to him.

She said, “Any plain clothes they bring, he should be allowed to wear it. The beads are not allowed. Do not let me reiterate this. He can’t wear any traditional attire not even that of Hausa.”

Nyako adjourned the matter to March 19 for ruling on the bail application and 20 for the commencement of trial.

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