The ongoing trial of the leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, took a new dimension on Monday when Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court introduced Sharia Law into it.
Justice Nyako’s action was prompted by a move by Kanu’s lawyer, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, against the shielding of witnesses in the Federal Government’s prosecution of his client and three others.
At yesterday’s proceedings, Ejiofor had attempted to move an application for variation in the court’s earlier order on the shielding of witnesses.
He also fumed that an order made by Justice Adeniyi Ademola of a similar court is yet to be obeyed, arguing that “an order of the court is law.”
But Justice Nyako declared that the bail applications do not stall the trial of the accused persons who will still be tried based on her order which is predicated on the protection and shielding of witnesses.
“Nothing can change my order in the protection of the witnesses,” she added.
The judge thereafter asked if Ejiofor studied a part of the Sharia Law while in school, stressing that if he had done so, he would have learned more about the protection of witnesses.
Justice Nyako added that Ejiofor would have also known that a woman’s identity is protected in court in the context of the Sharia Law.
She therefore held that the witnesses will wear masks and must not be facially identified if body movements want to be taken into consideration by members of the public, else, the court will divide itself with a non-transparent material against public view.
She added that as long as the witnesses are security agents, their identities will be protected for the sake of the future, while non-security agents will be seen by members of the public.
“I am not ready to jeopardise the protection of the security operatives,” she declared.
The court thereafter fixed April 6, 2017 to rule on Kanu’s application seeking the variation of its order on witness protection.
Prior to this, Ejiofor had held that since the allegations bordering on treasonable felony and criminal conspiracy had been struck out on the last adjourned date, Kanu was no longer a security risk and asked the court to grant him bail.
Ejiofor told the court the bail earlier granted by another court of equal jurisdiction was attached, including a letter written to the Comptroller-General of Nigerian Prisons over the deteriorating health of Kanu.
He further said that the accused, who is an internationally-recognised person with no criminal record, will not jump bail provided there would be provision for a guarantor.
The counsel to the second defendant, Mr. Udoka, however, cited several authorities and related cases where bail was granted to accused persons in their course of trial. He also objected to the paragraph 3(j) of a counter-affidavit filed by the federal government, which stated that it was in the interest of the accused to remain in prison custody.
He pointed out that he was barred from seeing his client in prison by agents of the State Security Service (SSS) who could have acted on the directive of the prosecution since such orders did not emanate from the court.
In line with the argument for bail, the 4th defence counsel, Mr. Maxwell Okpara, commended the court for striking out six charges against the defendant in the last adjourned date, an act which is commended by the whole world, but held that the restriction of the accused persons in prison custody is of more threat to national security than releasing them.
The government’s counsel, Mr. Labaran Shuaibu, objected to the bail applications. He argued that they were predicated on an extinct Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) and therefore asked the court to refuse the bail applications.
The judge adjourned till April 6, 2017 for the review of the order on witness protection and April 25, 2017 for ruling on the bail applications.