By Ikechukwu Nnochiri & Chinonso Alozie
ABUJA — Trial Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday, fixed April 25 to rule on a motion by detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, asking her to vary the order that gave the Federal Government the nod to shield the identities of witnesses billed to testify against him.
Kanu, who is facing trial alongside three other pro-Biafra agitators, Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi, is challenging the order which he said was contrary to the tenets of justice and fair-hearing.
The trial judge had in a ruling she delivered on December 13, 2016, not only okayed the witnesses to testify behind a screen,but also granted an order permitting them to use pseudo names.
Though the court agreed to mask the witnesses from the public, it held that the defendants and their lawyers would be allowed to see the witnesses.
Dissatisfied with the decision, all the defendants, through their respective lawyers, applied for a review of the ruling, saying they would not submit themselves to any form of secret trial.
Moving the motion yesterday, Kanu’s lawyer, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, contended that since the nature of the charge pending against the defendants no longer involved terrorism, there was no need for identities of the witnesses to be shrouded in secrecy.
He noted that the order was made before the court struck out part of the charge relating to alleged involvement of the defendants in criminal conspiracy and acts of terrorism.
Similarly, counsel to the other defendants also relied on section 36 (4) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, and urged the court to vacate the order and conduct open proceedings on the case.
However, the prosecution counsel, Mr. Shuaibu Labaran, prayed the court to dismiss the defendants’ applications which he said were frivolous, lacking in merit and an attempt to slow down the progress of the case.
After listening to all the parties, the trial judge adjourned ruling on the matter till April 25, a day she had earlier slated to determine whether or not the defendants should be released on bail pending the determination of charges against them.
Obi visits Okorocha
Also yesterday, the plan by Igbo leaders to ensure that Kanu was released got a boost , with the visit of the former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, to Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State.
The meeting took place at the Government House, Owerri, Imo State.
In what looks like a strategic meeting, which lasted for some hours, the meeting was described by Obi, as a way of encouraging Igbo leaders to work together for the release of Nnamdi Kanu.
He said he was in the state and decided to use the opportunity to say “thank you” to Okorocha and other governors for their stand on calling for the release of Nnamdi Kanu.
Obi said: “Everything is solved by presentation and dialogue. Every agitation in the world, including those who are agitating for Biafra. They can be solved by dialogue.”
“I have come to say thank you to Imo state governor for supporting this dialogue because it is important. I want to tell you for us as a people from the southeast region, what we need is to work together as a people and present our case.”