Alex Enumah in Abuja
Efforts by embattled leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to get freedom from custody pending the determination of his trial suffered set back as the Abuja division of the Federal High Court trying him for alleged treasonable offences again rejected his application for bail.
Trial judge, Justice Binta Nyako, yesterday declined to grant the bail application filed by Kanu and three others facing an amended 11-count charge including treasonable felony and terrorism.
Kanu and his co-accused, Mr. Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawusi were arraigned before the court by the federal government for offences bordering on treasonable felony and their alleged involvement in acts of terrorism.
Delivering her ruling on the bail application of the defendants yesterday, Justice Nyako held that the offences the defendants were charge with were very serious in nature and therefore were not ordinarily bailable.
Nyako also held that some of the charges against the defendants could attract life imprisonment if proved by the FG.
On the contention by the defendants that President Muhammadu Buhari had openly directed that they should not be released on bail, the judge held that President Buhari, being a citizen of Nigeria, was at liberty to exercise his freedom of speech.
She maintained that the President lacks the capacity to influence the decision of the court, saying the defendants did not place any new fact or law capable of persuading the court to reverse an earlier ruling of the court that denied them bail.
“The offences are serious in nature and carries very severe punishment if proven. “I hereby therefore refuse bail of the applicants.
“But in the alternative, I hereby order accelerated trial of this matter to almost commence immediately, but not later than two months,” she held.
Following the order of accelerated hearing, the federal government immediately applied for all the witnesses to be allowed to testify behind screen.
The FG prayed the court for identities of the witnesses not to be revealed in any record of the proceeding.
But the defendants in a vehement opposition of the application contended that granting such request would amount to a gross violation of their rights to fair hearing.
“We vehemently oppose secret trial of the defendants. They were accused in the open; we also request that they be tried in the open.”
The defendants need to see those testifying against them eye-ball-to-eye-ball. We are ready for this trial”, Kanu’s lawyer, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor submitted.
Also, one of the defence lawyers, Mr. Maxwell Okpara, claimed that most of the proposed witnesses were foreigners he said the government imported from neighbouring countries.
“My lord, we have uncovered their plan to bring Ghanaians and people from Cameroon to appear in this court to testify against the defendants. “We as Nigerians will resist that plot. It cannot work. That is why they are insisting that they should testify behind screen. That plot has failed, it will not work”, Okpara stated.
After listening to all the parties, Justice Nyako fixed December 13 to rule on FG’s application.