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Secret Trial: IPOB Leader, Nnamdi Kanu, Gets Relief

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It was an atmosphere of relief for the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, as a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja struck out eight of 15-count charge brought against by the Federal Government of Nigeria during a secret trial.

The 15-count charge borders on terrorism and was filed against him after he was taken into custody by the federal government’s secret police from Kenya.

The Nigerian government has been accused of abducting the IPOB leader who was picked up in Kenya without the knowledge of the Kenyan authorities.

However, when the case resumed on Friday at the court in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Justice Binta Nyako struck out eight of the 15-count charge while delivering a ruling on the validity of the charges.

She held that in the instant preliminary objection application, counts six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, and 14 have not disclosed any offence by the defendant.

The judge, however, acknowledged that counts one, two, three, four, five, 13, and 15 showed some allegations against the IPOB leader, saying the trial of the defendant would proceed on those counts.

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According to her, rendition for the purpose of criminal investigation is allowed and in the instant case, there is a bench warrant on the defendant, suffice to say he is a fugitive before the court.

On the issue of the proscription of IPOB, the judge held that the case was pending before the appeal court and as such, the order proscribing the organisation was subsisting until it was vacated.

It is the first trial of the IPOB leader to be held since the Federal High Court of Nigeria said it would no longer allow the media to cover cases bordering on terrorism.

According to a statement on Thursday by the court’s Chief Information Officer, Dr Catherine Christopher, terrorism proceedings will be conducted in secret except when the Chief Judge of the court, Justice John Tsoho, grants permission for media coverage.

It stated that terrorism proceedings would hold at any place to be designated by the chief judge and in the case of the Abuja Judicial Division, the venue, for the time being, would be the premises of the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

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The matter was adjourned to May 18, 2022 for ruling on his bail application.

Trial Judge, Justice Binta Nyako, adjourned the matter to rule on the application after she heard arguments from both Kanu’s lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), and the prosecution counsel, Mr. Shuaibu Labaran.

Whereas, Ozekhome (SAN), argued that his client was entitled to bail considering that he still enjoys the presumption of innocence under the 1999 Constitution, as amended, FG’s lawyer, Labaran, urged the court to decline the bail request.

The prosecution maintained that Kanu betrayed the previous discretion the court exercised in his favour, when he jumped bail and escaped from the country.

He argued that it was owing to Kanu’s previous conduct that the court revoked his bail and issued a bench warrant for his arrest.

“My lord granted him bail on 2017 on health ground, but since then, till date, no medical record was submitted to the court until he jumped bail.

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“What we should be saying is contempt of court because he has flagrantly violated the orders of this court,” Labaran submitted.

However, Ozekhome faulted FG’s lawyer for alleging that his client jumped bail.

He told the court that Kanu attended his trial regularly, until the military, in September 2017, invaded his home in an operation that led to loss of lives.

Ozekhome insisted that it was the action of the Nigeria Army that made his client to run for his life.

Besides, he argued that FG violated the fundamental rights of his client in the way he was forcefully abducted and extra ordinarily renditioned back to Nigeria.

He, therefore, urged the court to allow Kanu on bail to enable him to effectively prepare his defence to the charge pending against him.

Meanwhile, before the case was adjourned till May 18 and 26, Justice Nyako dismissed Ozekhome’s contention that Kanu’s extra-ordinary rendition was illegal.

She stressed that there was a subsisting warrant from the court, for the arrest of the defendant wherever he was found.

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