Ade Adesomoju, Abuja
Leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, along with three other persons with whom he is being prosecuted, has filed a fresh bail application at a Federal High Court in Abuja.
Operatives of the Department of State Services prevented many journalists from covering Monday’s proceedings, fueling a raging speculation that the prosecution preferred to try the defendants in secret.
The accused persons charged along with Kanu were the National Coordinator of IPOB, Mr. Chidiebere Onwudiwe; an IPOB member, Benjamin Madubugwu, and a former field maintenance engineer seconded to the MTN, David Nwawuisi.
Apart from Onwudiwe, who was recently added to the list of the defendants in the amended charges, the others had been separately denied bail by the current trial judge, Justice Binta Nyako, and the former judge, Justice John Tsoho, who withdrew from the trial following an allegation of bias levelled against him (Tsoho) by Kanu.
All the defendants are on remand at Kuje Prison in Abuja.
But the defendants filed fresh bail applications, following the ruling by Justice Binta Nyako, on March 1, 2017, quashing six out of the 11 counts instituted against them by the Federal Government.
Kanu’s lawyer, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, on Monday, urged the court to grant bail to the IPOB leader on health grounds.
Ejiofor attached to his client’s application, among other documents, a letter sent to the Comptroller General of Nigerian Prisons, complaining about Kanu’s deteriorating health.
The three other defendants sought bail on the grounds that they had been in detention for a long time while their trial went on.
One of the defence lawyers, Mr. E.I. Esene, also complained that he was being prevented from meeting with his client in custody.
“It seems there is a plot to kill the defendants,” the lawyer said.
Opposing the bail applications, the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Shuabu Labaran, noted that the motions for bail were based on the repealed Criminal Procedure Act.
Labaran added, “The court has taken a stance in respect of a similar application. In all, the process there was no exceptional circumstance that arose as contemplated by Section 162 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act that would warrant the court to grant the applications.
“The constant delay in the prosecution of this case is at the instance of the interlocutory applications brought by the defendants.
“We urge your lordship to dismiss the applications and maintain your order for accelerated hearing.”
After the hearing of the bail applications, Kanu’s lawyer sought to move his client’s application for a variation of the order for protection of witness scheduled to testify for the prosecution in the case.
But Justice Nyako said she would not rescind her decision on the protection measures she had directed would be put in place for prosecution witnesses when testifying.
She, however, fixed April 6 for the review of the witness protection order earlier granted.
She also fixed April 25, 2017 for a ruling on the bail applications.
In her ruling on March 1, Justice Nyako had struck out six of the counts preferred against the defendants, leaving behind counts 1, 2, 4, 6 and 8.
Count 1 has to do with a “conspiracy to commit treasonable felony contrary to section 516 of the Criminal Code Act” by the suspects conspiring among themselves to broadcast on Radio Biafra “for states in the South-East and South-South zones and other communities in Kogi and Benue states to secede from the Federal Republic of Nigeria with a view to constituting same into Republic of Biafra”.
Count 2 also had to do with an allegation of treasonable felony which Kanu allegedly committed by broadcasting in London between 2014 and 2015 for the secession of ‘Republic of Biafra’ from Nigeria.
The court also sustained Count 4, which accused Kanu of the “publication of a defamatory matter contrary to section 375 of the Criminal Code Act” by referring to the then Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd) and now President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as “a paedophile, a terrorist, an idiot and an embodiment of evil” in a broadcast on Radio Biafra on April 28, 2015.