Biafra: Kanu, co-defendants urge judge to disqualify himself, allege bias

The detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, and his co-defendants, David Nwawusi and Benjamin Madubugwu, have asked Justice James Tsoho of a Federal High Court, Abuja, to disqualify himself from trying them on the six-count charge bordering on treason preferred against them by the Federal Government.

The defendants, in a motion on notice filed on Monday, said, “There is a manifest case of bias against the court, which complaint is also a subject of scrutiny by the National Judicial Council (NJC), currently probing the allegations of misconduct and manifest bias against the court in charge No: FHC/CR/383/2015.

“That by virtue of the aforesaid scrutiny, this court’s impartiality in further proceedings in this charge shall be reasonably questioned,” Kanu and his co-defendants stated in the motion on notice filed on their behalf by their lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor.

An affidavit in support of the motion, deposed to by one Ayoola Emmanuel, stated that a complaint had been lodged at the NJC against the conduct of Justice Tsoho in the case of the IPOB leader and his co-defendants.

According to the affidavit, “Following the present action by the NJC, it will only be tidy and most honourable that the Judge disqualify himself forthwith from further proceedings in the matter.”

It was averred also that the defendants’ constitutional rights to fair hearing would be grossly impeded upon if Justice Tshoho proceeded with the hearing of the charges against them.

The affidavit stated that the court had, in the course of its ruling on 26th April, 2016, openly expressed serious prejudice against a member of the defence team, adding that, it would be in the interest of justice for the application to be granted, to preserve the sanctity of the judicial office.

The prosecution counsel, Shuaibu Labaran, Principal State Counsel in his response, accused the defence of frustrating the trial of the Biafra leader and his co-defendants.

“We were served this morning (yesterday) with a strongly worded motion and from the face of the motion, there is a clear indication that the defendants are, again out to truncate the proceedings,” Labaran told the court.

Meanwhile, the second defendant in the matter, Benjamin Madubugwu, has engaged the services of a new counsel, Chief Amobi Nzelu, leaving Chief Chuks Muoma to represent the first and the third defendants, Kanu and David Nwawusi, respectively.

It will be recalled that the court had in April struck out an application by the Biafra leader and his co-defendants asking for a stay of proceedings in their ongoing trial.

However, when the Judge asked the second defendant to clarify the issues on his representation, he said, “My Lord, I want to make it known to the whole world that Chief Amobi Nzelu is my lawyer”.

On that note, Nzelu asked the court for time to enable him get copies of the processes filed in the matter and to also study them so as to effectively represent his client.

Tsoho, having heard from all the parties, adjourned till September 26, 2016 to hear the defendants motion and for trial.