Their action followed refusal of operatives of the Department of State Services, DSS, to allow some members of Kanu’s defence team gain access into the courtroom.

Kanu’s trial: Lawyers Allege Bias, Walk out of Court

The legal team of detained leader of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, yesterday, staged a walkout as the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja commenced its proceedings on the seven-count treasonable felony charge the Federal Government preferred against him.

Their action followed refusal of operatives of the Department of State Services, DSS, to allow some members of Kanu’s defence team gain access into the courtroom.

The embattled IPOB leader, who was brought into the courtroom around 9:52am, had shortly after his case was called up, lamented that security agents blocked some members of his legal team, especially his lawyer from the United States of America, Mr  Bruce Fein, from entering the courtroom.

Kanu told the court that Mr. Fein, whom he said was handling a case for him in the US, was around to witness his trial.

Trial Justice Binta Nyako had after FG’s lawyer, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, who is the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, announced his appearance and introduced his team, asked why Kanu’s lawyers were not present in court.

Addressing the court from the dock, Kanu, said: “My counsel from the United States is not allowed to come in.   I have an ongoing case in the US. I have not been allowed to see him. He is here to see me and to observe the proceedings.   He has been to the DSS to see me, but they denied him access to me.”

Reacting to Kanu’s explanation, Justice Nyako said the court had earlier issued an order that directed the DSS to grant the defendant access to three visitors every Monday and Thursday of the week.

Justice Nyako maintained that since the court did not specify those that should make the visitors’ list, nothing barred Kanu’s US lawyer from being included among those that had visited him in detention.

At this juncture, the trial judge ordered a representative of the British High Commission, Heather Wilkir, who was in court to observe the proceedings how she gained access into the courtroom.

“We made a request to the Chief Judge to have access to the court,” Wilkir responded.

The judge, who was not pleased that such request was directed at the CJ, rather than her, chided the observer from the UK.

“Next time, if you need to observe proceedings in my court, apply to me, not the CJ. The CJ is Justice John Tsoho and he is in charge of Court 1, my name is Justice Nyako, and I am the one in charge of court 2,” she fumed.

Turning to Kanu, Justice Nyako asked if he was ready to conduct the proceeding in the absence of his lawyers.

“No”, Kanu responded.

On his part, FG’s lawyer, Abubakar, urged the court to proceed with the trial in the absence of Kanu’s lawyers.

Abubakar told the court that ordinarily, the matter was fixed for hearing of an application filed by the defendant.

He argued that since Kanu’s lead counsel, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, who was initially inside the courtroom, walked out with his team shortly before the arrival of the judge, his pending application should be deemed abandoned.

“Having decided to stage a walkout, we urge the court to see that they have abandoned the application.  We urge my lord to accordingly dismiss the application dated October 27,” the DPP submitted.

In a short ruling, though Justice Nyako expressed her displeasure over the conduct of Kanu’s lawyers, she declined to dismiss the pending application and rather adjourned the case till January 19 and 20, 2022, for trial.

“We will forget the application and let it lie there in the file. I am not going to make a pronouncement on the action of the defence team.  Staging a walkout on the court is a very serious offence,” she added.

Turning to Kanu, Justice Nyako said: “It is in your best interest to discuss with your lawyers over their attitude so that we can make progress in this matter.”

What court should do —Kanu’s lawyer

Speaking to newsmen immediately the proceeding ended, Kanu’s lead counsel, Ejiofor, who was flanked by members of his team, including the lawyer from US, Fein, alleged bias.

Ejiofor maintained that it was wrong for the trial Judge to proceed with the matter without enquiring into what led to the walkout.

“I have not seen where lawyers will stage a walkout from the court in protest of what we considered to be an abnormality. What the court should do is to invite the lead counsel to know what was going on and not to adjourn the case.

“If the court decides to go on with the case without us being a part of it, then, it simply means that we have lost confidence in the court and the court should naturally disqualify itself,” he added.

Ejiofor noted that part of the grievances his team had included the refusal of the DSS to obey an order the court made on the last adjourned date for Kanu to be granted access to three visitors twice a week.

He said his team had already filed a Form 48 (Contempt of Court Proceeding), against the Director-General of the DSS.

Similarly, Kanu’s US lawyer, Fein, told journalists that the DSS denied him access to Kanu five times.

He alleged that the action of the security agency, as well as the “extraordinary rendition” of his client from Kenya, was in contravention of all known international laws and conventions.

Fein said he would approach the International Criminal Court of Justice at The Hague to seek redress.

Kanu’s supporters, anti-IPOB protesters clash

Meanwhile, a mild drama ensued outside the court premises, as anti-IPOB protesters and Kanu’s supporters, clashed.

Shortly after Kanu’s supporters converged on the highway overlooking the court premises, chanting and singing his praise, over a hundred anti-IPOB protesters  arrived the scene with two white coffins, waving the national flag.

Boldly written on the coffin and a banner the anti-IPOB protesters arrived the scene with was “IPOB dead”, “Kanu is a terrorist, he killed many security agents”.

It took the intervention of a team of security agents, drawn from the DSS, the Nigerian Police Force and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, to avert a free-for-all .

The security operatives, who barricaded all routes leading to the high court adjacent the Federal Ministry of Justice, had initially barred journalists from gaining access into the court premises.

As early as 6am when our correspondent arrived at the court, heavily armed operatives of the DSS ordered him to turn back.

The hooded operatives equally barred both print and broadcast journalists from major media organizations from entering the court premises.

“We are working on instructions, we can’t let you people in,” one of the operatives told newsmen.

Similarly, some lawyers and traditional rulers  who arrived the court to represent Ohanaeze Ndigbo, were also turned back.

Following a group protest by journalists, those with identification cards previously issued by the court, were allowed to enter the court premises around 8:45am.

While all the accredited journalists were marshalled into the media center where they were ordered to stay, only five, representing the print, broadcast and online media, were eventually permitted to enter the courtroom.

It will be recalled that the federl government had on October 21, re-arrainged Kanu on a seven-count amended charge.

Government in the amended charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/383/2015, alleged that Kanu had in furtherance of an act of terrorism, issued a deadly threat that anyone that flouted his sit-at-home order should write his or her will.

It alleged that as a result of Kanu’s directive, banks, schools, markets, shopping malls, fuel stations were not opened for businesses, with vehicular movements grounded in the South East.

It said the action amounted to an offence contrary to and punishable under 1(2) (b) of the Terrorism Prevention Amendment Act, 2013.

The government alleged further that Kanu had “on or about  April 28, 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, GCON, 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 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 alleged to have committed treasonable felony, an offence punishable under Section 41(C) of the Criminal Code Act, CAP C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.

He was alleged to have, between 2018 and 2021, through Radio Biafra, professed to be a member of IPOB, a proscribed organization in Nigeria, and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 16 of the Terrorism Prevention Amendment Act, 2013.

In count five of  the charge, FG alleged that Kanu had on April 22, 2021, in London, United Kingdom, on Radio Biafra monitored in Enugu and other parts of Nigeria, did an act of terrorism “in that you  incited the other members (followers) of the Indegenious People of Biafra, IPOB, a proscribed organization in Nigeria, to look for security personnel, their family members through a Radio Biafra on 102.1FM monitored through the IPOB Community Radio, and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 1 (2) (h) of the Terrorism Prevention Amendment Act, 2013.

Attached in support of the amended charge dated October 14, included a seven-paragraphed affidavit of completion of investigation deposed to by one Loveme Odubo, a prosecutor in the Federal Ministry of Justice.

Government equally lined up five witnesses to testify in the matter, among whom were  officials of the DSS and one Ronald S. who was identified as the manager of a hotel in Lagos.

Release Kanu unconditionally, Imo begs FG

However,  spokesman of the Coalition of United Political Parties, CUPP, Chief Ikenga Ugochinyere Imo, urged the Federal Government to release Kanu unconditionally.

He condemned the action of security agencies, saying that barring journalists and members of the public from observing the court proceedings made Kanu’s trial seemed like a charade.

He said the decision of security  agents, especially the Department of State Services, DSS, to shut out the media from participating in the trial, was enough to erode public confidence in the ability of the court to do justice in the matter.

Bemoaning how some elder statesmen sent to represent Ohanaeze Ndigbo in court  were treated by security agents, Chief Imo, who is equally a legal practitioner, said:  ”Our traditional rulers were also kept under the sun and were not even allowed to enter inside the court premises. What danger does a 90-year-old man portend?

”This cannot be a fair trial.  If you want to try a man, you must try him fairly and judiciously.

”This court even lacks the jurisdiction to try him. The rules of fair trial is very simple:  If you think a man has done something wrong, you should try him publicly. We are not going to allow a repeat of what happened in Kenya.

”Has any of the journalists  the courage to ask the Attorney-General of the Federation to ask President Muhammadu Buhari about what happened in Kenya before Kanu was brought back to Nigeria.

”He was abducted at a car park and beaten before he was brought back to Nigeria. Some people will say it does not matter  how a suspect was brought to court but we are saying today that it matters because this reminds us of  what the Saudi Arabian government did to Khashogi in Turkey.

”We are focusing on what is happening today but we are not focusing on how we got to the point we are right now. Any messenger of truth and anybody who desires justice will understand that the events of today were all predicted.

”You saw the injustice and the lopsidedness of the action taken by the President  right from the very moment he was sworn-in.”

Umuahia, Onitsha, Nnewi  on lockdown for Kanu

Also yesterday, Umuahia, the capital of Abia State, was literally locked down  in solidarity with the IPOB leader.

Kanu hails from Isiama Afaraukwu Ibeku Autonomous Community in Umuahia North Local  Government Area, and his community plays host to Abia seat of power.

Shops, markets and business centres in the state capital were all  shut until late afternoon when news of his arraignment and court adjournment filtered in.

Banks also shut down, while schools, both private and public, were all closed.

The roads were equally deserted until  late afternoon when human and vehicular movements began to flow but was not as heavy as on a normal day.

In Onitsha and Nnewi in Anambra State, roads and streets of  the commercial and the industrial towns were completely deserted  as residents and traders observed  another sit-at-home in solidarity with the IPOB leader.

As usual, markets, commercial banks and other financial institutions, street shops and private offices, were all under lock  as traders, workers and owners  of businesses stayed away to observe the solidarity sit-at-home.

Federal Government establishments in Onitsha and Nnewi, including  the Federal  Inland Revenue Services, FIRS, and National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA,  were also shut for business transactions.

Some  residents who spoke with Vanguard, including a lawyer, Oguwike Nwosu, alleged that the Federal Government was happy that the South East was constantly being locked  down and would like it to continue since it does not in any way threaten cattle business.

A resident, who preferred anonymity, told Vanguard that whether  the Federal Government liked it or not, the people of the South East would contin ue to sit-at-home in solidaity with Nnamdi Kanu.

”What the people of the South East are clamouring for are equity, fairness and equal treatment in the project called Nigeria,” he said.(Vanguardngr)

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