By Chike Okeke
THE Nnamdi Kanu saga has received national and international media coverage in the past few months. Only two weeks ago, hundreds of ‘Biafrans’ and supporters of the Biafran cause staged peaceful protests in front of the Vatican, headquarters of the Catholic Church in the world. There had been similar protests by the Biafran supporters in some European capitals. It is, therefore, timely now to address pertinent issues on the matter.
Counsel to Nnamdi Kanu, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, in a recent press briefing in Abuja, circulated in the social media and published in some national dailies, called attention to very serious issues in the trial of Nnamdi Kanu. Mr. Kanu was arraigned before a Wuse, Abuja Chief Magistrate Court on October 19, 2015 for criminal conspiracy, managing and belonging to an unlawful society and criminal intimidation contrary to Sections 97, 97B and 397 of the Penal Code. The trial magistrate, Hon. Shuabi, granted him bail on the same day on conditions that were promptly satisfied but the Directorate of State Services (DSS) refused to release him.
During the pendency of this charge already adjourned to November 19, 2015 for hearing, the DSS rushed to the Federal High Court and applied to secure an exparte order to further detain Nnamdi Kanu for another 90 days, in total disregard of the positive order by the Chief Magistrate Court for his release.
Immediately the defense counsel became aware of the perverse order an application was promptly brought before the Federal High Court, the very court that granted the order, to vacate it. In its well considered ruling, the judge vacated the exparte order and further directed the DSS to release Nnamdi Kanu unconditionally. The order was again flouted.
In a deliberate effort to legitimize the further detention of Nnamdi Kanu, the office of the Attorney General of the Federation filed a six count charge against him and two other defendants including this time treasonable felony and belonging to and managing an unlawful organisation (IPOB). Barrister Ejiofor explained that Nnamdi Kanu was never caught or arrested with any firearm, weapon or ammunition of any form. Radio Biafra as well as Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) are duly registered under the regulatory laws of the United Kingdom, the United Nations and several countries across the globe. He attached the said registrations Certificates in proof of his claim. For instance, the registration documents of both IPOB and Radio Biafra made available to the press by Nnamdi Kanu’s lawyer (Bar Ifeanyi Ejiofor) revealed that IPOB is registered in over 30 countries across the globe with its headquarters situated in the United Kingdom. Certificate of registration issued by the registrar of companies for England and Wales, certified that Indigenous People Of Biafra is registered with Certificate Registration number 9141882, in the United Kingdom, Given at the companies House Cardiff on the July 22, 2014. Registration certificate of Radio Biafra issued by the registrar of companies for England and Wales, also certified that Radio Biafra is registered with Certificate Registration Number: 8635030, in the United Kingdom, Given at the Companies House Cardiff on the August 2, 2013. It is now undisputable in the light of the above revelations that both IPOB and Radio Biafra are duly registered under the law contrary to the speculations the making rounds.
The two dane guns listed among the exhibits in course of DSS investigation at the residence of Benjamin Madubugwu are said to be dane guns for animal hunting which are fully licensed. Are dane guns used for levying war against a country as big and as sophisticated in arms and weaponry as Nigeria?
One recalls that on December 29, 2015, during a Presidential Media Chat, President Muhammadu Buhari informed the whole world that Nnamdi Kanu cannot be granted bail, as he came into the country without a valid traveling passport. Regrettably and very unfortunately, Nnamdi Kanu and other defendants were on 29th January, 2016 refused bail for being in possession of dual passports as a flight risk. This court’s decision, which came on the same day as the Presidential Media Chat ,gives an indication of where the direction may be coming from, akin to the witch crying in the night and the baby dying in the morning. However, the truth remains that Nnamdi Kanu has two valid passports, British and Nigerian, which have since been seized by the DSS operatives.
A formal application to secure the release of the passports was made in the open court by Nnamdi Kanu’s defence team on February 9, 2016 but the trial judge refused to grant the application. When did dual citizenship constitute an offence in Nigeria? Dual citizenship is a constitutional right provided under Section 28 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended and is, therefore, not a crime under our laws except if such was not obtained in the manner prescribed under our laws.
It is interesting to note further that upon the denial of Nnamdi Kanu’s bail on January 29, 2016, the court directed for accelerated hearing on the matter on 19th, 10th, 11th, and 12th February 2016. Surprisingly on 9th February at the commencement of trial the prosecution served an application to conduct the trial in camera (for witnesses to wear facial masks and testify behind screens). The court in its considered wisdom refused to grant this relief.
Curiously, when the case was called on March 7, 2016 the prosecution came up with an oral application that the court should VARY its earlier ruling made on 19th February, 2016 against witnesses testifying in camera, to enable witnesses be shielded behind screen while giving evidence. Very inexplicably, the court sat on appeal over its own judgment and granted the application and consequently ordered that the prosecution witnesses be allowed to testify in camera, i.e behind screen, wearing masks, etc. Masquerades will now be prosecution witness against Nnamdi Kanu and his co-defendants.
This is a novelty in the Nigerian judiciary and we watch how it plays out. Nnamdi Kanu’s defence team has since appealed this court ruling at the Court of Appeal. They have complained of deliberate and consistent denial of access to crucial documents and materials that will enable them offer their best services to their clients, an action that impedes Nnamdi Kanu’s fundamental rights to fair trial and fair hearing.
.Okeke writes from Abuja.