By Ameh Ejekwonyilo
The Federal Government of Nigeria is due to begin the trial of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, before the Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday, November 26.
The office of Attorney General of the Federation is to commence the trial of the IPOB leader in absentia Kanu, with five prosecution witnesses lined up to testify against him.
Hearing notices have been served on the prosecution team in the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Kanu’s lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor.
Justice Binta Nyako had since March 28, 2019, revoked the bail granted the IPOB leader, ordered his arrest and directed that his trial on charges of treasonable felony would proceed in his absence; but the court had not had any sitting on the case since then.
The judge, acting on an application by the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr Magaji Labaran, anchored her orders for Kanu’s arrest and trial in absentia on the defendant’s failure to appear in court since April 25, 2017, without any reasonable explanation.
Kanu’s lawyer, Ejiofor, had opposed the prosecution’s oral application and asked to be given more time to file his defence.
He insisted that Kanu’s disappearance was as a result of soldiers’ invasion of his home in Afara-Ukwu near Umuahia, Abia State, during military’s ‘Operation Python Dance II’ staged to quell agitation for Biafra Republic in September 2017.
But the judge held that she had in a judgment on a civil suit filed by Kanu ruled that there was no nexus between the said military invasion and the IPOB leader’s disappearance.
She overruled the objection, noting that the request for explanation of the defendant’s absence from court was belated.
The judge also noted that Kanu had violated the conditions and terms of the bail granted him on April 17, 2017, by staying away from court without any justification.
The court had on February 20, 2018, ordered the separation of Kanu’s trial from that of his original co-defendants to put a stop to further delays resulting from the IPOB leader’s continued absence from court.
Kanu’s sureties had been ordered by the court to either produce the IPOB leader in court or show cause why they should not forfeit their N100m bail bonds.
A serving senator, Enyinnaya Abaribe, is among Kanu’s sureties.
The suit is being challenged at the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal.