Leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, will, on March 25, know whether or not he should be released on bail pending his trial, says Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, on Monday.
Justice Nyako also adjourned to rule on separate bail applications by three other pro-Biafra agitators, Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi, who are facing trial with Kanu.
The defendants who are answering to five-count criminal charge the Federal Government preferred against them, through their respective lawyers, prayed the court to grant them bail. They contended that all the allegations FG levelled against them were bailable offences.
Kanu’s lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, stressed that the court had in a ruling on March 1, struck out six out of eleven count charges FG initially slammed against the defendants. He noted that charges that were struck out by the court bordered on criminal conspiracy and alleged involvement of the defendants in acts of terrorism.
According to Ejiofor, that aspect of the charge having been expunged by the court, there was no basis for both Kanu and the other defendants to still remain in prison custody. His argument was adopted by counsel to all the other defendants, who maintained that going by the pending charges, they no longer posed security threat to warrant their continued detention.
Meantime, Justice Nyako also fixed April 6 to determine merit of application by the defendants, asking her to vary the order that gave FG the nod to shield identities of all the witnesses billed to testify against them.
The trial Judge not only okayed the witnesses to testify behind a screen, she also granted an order permitting them to use pseudo names. Though the court agreed to mask the witnesses from the public, it held that the defendants and their lawyers would be allowed to see them.
Dissatisfied with the decision, all the defendants applied for a review of the ruling, saying they would not submit themselves to any form of secret trial. Kanu had insisted that he would want the public and members of the press to be allowed to see faces of those testifying against him. “I was accused in public and I must be tried in public.
No one can try me in secret! No secret trial! I will not accept that, no way!”, Kanu bellowed from the dock at the last adjourned date. It will be recalled that Justice Nyako struck out six charges against the defendants on the premise that they were not supported by the proof of evidence FG adduced against them.
The Judge held that none of the six charges established a prima-facie criminal case against any of the defendants. She said the fact that IPOB was not an organisation registered in Nigeria did not make it an illegal society.
“It may be true that IPOB is not registered in Nigeria, but does that make it an illegal organisation”, the Judge queried. Whereas the court branded some of the terminated charges as “hollow” and “scanty”, it however sustained five charges against the defendants.