•Court grants shielding of prosecution witnesses
From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
There was a mild drama at a Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday as lawyers to the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu and the Department of State Service [DSS] clashed over allegations that lives of prosecution witnesses were being threatened by Kanu’s lawyers and his family.
This was reported to Justice John Tsoho in an open court when the matter came up.
The prosecution counsel and the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Mohammed Diri, said Kanu’s lawyer had an altercation with the DSS while entering the courtroom.
Kanu and two others – Benjamin Maudubugwu and David Nwawuisi – were brought before the court for alleged treason and for maintaining unlawful society, among other charges
Meanwhile, the court had granted Federal Government’s request to protect the lives of the witnesses by not exposing them to public glare through the use of a screen.
Tempers flared at the commencement of hearing as Diri, reading from a short note he claimed was written by the DSS, said the defence counsel and Kanu family were constituting threats to the lives of witnesses. He asked the court to adjourn the matter till when the witnesses would be granted the needed protection to help them confidently testify in court.
But the lead defence counsel, Mr. Chux Muoma, asked the court to grant permission to Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, the counsel who had altercation with the DSS, to explain what happened.
Ejiofor accused DSS operatives of trying to kill him. He said he had gone to intervene in a dispute between the Kanu family and DSS.
He said at the scene of the disagreement, he was told the DSS staff were blocking Kanu’s family members from entering the court.
Mr. Ejiofor said the DSS operatives at the scene insisted that they would only allow three additional members to join those already in the court premises.
He said when he (Mr. Ejiofor) tried to explain to them that there was an order of court permitting members of the public to witness the proceedings, Mr. Ejiofor said a staff of the DSS threatened to kill him. He prayed the court to take note of the threat.
“My lord, I will like you to take note of this threat to my life, because I don’t know what would happen tomorrow,” Mr. Ejiofor said.
Justice Tsoho, who noted the development, said if both parties felt threatened, the case might as well be handed over to the celestial order to resolve. He asked the parties to decide whether or not they wanted the trial to continue. The matter was thereafter stepped down for a 30-minute break to enable them determine the way forward for the matter.
When the court resumed, it took arguments on the request by the Federal Government to allow witnesses to testify behind the screen in view of the treat to their lives.
Justice Tsoho granted the prosecution’s request.
Further hearing continues tomorrow.