By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA- The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Thursday, issued a bench warrant for arrest of the leader of the proscribed Indegeniuos People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu.
The court, in a ruling by trial Justice Binta Nyako, equally revoked the bail it earlier granted to the IPOB leader who is facing treasonable felony charge.
Placing reliance on section 352(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, the court, said it would go ahead to try Kanu in absentia.
Justice Nyako said the order was informed by the inability of Kanu’s lawyer, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, to give “cogent, compelling and verifiable reason” why his client repeatedly failed to appear in court to answer to the charge the Federal Government preferred against him.
The court subsequently fixed June 18 to commence Kanu’s trial in his absence.
The ruling followed an application FG made on Wednesday after Kanu’s case was called up for trial.
Kanu, whose whereabouts has remained unknown since September 2017, was hitherto answering to a five-count charge FG entered against him and three other pro-Biafra agitators, Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi.
Meanwhile, shortly after the IPOB leader was declared “missing”, trial Justice Nyako, on February 20, 2018, okayed separate trial for the other three defendants.
Kanu, who has dual citizenship, had since been reportedly sighted at various locations outside the country, including Jerusalem and the United Kingdom.
FG’s lawyer, Mr. M. S. Labaran, had at the resumed proceeding, persuaded the court to revoke the bail it granted to the defendant on April 25, 2016.
Labaran drew attention of the court to the fact that all the three persons that stood surety for the IPOB leader, had since applied to withdraw from the matter.
“We humbly submit that the defendant has been given adequate opportunity in line with Section 352(4) of the ACJA.
“When he failed to utilize such opportunity, the court took the appropriate step of initiating proceeding requiring the sureties to show cause.
“Even at that, this court has been so magnanimous in granting several adjournments, giving the sureties the opportunity to show cause.
“Consequent upon which the court delivered a ruling on November 14, 2018, for the sureties to forfeit their bail bond. A matter that is currently the subject of appeal.
“It is on record that even the sureties have applied to withdraw because they cannot explain the whereabouts of the defendant.
“It is our submission that the request by counsel to the defendant is rather belated. This is the kind of application that he ought to have brought when the court after granting the defendant bail, adjourned for nearly 12 months.
“We urge the court to discountenance the request for adjournment to give any explanation, and order that the bail be revoked, and issue a bench warrant against the defendant. Finally, we urge the court to issue an order for trial of the defendant in absentia, in compliance with relevant portions of the law”.
Kanu’s lawyer, Mr. Ejiofor, had earlier made frantic efforts to convince the court to grant a short adjournment to enable him to file affidavit evidence to explain reasons behind the defendant’s disappearance, was refused.
Ejiofor had insisted that Kanu’s disappearances was occasioned by the unwarranted invasion of his home by the Nigerian Army.
He was however overruled by the trial Judge who traced the history of the case and Kanu’s repeated failure to make himself available for trial since he was released on bail.
“I am of the opinion that learned counsel is only seeking for time to delay the inevitable”Justice Nyako held.
The court had on April 25, 2016, released Kanu on bail on health ground after he had spent a year and seven months in detention.
To secure Kanu’s release, Abaribe, Uchendu and a Jewish High Priest, Emmanu El- Salom Oka BenMadu, on April 28, 2016, signed an undertaking to ensure his attendance in court.
Meantime, Justice Nyako, on Wednesday, adjourned sine-die (indefinitely), an earlier proceeding the court initiated for all the sureties to appear and show cause why they should not forfeit the N100million the each deposited as bond for Kanu to be released on bail.
Justice Nyako had on October 10, 2017, ordered the three sureties to show cause why they should not be committed to prison over Kanu’s repeated failure to appear for continuation of his trial, or why the N100m they individually deposited to secure his bail should not be forfeited to the Federal Government.
Alternatively, the court said the sureties were at liberty to produce the IPOB leader for his trial.
The order followed an application FG made pursuant to section 179 (1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015.
In a ruling on November 14, 2018, Justice Nyako ordered the sureties to in the interim, deposit the bail bond in the court within two months.
All the sureties have however gone before the Court of Appeal to challenge the ruling.
FG had among other things, alleged that Kanu imported Radio transmitter known as TRAM 50L, which was concealed in a container that was declared as used household items, for the purpose of using same to disseminate information about secession plans by the IPOB.
FG further alleged that Kanu, “on or about the 28th April, 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 you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 375 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C. 38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004”.