A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has again turned down the bail application by the self acclaimed leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, and three others that are standing trial over allegations of treasonable felony and an act preparatory to act of terrorism.
Justice Binta Nyako refused IPOB leader, Kanu, and three others, Benjamin Nmadubugwu, Chidiebere Onwudiwe and David Nwawus, bail.
Justice Nyako explained that charges of treasonable felony, which the defendants are charged with is too sensitive to national security and naturally attracts life sentence.
Counsel to Nnamdi Kanu, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, pointed out that President Muhammadu Buhari had once declared Kanu guilty on national television, but Justice Nyako retorted that the president, like everybody else, has freedom to express his opinion on the matter.
Recall that Justice Nyako is the third judge hearing Kanu’s trial following the withdrawal of two previous judges.
Kanu and his co-defendants, Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawusi were arraigned by the Federal Government on offences bordering on treasonable felony and their alleged involvement in acts of terrorism.
In her ruling on Kanu and his co-defendants’ bail application, the trial Judge, Justice Nyako held that the offences for which the defendants are standing trial were not ordinarily bailable, pointing out that the treasonable felony they were charged with attracts a life sentence.
While denying the defendants bail on the basis that their case was sensitive to national security, Justice Nyako said, “Irrespective of what the charge is, the court has to exercise its discretion one way or the other”, and further held that some of the charges against the defendants could attract life imprisonment if proved by the Federal Government.
Reacting to the defense counsel’s argument that President Muhammadu Buhari had made a statement on national television that tends to declare Kanu guilty as charged, Justice Nyako held that President Buhari, being a citizen of Nigeria, was at liberty to exercise his freedom of speech and maintained that the President lacks the capacity to influence the decision of the court.
She said the defendants did not place any new fact or law capable of persuading the court to reverse an earlier ruling of the court that denied them bail.
“The offences are serious in nature and carries very severe punishment if proven. “I hereby refused bail of the applicants. But in the alternative, I hereby order accelerated trial of this matter, to commence immediately”.
Meanwhile, the Federal government had immediately after the ruling was delivered, applied for all the witnesses to be allowed to testify behind screen.
The Federal Government prayed the court for identities of the witnesses not to be revealed in any record of the proceeding; but the defendants in a vehement opposition to the application contended that granting such request would amount to a gross violation of their rights to fair hearing.
“We vehemently oppose secret trial of the defendants. They were accused in the open, we also request that they be tried in the open. The defendants need to see those testifying against them eye-ball-to-eye-ball. We are ready for this trial”, Kanu’s lawyer, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor submitted.
Also, one of the defence lawyers, Mr. Maxwell Okpara, told the court that most of the proposed witnesses were foreigners that the government imported from neighbouring countries.
“My lord, we have uncovered their plan to bring Ghanaians and people from Cameroon to appear in this court to testify against the defendants. We, as Nigerians will resist that plot. It cannot work. That is why they are insisting that they should testify behind screen. That plot has failed, it will not work”, Okpara told the court.
After listening to all the parties Justice Nyako fixed December 13, 2016 to rule on the application by the Federal Government for witnesses to be protected.
The defendants, are facing trial on 11-Count charges, bordering on treasonable felony.
They were accused of managing an unlawful society, publication of defamatory materials, illegal possession of firearms and improper importation of goods.
Onwudiwe was specifically accused in one of the counts of committing an act preparatory to an act of terrorism.
All the counts were in connection with the defendants’’ alleged broadcasts on Radio Biafra and agitation for the secession from Nigeria, states in the South-East and South-South zones and other communities in Kogi and Benue states to constitute a Republic of Biafra.