Biafra: Tight security as Nnamdi Kanu’s trial resumes

There is heavy security presence at the Federal High Court in Abuja, where the Federal Government is set to resume the trial of the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu.

All routes leading to the court, which is beside the headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Justice, have been cordoned off by armed security operatives.

Only those whose names were on a list held by operatives of the Department of State Services, DSS, were granted access to the court premises.

The Supreme Court had on December 15, 2023, granted the FG the nod to proceed with the trial of the IPOB leader, who is facing charges bordering on terrorism and treasonable felony.

The apex court vacated an order of the Court of Appeal that not only quashed the charge but equally ordered the release of the defendant.

The IPOB leader, who was first arrested by security agents in Lagos on October 14, 2015, has been in detention since June 29, 2021.

Trial Justice Binta Nyako, on April 25, 2017, granted him bail on health grounds after he had spent about 18 months in detention.

Upon the perfection of the bail conditions, he was on April 28, 2017, released from the Kuje prison.

However, midway into the trial, the IPOB leader escaped from the country after soldiers invaded his country home at Afara Ukwu Ibeku in Umuahia, Abia State, an operation that led to the deaths of some of his followers.

Nnamdi Kanu was later re-arrested in Kenya on June 19, 2021, and extraordinarily renditioned back to the country by security agents on June 27, 2021.

Following the development, the trial court, on June 29, 2021, remanded him in custody of the Department of State Services, DSS, where he has remained till date.

However, trial Justice Nyako, on April 8, 2022, struck out eight out of the 15-count charge that FG preferred against him on the premise that they lacked substance.

In the said counts, FG had alleged that Kanu, through his media broadcasts, incited members of the public to not only stage a violent revolution but to attack police officers and also destroy public facilities in Lagos State.

FG alleged that he had, in his broadcast that was received and heard in Nigeria, issued a deadly threat that anyone who flouted his sit-at-home order should write his or her Will.

It told the court that, as a result of the threat, banks, schools, markets, shopping malls, and fuel stations domiciled in the Eastern States of Nigeria were not opened for businesses, citizens, and vehicular movements in the Eastern States of Nigeria were grounded.

It further alleged that Nnamdi Kanu had, on diverse dates between 2018 and 2021, made a broadcast received and heard in Nigeria, inciting members of the public to hunt and kill Nigerian security personnel and their family members, thereby committing an offence punishable under Section 1(2)(h) of the Terrorism Prevention Amendment Act, 2013.

More so, FG, alleged that Kanu directed members of the IPOB “to manufacture bombs.”.

It told the court that the defendant had, between March and April 2015, imported into Nigeria and kept in Ubulisiuzor in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State, a radio transmitter known as Tram 50L concealed in a container of used household items, which he allegedly declared as used household items, and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 47(2)(a) of Criminal Code Act Cap, C45 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.

Notwithstanding the pending allegations, the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, on October 13, 2022, ordered Kanu’s immediate release from detention.

In a unanimous decision by a three-member panel, the appellate court quashed the entire charge against the detained IPOB leader before the high court.

The court said it was satisfied that FG flagrantly violated all known laws when it forcefully rendered Nnamdi Kanu from Kenya to the country for the continuation of his trial.

It held that such arbitrary use of power by the Nigerian government divested the trial court of jurisdiction to further try the appellant.

Dissatisfied with the decision, FG took the matter before the Supreme Court, even as it persuaded the appellate court to suspend the execution of the judgement, pending the determination of its appeal.

Likewise, Kanu, through his team of lawyers led by Prof. Mike Ozekhome, SAN, and Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, also approached the apex court to query the legal propriety of the order that stayed the execution of the verdict of the appellate court.

In its judgement, the apex court faulted the appellate court’s verdict, saying it was based on sentiment.

In the lead judgement that was prepared by Justice Garba Mohammed but read by Justice Emmanuel Agim, the apex court held that the Court of Appeal did not anchor its decision on any extant law in the country, but on international statutes that Nigeria is signatory to.

“As far as Nigeria is concerned, the lower court did not cite any Nigerian authority,” the apex court noted, even as it slammed FG for acting “irresponsibly”, when it bypassed the law to bring Kanu back to the country for the continuation of his trial.

“Be that as it may, what is the position of the Nigerian law, where an accused is saying an illegality has been committed against me?

“It is like saying that an evidence should not be admitted because it was illegally obtained. Our law is that, notwithstanding the procedure, it is still a valid evidence before the court.

“If the police arrest a defendant, torture them, and illegally obtain evidence, does it divest the trial court of its jurisdiction?” the court queried.

It held that the remedy open for Kanu was for him to institute a civil proceeding against FG.

“That is the position of the Nigerian law,” the apex court held, adding that the judgement of the appellate court, though noble, “still remains within the realm of sentiment.”

Insisting that judgement in such a case must be based on express legislation, the Supreme Court said it found no reason to align itself with the position of the appellate court.

“There is no legislation in Nigeria that says the trial court will no longer have jurisdiction where prosecution does anything illegal against a person standing trial.

“If prosecution destroys someone’s home in search of evidence, that will not stop the trial, but will raise a cause of action.

“We decline to go with the Court of Appeal, in as much as we strongly condemn what the prosecution did.

“Nigeria must be concerned about its image, both locally and internationally. If a person is standing trial, why must you invade his home? That is totally irresponsible,” the apex court added.

It held that FG ought to have approached the trial court if it felt that Nnamdi Kanu breached his bail conditions.

Besides, it held that the high court acted wrongly when it revoked the initial bail it granted to Kanu, saying the action was “totally unfair” since he took a flight to save his life.

“Nigeria barely recovered from the case of Umaru Dikko, and we should not repeat it,” the apex court warned as it upheld FG’s appeal marked: SC/CR/1361/2022 and dismissed Kanu’s Cross-Appeal marked: SC/CR/394/2022.

It ordered Nnmadi Kanu to go back and defend himself on the seven-count charge that is pending against him.

Kanu reportedly sacked his legal team after the judgement.

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