Nnamdi Kanu Trial: Lawyers, litigants, journalists lament as SSS restricts court access

As the trial of Nnamdi Kanu, the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), resumes on Monday, lawyers and litigants are stranded at the Federal High Court in Abuja.

The Supreme Court of Nigeria last December restored Mr Kanu’s trial after dismissing the judgement of the Court of Appeal freeing the IPOB leader.

Mr Kanu is standing trial for terrorism before Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court in Abuja.

Armed operatives of Nigeria’s secret police, SSS, on Monday, mounted barricades on adjoining routes to the court located in the central area of Abuja.

Typically, Monday mornings are busy with many cases, but SSS personnel would not allow lawyers and litigants to enter the court premises without verifying their identities.

“Even lawyers and litigants whose cases are before other judges are not being prevented from entering the Federal High Court complex,” a lawyer told PREMIUM TIMES after he scaled the hurdle.

As of 9:15 a.m., a large number of lawyers and journalists were stranded outside the courtrooms.

Some lawyers engaged SSS operatives in shouting matches as the former complained of missing their suits before other judges of the court.

Members of Mr Kanu’s family led by his younger brother Emmanuel Kanu, the IPOB leader’s legal team, are in court for the day’s proceedings.

Background

In June 2021, the Nigerian government repatriated Mr Kanu from Kenya after the Federal High Court in Abuja ordered the IPOB leader’s arrest for jumping bail in 2017.

The Court of Appeal in Abuja, on 13 October 2022, dismissed the terrorism and treasonable felony charges filed against Mr Kanu based on his agitation for the secession of a Biafra Republic, comprising the five South-east states and parts of neighbouring states, from Nigeria.

A three-member panel of the appellate court, led by Oludotun Adefope-Okojie, dismissed the terrorism and treasonable felony charges against Mr Kanu.

The court had ordered Mr Kanu’s release from detention after striking out a seven-count charge pending before Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court in Abuja.

Mr Adefope-Okojie held that Mr Kanu’s forced return from Kenya to Nigeria in June 2021 was a breach of local and international laws.

But, instead of complying with the appellate court’s decision ordering Mr Kanu’s unconditional release, the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) filed an appeal at the Supreme Court.

The then AGF, Abubakar Malami, filed an application for a stay of execution of the Court of Appeal’s verdict on the separatist leader.

But on 28 October 2022, another three-member panel of the Court of Appeal headed by Haruna Tsammani halted the execution of its judgement which freed Mr Kanu of terrorism charges.

The government had applied that the execution of the judgement be suspended pending the resolution of its appeal filed at the Supreme Court.

 

Mr Tsammani, in the ruling, held that the counter-affidavit filed against the government application by Mr Kanu’s legal team led by Mr Ozekhome was misleading.

Mr Kanu has been leading secession campaigns in the South-east region and some parts of South-south Nigeria for an independent state of Biafra.

The federal government has consistently blamed IPOB’s separatist activities for the violence in the South-eastern region of the country.

Mr Kanu, the IPOB leader, has been in SSS detention since June 2021 when he was repatriated from Kenya to Nigeria.

He was first arrested in 2015 under the administration of former Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari.

The judge had asked the prosecution to proceed to trial on the remaining seven charges, ordering the prosecuting lawyer, Shuaibu Labaran, to file a fresh proof of evidence before May 18, the next hearing date.

PREMIUM TIMES reported that the judge, in a separate ruling on 8 April 2022, validated the federal government’s repatriation of Mr Kanu from Kenya to face the charges pending against him in Nigeria.

The judge ordered that the case proceed to trial on Counts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 13 and 15.

Five of the sustained charges have to do with alleged acts of terrorism, including professing to be a member and leader of IPOB, a proscribed organisation, issuing inciteful and deadly threats against individuals, and issuing directives, among others.

Count 15 has to do with the illegal importation of a radio transmitter he declared as used household items in violation of section 47 (2) (a) of the Criminal Code Act. Cap, C45 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.

Full details of the counts:
Count 1

The prosecution alleged that Mr Kanu, of Afara Ukwu, Umuhahia North Local Government Area of Abia State, as a member of and leader of proscribed IPOB sometimes in September 2021, committed an act of terrorism against Nigeria and its people by allegedly making a broadcast received and heard in Nigeria with intent to intimidate the population, threatened that the people would die and that the whole world would standstill. The offence is said to be punishable under section 1(2)(b) of the Terrorism Prevention Amendment Act 2015.

Count 2

The prosecution accused him of committing “an act in furtherance of an act of terrorism” against Nigeria and its people made a broadcast received and heard in Nigeria within the jurisdiction of the court with intent to intimidate the population, issued a death threat against anyone who flouted his sit-at-home order.

Mr Kanu allegedly ordered whoever flouted the order should “write his/her will”, and as a result banks, schools, markets, shopping malls, and fuel stations domiciled in the eastern states of Nigeria must not open for business. Citizens, and vehicular movements, in the eastern states of Nigeria, the prosecution said, were grounded as a result of the sit-at-home order.

The prosecution said the offence is punishable under section 1(2)(b) of the Terrorism (Prevention) Amendment Act (2013).

Count 3

The prosecution also alleged that “on diverse dates” between 2018 and 2021 within the jurisdiction of this court, Mr Kanu professed himself to be a member and leader of IPOB, a proscribed organisation in Nigeria.

This, the prosecution said was an offence contrary to and punishments under section 16 of the Terrorism Prevision Amendment Act 2015.

Count 4

M Kanu also, allegedly, on diverse dates between 2018 and 2021, made a broadcast received and heard in Nigeria inciting members of the public in Nigeria in furtherance of an act of terrorism against Nigeria and its people to hunt and kill Nigerian security personnel.

The offence, according to the prosecution, is punishable under section 1(2)(h) of the Terrorism Prevention Amendment Act 2013.

Count 5

Mr Kanu, also on diverse dates between 2018 and 2021, allegedly broadcasted furtherance of an act of terrorism against Nigeria and its people received and heard in Nigeria in furtherance of an act of terrorism, inciting members of the public in Nigeria to hunt and kill families of Nigeria security personnel.

The offence is said to be punishable under 1(2)(h) of the Terrorism Prevention Amendment Act 2013.

Count 13

Mr Kany also alleged between 2018 and 2021 made a broadcast received and heard in Nigeria with the intent to incite violence, in furtherance of an act of terrorism against Nigeria and its people, directed members of the public to burn down every federal facility in Lagos resulting in major economic loss to the federal government.

The alleged offences, the prosecution says, are punishable under section 1(2) of the Terrorism (Prevention) Amendment) Act 2013.

Court 15

The prosecution also alleged that on diverse dates between March and April 2015, Mr Kanu was illegally imported into Nigeria and kept in Ubulisluzor 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 declared as used household items.

The alleged offence was said to be contrary to section 47(2)(a) of Criminal Code Act CapC45 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.


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