By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Monday, deferred further proceeding on the treasonable felony charge against the ‘missing’ leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, till Febraury 20, 2018.
Trial Justice Binta Nyako adjourned the matter at the instance of the Federal Government which notified the court of the absence of its prosecutor, Mr. Shuaibu Labaran who is currently attending a seminar outside the country.
Consequently, the prosecution, in a letter to the court, applied for the case to be adjourned till next year for continuation of trial and to enable those that stood surety for the IPOB leader whose whereabouts has remained unknown, to produce him before the court.
Already, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe who was one of the three persons that stood surety for Kanu has applied to be discharged by the court, insisting that he lacks the capacity to produce the defendant for continuation of his trial.
The court had on October 17, ordered Abaribe, a Jewish High Priest, Emmanu El- Salom Oka BenMadu, and an accountant, Tochukwu Uchendu, to produce the IPOB leader or face jail term/forfeiture of their bail bond.
It will be recalled that Justice Nyako had in a ruling on April 25, released Kanu on bail after he had spent a year and seven months in detention, though the court okayed four other pro-Biafra agitators who are facing trial with him- Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu, David Nwawuisi and Bright Chimezie- to remain in prison custody.
To secure Kanu’s release, Abaribe, El-Shalom and Uchendu, on April 28, signed an undertaking to ensure attendance of the 1st defendant who was granted bail on health ground, in court for his trial.
Meawhile, in his fresh application, Abaribe who is representing Abia South Senatorial District, applied for damages against the Nigerian Army.
He is praying the court to compel the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai to pay N10million to him for the psychological trauma he has gone through following extra-judicial self-help actions of the Army he said led to Kanu’s dissapearance.
Abaribe equally applied for an order compelling Buratai to offset all expenses he incurred in the cause of the trial of the IPOB leader.
The lawmaker prayed the court to revoke the undertaking he took on behalf of Kanu and discharge him as a surety in the matter.
He told the court that the Nigerian Army had in the course of military operations in Abia state from September 11, visited Kanu’s residence, adding that it was reported in the media that there was shooting and fracas during the visit.
He said Kanu “has not been seen again nor reached on phone by the Applicant, neither is he reported in any news media as seen by any persom, nor made any statement on any issue”.
Abaribe told the court that he “lacks capacity to produce a person stated by the 1st Respondent to be a member of a terrorist organisation, or any persin whom the 1st Respondent is reported to be interested in his whereabouts including the aftermat of the military operations in Abia state which commenced about 11th September, 2017”.
Specifically, Abaribe is praying the court for, “An order of this honourable court discharging the applicant as surety of the 1st/2nd respondent, and discharging the recognizance entered into by the applicant, and to discharge the applicant from the entire incidence of the bail of Nnamdi Kanu- the 1st defendant/2nd respondent in charge No. FHC/Abj/CR/383/2015: Federal Republic of Nigeria v Nnamdi Kanu, Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu, David Nwawisi.
However, following a counter-affidavit that was filed by FG, Justice Nyako maintained that Abaribe must firstly produce Kanu before he could be allowed to withdraw as a surety in the case.
In his motion, Abaribe prayed for, “An order of the court compelling the Chief of Army Staff, on failure to produce 1st defendant/2nd respondent, to pay to the court the sum in the bail bond earlier executed by the applicant on behalf of 1st defendant/2nd respondent.
“An order of the court compelling the Chief of Army Staff to produce 1st defendant/2nd respondent before the court and or to explain to the satisfaction of the court the circumstance surrounding his whereabouts.
As well as, “An order of court compelling the Chief of Army Staff to show cause why the Attorney General of the Federation should not be compelled to initiate contempt proceedings against him for his extra-judicial self-help conducts that have obviously frustrated the proceedings and course of administration of justice and which actions have brought the court to some ridicule and its power appears nugatory as well as placing the applicant in a fixed up position.”
Abaribe predicated his application on the grounds that “Out of patriotic consideration of assisting the judicial process to defuse the overheating already generated in the polity and with full belief that 1st defendant was carrying on his activities within the limits and confines of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, applicant offered to stand surety for him and entered into recognizance and executed the bail bond on his behalf”.
He insisted that only the Nigerian Army could produce Kanu since it was soldiers that had last contact with him.
According to him, “The situation was such that applicant could no longer under the circumstances perform his obligation under the surety.
“As at the time of Chief of Army Staff ordered the deployment of his men and material to forcefully and violently invade and surrounded the town and residence of the 1st defendant/2nd respondent aforesaid, he had every knowledge of the pendency of this charge and that his conduct had the most probable effect of preventing the 1st defendant from attending court, to continue with his trial”, he averred.