From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
There was heavy security presence around the Federal High Court complex Abuja, yesterday, where the absence of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, in court forced an adjournment of his trial to October 21.
When the matter was called by 11.10am, the IPOB leader, who is in the custody of the Department of State Security Service (DSS), was absent in court.
The DSS blamed the absence of Kanu in court on logistics problems.
Before the court proceedings, journalists and lawyers were subjected to a hectic time with security operatives before gaining access into the courtroom.
In addition, some members of IPOB were arrested by security operatives outside the court premises.
Regardless, the prosecution counsel, Mohammed Abubakar, informed the court that the case was slated for hearing although the defendant was yet to be produced by the DSS.
The prosecution counsel had, however, challenged the powers of the judge to continue with the trial without the fiat of the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho.
Abubakar posited that since the court commenced its annual vacation on July 26, it followed that a vacation judge should step up to hear the trial.
“I want to draw the attention of the court that the annual vacation for judges has commenced.
“This is no fiat from the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for this court to continue with the trial of the defendant.
“We don’t know if this court can continue. I don’t think in the absence of a fiat from the Chief Judge, that we can continue, Abubakar stated.
Reacting, Kanu’s counsel, Mr Ifeanyi Ejiofor, informed the court of an application he filed, seeking the transfer of Kanu from DSS custody to correctional centre.
Responding, the judge held that the trial could not proceed in Kanu’s absence, having been arrested and brought into the country.
Justice Binta Nyako had insisted that Kanu must physically be brought to court since he is now available to face his trial. She further ordered the DSS to allow Kanu’s counsel access to him.
Earlier, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, leading counsel for Nnamdi Kanu, had told the court that the DSS denied him and relatives of Kanu the opportunity to see him.
“I was informed authoritatively, I am speaking from the bar, that Nnamdi Kanu has been taken out of the jurisdiction of this court. We have been denied access to Kanu in the last 10 days.
“We are worried about his safety and don’t know why the Federal Government refused to bring him to court,” Ejiofor complained.
Meanwhile, Sahara Reporters Publisher, Omoyele Sowore, was arrested at the Federal High Court where he came to show solidarity to the IPOB leader. Also in court to witness proceedings was a representative of Ohaneze, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife.
Some members of IPOB were, also, arrested by security operatives. They had thronged the court to support their leader.
Some of the arrested IPOB members chanted solidarity songs and demanded Kanu’s freedom. They were seen dressed in Jewish apparel.