……as defendants ask court to quash charge
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Department of State Service, DSS, on Monday, told a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, that it has uncovered plot by some pro-Biafra agitators, to invade the court and forcefully free the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu.
The security agency made the allegation on a day the federal government was to open its case against Kanu who is facing a six-count treason charge alongside two other pro-Biafra supporters, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi.
The Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, Mr. Mohammed Diri, told trial Justice John Tsoho that the DSS has already commenced investigation on the planned invasion.
Meantime, following the inability of the federal government to produce any of the eight witnesses scheduled to testify before the court, the defendants, through their lawyer, Chief Chuks Muoma, SAN, applied to be discharged and acquitted of the charge against them.
They predicated their application on the provision of section 351(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
Earlier, the DPP informed the court that the witnesses said they would not appear to testify against the defendants unless the are allowed to wear masks or their identities shielded from both lawyers and people observing the proceeding.
‘My lord this is because they are already receiving threats from associates of the defendants that they will be dealt with. The witnesses said they love their lives and requested that their identities be shielded from people who are coming to witness the proceeding’, Diri added.
He said DSS operatives also billed to testify in the matter, made similar request on the basis that they are investigating terrorism cases and would not want their identities exposed.
Justice Tsoho had on February 19, refused an application by the federal government which sought leave to mask the witnesses.
The application was vehemently opposed by counsel to the defendants who urged the court not to allow ‘masquerades’ to testify before it.
Meanwhile, the parties are still exchanging arguments on the application for the charge to be quashed and the defendants discharged and acquitted.
Kanu who was hitherto the Director of Radio Biafra and Television, has been in detention since October 14, 2015, when he was arrested by security operatives upon his arrival to Nigeria from his base in the United Kingdom.
The defendants were 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.
FG alleged that they were the ones managing the affairs of the IPOB which it described as ‘an unlawful society’.
Specifically, Kanu was alleged to have illegally smuggled radio transmitters into Nigeria, which he used to disseminate “hate broadcasts”, encouraging the “secession of the Republic ofBiafra”, from Nigeria.
The accused persons however pleaded not guilty to the charge on January 20, even as the court ordered their remand at Kuje prison in Abuja.