Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnmadi Kanu on Thursday expressed his readiness to face his trial before the Abuja division of the Federal High Court if his safety would be guaranteed by the court.
Kanu’s position was conveyed to the court by his counsel, Ifeanyi Ejiofor at Thursday’s proceedings.
The Federal Government had among other things, alleged that Kanu imported Radio transmitter known as TRAM 50L, which was concealed in a container that was declared as used household items, for the purpose of using same to disseminate information about secession plans by the IPOB.
FG further alleged that Kanu, “on or about the 28th April, 2015 in London, United Kingdom did in a broadcast on Radio Biafra monitored in Enugu, Enugu State and other parts of Nigeria within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, referred to Major General Muhammadu Buhari, President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a paedophile, a terrorist, an idiot and an embodiment of evil, knowing same to be false and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 375 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C. 38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004”.
He was standing trial on a five-count charge along three other pro-Biafara agitators, Chidibere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi.
The court had on April 25, 2016, released Kanu on bail on health ground after he had spent a year and seven months in detention.
To secure Kanu’s release, Abaribe, Uchendu and a Jewish High Priest, Emmanu El- Salom Oka BenMadu, on April 28, 2016, signed an undertaking to ensure his attendance in court.
However, Kanu’s whereabouts remained unknown since September 2017, following which the Federal Government brought an application pursuant to section 179(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, demanding for his bench warrant.
On October 10, 2017, Justice Nyako ordered the three sureties to show cause why they should not be committed to prison over Kanu’s repeated failure to appear for continuation of his trial, or why the N100m they individually deposited to secure his bail should not be forfeited to the Federal Government.
Alternatively, the court said the sureties were at liberty to produce the IPOB leader for his trial.
But following his continued absence, the court on March 28, 2019, issued a bench warrant for arrest of Kanu.
Justice Nyako, equally revoked the bail it earlier granted to the IPOB leader who is facing treasonable felony charge.
Placing reliance on Section 352(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, the court, said it would go ahead to try Kanu in absentia.
Justice Nyako said the order was informed by the inability of Kanu’s lawyer, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, to give “cogent, compelling and verifiable reason” why his client repeatedly failed to appear in court to answer to the charge the Federal Government preferred against him.
The court subsequently fixed June 18 to commence Kanu’s trial in his absence.
But when the case resumed on Thursday, his counsel, Ejiofor, told Justice Binta Nyako that the had filed an application to restore the IPOB leader’s bail so that he could face his trial was filed on April 1.
“We have an application for bail filed on April 1, 2019, the application was served on the prosecution and it is ripe for hearing.
“We urge the court to restore his bail on the ground that the court will guarantee his safety when he comes back to the country to continue his trial,” he said.
On his part, counsel to the Federal Government, Labaran Shuaibu, who told the court that he was just seeing the process, opposed the application.
Shuaibu urged the court to adjourn the matter to enable them filed the necessary processes.
Delivering the ruling, Justice Nyako, who adjourned the matter till January 16, said the only way he could guarantee Kanu’s safety was to keep him in the prison.
She said even judges are no longer safe in the country.
“Even judges are being abducted in the country. So the prison is the only safest place for him,” she said.
Meantime, the matter has been adjourned to January 16, 2020 for trial.