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… Justice Nyako insists Nnamdi Kanu must be produced in court for trial to begin

…Kanu’s lawyer raises alarm, says DSS has denied him access to his client

… Markets, roads in Onitsha, Nnewi others shut in solidarity with IPOB leader

…DSS says its inability to produce Kanu due to logistics problems as police arrest IPOB members

LEADER of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu was conspicuously absent in court yesterday to face scheduled trial at the Federal High Court, Abuja. Kanu’s absence was because of the inability, failure or refusal of the federal government to produce him as expected. Consequently, the leading counsel to Kanu, Barrister Ifeanyi Ejiofor raised the alarm, as he told presiding judge, Justice Binta Nyako, that the Department of State Services, DSS, had denied him and relatives of Kanu the opportunity to see him. “I was informed authoritatively…I am speaking from the Bar that Nnamdi Kanu has been taken out of the jurisdiction of this court. We have been denied access to Kanu in the last 10 days. “We are worried about his safety and don’t know why the Federal Government refused to bring him in court,” Ejiofor complained to the court contrary to an earlier order of the Federal High Court,” he said. A new counsel to the federal government, Mohammed Abubakar, had stunned the court when he announced that Kanu had not been brought before the court due to logistics reasons, an explanation that stunned the court.

Abubakar’s explanation sparked off hot arguments from Kanu’s counsel, who accused the DSS of frustrating efforts by lawyers and family members to access the detained IPOB leader. Ejiofor made frantic efforts to move an application for the transfer of his client to prison as a better option to DSS custody, but the trial judge stood her ground not to proceed until Kanu is physically present in court as required by law. Beyond Kanu’s absence in court, Justice Nyako drew the attention of the federal government’s lawyers and that of Kanu to the fact that the yearly vacation of the court had commenced. The judge told the parties that the fiat of the chief judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho, was required for the trial to go ahead during vacation. Nyako also stated that it was the duty of the prosecution and not that of the court to apply for the fiat if they want the trial to go on during vacation. Although the judge expressed reservation over the failure to bring Kanu to court, the matter was eventually rescheduled for October 21, 2021.

Nyako gave a caveat that the court would reconvene at an earlier date if the chief judge grants fiat for trial to proceed during the trial and also directed that henceforth, only five lawyers would be allowed into the courtroom to stand for Kanu in observance of the COVID-19 pandemic protocols. Also, Abubakar told the trial judge that she had no fiat from the chief judge to continue the trial, positing that since the court commenced its annual vacation on July 26, it followed that a vacation judge should step up to continue the trial. “I want to draw the attention of the court that the court’s annual vacation for judges has commenced. There is no fiat from the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for this court to continue with the trial of the defendant.

“We don’t know if this court can be able to continue. I don’t think in the absence of a fiat from the Chief Judge, that we can be able to continue,” Abubakar stated. Meanwhile, there was heavy security presence at the court preparatory to the expected arrival of Kanu. Armed security operatives, mainly from the DSS, barricaded all access routes to the court premises. As early as 6 am when journalists, court officials and lawyers alongside litigants arrived at the court, armed DSS operatives, some on motorbikes, were already stationed at strategic locations within the perimeters of the court. They blatantly refused to allow journalists access to the court premises, insisting that only media outlets in the list that was handed to them would be allowed to enter the court premises.

Though the chief information officer of the court, Mrs Christopher, was already on the ground as early as 6 am, her spirited effort to secure a pass for this reporter proved abortive as DSS officials insisted they must get clearance from their boss before allowing anyone outside the list to gain access into the court. It would be recalled that Kanu was on June 20, 2021, returned to the country for the continuation of his trial after he was reportedly arrested in Kenya. He was subsequently docked before Justice Nyako on June 29 and was remanded in the custody of the DSS till yesterday, when his trial was to resume. There are strong indications that the Federal Government may likely file an amended charge against him today.

The federal government had in the charge already pending before the court alleged that Kanu imported a radio transmitter known as TRAM 50L which was concealed in a container that was declared as used household items, for the purpose of using same to disseminate information about secession plans by the IPOB. It alleged that Kanu, “on or about the 28th April 2015 in London, United Kingdom did in a broadcast on Radio Biafra monitored in Enugu, Enugu state and other parts of Nigeria within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, referred to Muhammadu Buhari, GCON, President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a paedophile, a terrorist, an idiot and an embodiment of evil, knowing same to be false and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 375 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C. 38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.”

He was alleged to have committed a treasonable felony, an offence punishable under Section 41(C) of the Criminal Code Act, CAP C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria. Federal government also alleged that Kanu and other pro-Biafra agitators were the ones managing the affairs of IPOB which it described as “an unlawful society.” Again, Kanu was alleged to have illegally smuggled radio transmitters into Nigeria which he used to disseminate “hate broadcasts,” encouraging the “secession of the Republic of Biafra,” from Nigeria. Reports which reached our desk last night said that all roads and markets in Onitsha and Nnewi both in Anambra State were shut as vehicular movement was completely absent.

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