ABUJA— An Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Tuesday, following an application by the Prosecution counsel, Mr. Shuaibu Labaran, separated the trial of leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu from the rest of other three defendants standing alongside with him on the treasonable felony charges preferred against them.
Labaran in his application noted that the IPOB leader’s absence in court has greatly frustrated the progress of the case, hence the need to separate the charges.
“My Lord, the absence of the first defendant having been granted bail, has frustrated the progress in this case.
“In the light of it My Lord, we ask for the indulgence of this court to separate the charges so that progress can be made in this matter,” he said.
Ruling on the application for separate trials, the presiding judge, Binta Nyako, held that she agreed with the Prosecution that there was need to severe the trial of Kanu from the rest of other defendants in order “to meet the justice of the case.”
Labaran also informed the court that he received a letter of plea for an adjournment by lawyer to the first surety, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, whom were on some engagements.
According to him, “My Lord, I received a letter yesterday from the counsel to Sen. Enyinnaya Abaribe, seeking an adjournment in respect to his application filed before this Honourable Court, on the ground that they have a matter before the Supreme Court.
“My Lord, am not objecting to that but I’ll be asking that he comes back tomorrow in respect to that. And as prosecutors not persecutors, we shall be asking for the guidance of your Lordship with respect to the case against the three defendants standing in the dock.”
However, Kanu’s lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, in his reaction, said he is still expecting the court to address the issue concerning the whereabouts of his client, asking whether the sureties are with his client that the Prosecutor would want them to explain about his whereabouts since his client went missing after the military invasion in his home last year September.
Meanwhile, lawyer to the second surety, Tochukwu Uchenna informed the court that his client was unaware that his presence was needed in court, while lawyer to the third surety, El Immanuel Madu, filed a fresh application which the court refused to admit immediately.
Mr. Labaran further asked the indulgence of the court to allot him some time to amend the charges as to align with the separation of Kanu’s charges with other defendants.
He said, “My Lord, in view of your ruling with respect to the application, we shall be asking of a very short break so that we can amend the process for the record of the court to be neater.
“My Lord, we will be taking the amended charge but my concern is that the first defendant is been reflected in the amended charge. That was why I asked for a short adjournment for the record of the court to be neater.”
However, lawyer to the fourt defendant, David Nwawuisi, pleaded with the court not to admit anymore amendment of charges by the Prosecutor, saying that his client has been in detention for over 3 years now.
“My Lord, in opposition to the motion to amend the charges, we discovered that in the atmosphere of the entire scenario will even tell that the Prosecution is even tired of this particular phantom charges brought before this court.
“My Lord, on our own, they have been amending charges one after another, this is the fourth amendment they’re going to do. We hope after this amendment, the prosecution is not going to make further amendments for us to make progress in this matter.
“Why am saying this is because my client was the first person to be arrested by the DSS. When they discovered they have no charge against him, they brought Nnamdi Kanu and attached him to have committed treasonable felony. My Lord, let this be the last amendment in this case, so we can make progress,” he stated.
Another lawyer in the league of the defendants, asked the court to allow a separate trial window for proper hearing to begin in the matter, adding that would also help both parties in deciding when to either amend the charges or file fresh or counter applications.
According to him, for speedy administration of justice, “I plead respectfully with this court to give us a separate trial window that would guide all the parties on how this case shall be conducted.
“I want to become part of this case and I want to have a trial window, and also set a separate date for proper hearing rather than the prosecution going home to sleep. And then take their time to file those charges as been ordered to them and at what time the charges should be amended.”
He also pleaded with the court to use its discretionary powers in granting bail to defendants whose conditions are exceptional.
“I respectfully draw the attention of this court to the provisions of AJA, Section 161, it gives you the discretionary powers to grant bail on exceptional circumstances and it was specifically enumerated in that provision that bail can be granted by you, even without application where a matter has been delayed for well over one year without judgement. It is a reminder for this court to look at,” he asserted.
But in her response, Justice Nyako said the court has passed beyond that stage and would no longer entertain any bail application from the defendants.
Earlier during the opening session of the court, lawyer to Bright Chimezie, Barrister Chukwudi Igwe, informed the court that his client’s matter is yet to be read in court having been joined in the suit since last year, adding that an Uyo High Court had hitherto granted his client bail and the DSS defied the order.
He told the court that, “Why am bringing this issue is because at the last adjournment last year when this matter came up, I pointed out that my client, by the virtue of the amended charges on a case filed since 21st of October, 2016, was joined in this case but the court said it doesn’t have his matter before it. My Lord, this was about 7 to 8 months ago.
“If I do not raise this issue, there’s every possibility that Bright Chimezie will continue to be in custody of the DSS, even upon getting an order for his release at the Federal High Court, Uyo.
“My client has already been granted bail by your learned brother in Uyo, ordering the DSS to release him immediately. What the DSS did was to quickly run down here to file this amended charge on the 21st of June, 2017. They filed it and then abandoned it in a court file without even raising any issue with respect to it and my client has been in custody since 2016. It is almost two years, even when a competent court has granted him bail. My client is languishing in prison.”
In her reaction, Justice Binta stated that “he has not been arraigned in court. The reason why he has not been arraigned is that the first defendant in the case was granted bail in April, consequent upon which we have not seen him since then and this case has been stalled.
“I have just now made an order to separate the charge of the first defendant from the others. No issue have been taken in the case of your client because of that. Now that we are severing the position of the first defendant in respect to this, they will now include a fresh charge for trial which will now make your client to take the plea again and now reply.
“When they now amend the charges and include your client, then we will look at the issues raised, if not, I’ll strike it out.”
After taking their submissions, she adjourned the matter till March 20, 21, and 22 for continued hearing while fixing March 28 for sureties to the IPOB leader to present their cases on his whereabouts.