From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Abuja division of the Federal High Court declined the application filed by the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, who sought to be released from custody ding the determination of the treasonable felony charge slammed against him by the Federal Government.
Justice Binta Nyako, the presiding judge also struck out a fresh six-count amended charge preferred against the IPOB leader by the Federal Government.
While ruling on the bail application filed through Kanu’s lead counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), the court held that Kanu must explain why he breached the previous bail that was given to him, before he could enjoy another favourable discretion from the court.
“Until the issue of absence of the defendant for his trial, with all the bail conditions breached, is determined, the instant application of the defendant for bail will at best, be premature and it is refused.
“However, the defendant is at liberty to refile the application”, Justice Nyako held and noted that Kanu’s trial had since 2015, suffered various setbacks owing to over 19 interlocutory applications that have been filed in the matter.
“It therefore implored the parties to allow the case to proceed on trial to enable the charge to be determined, one way or the other,” the Judge held.
Kanu had, in the application he filed pursuant to Sections 6(6) and 36(5) and (6) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, as well as Sections 161, 162, 163 and 165 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act ( ACJA), 2015, prayed the court to release him on bail, pending by determination of the charge preferred against him by the Federal Government.
He told the court that he was severely tortured for eight days in Kenya, before he was repatriated back to Nigeria for continuation of his trial and further alleged that his health condition deteriorated, following “a highly poisonous substance” he said was injected into his system, which he said is causing him to have constipation and increased heart beat.
Kanu told the court that he was confined to solitary confinement where he alleged that he was daily exposed to mental torture and further drew the attention of the court to the fact that he was previously released on bail on health ground.
The Federal Government, through its counsel, David Caswell urged the court to refuse the bail application, insisting that Kanu, having realized the gravity of the case against him, would run away from the country and not make himself available for trial.
He said the prosecution was ready to open it’s case and was in court with witnesses and documentary evidences to prove the charges against the IPOB leader.
Caswell however, withdrew the fresh six-count amended charge against Kanu following a strong opposition by counsel to the defendant, Chief Ozekhome, who accused the prosecution of trying to delay processes by continuous amendment of the charge against his client.
Ozekhome told the court that the prosecution has amended charge against Kanu for the 7th time, a submission, Justice Nyako agreed with and added that the defendant is not expected to take plea on those newly amended charges immediately, as he needs time to digest them before doing so.
The Federal Government had, in the new amended charge, listed some lawyers representing the embattled IPOB leader, including Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor and Mr. Maxwell Opara, as accomplices of the defendant, alleging that the said lawyers, were constantly in contact with Kanu, after he jumped bail and fled the country.
It would be recalled that the IPOB leader was subsequently re-arrested and returned back to the country from Kenya, to face his trial.
The court had, in April struck out eight out of the 15-count treasonable felony charge preferred against Kanu by the Federal Government on the ground that, the charges were mere repetitions that did not disclose any offence that could be sustained by the proof of evidence before the court.
While the court threw out counts 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12,13 and 14 of the charge, it okayed Kanu’s trial on counts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8 and 15 in a ruling after Kanu’s application to quash the entire charge against him, which he said was incompetent and legally defective.
The IPOB leader, argued that the court lacked the jurisdiction to try him on the strength of an incompetent charge and, he was “unlawfully, brutally and extraordinarily renditioned from Kenya without his consent.”
Ozekhome argued that since some of the allegations FG levelled against Kanu, were purportedly committed outside the country, the high court, therefore, lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the charge.
He argued that under the Federal High Court Act, such charge must disclose specific location where the offence was committed and contended that Kanu could not be charged with belonging to an unlawful organization since the action of the Federal Government, in proscribing the IPOB, is still subject of legal dispute at the Court of Appeal and therefore subjudice.
Consequently, he urged the court to dismiss the charge, as well as to discharge and acquit the defendant.
While the Federal Government, in count-8, alleged that Kanu, directed members of the IPOB, “to manufacture Bombs”, it told the court in count-15 that the defendant had between the month of March and April 2015, “Imported into Nigeria and kept in Ubulisiuzor in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, a Radio Transmitter known as Tram 50L concealed in a container of used household items which you declared as used household items, and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 47 (2) (a) of Criminal Code Act Cap, C45 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.”
Meanwhile, the court adjourned the matter till May 26.