Biafra: Court orders separate trial of agitators

Written by on February 21, 2018

The Abuja division of the Federal High Court has ordered that those charged alongside the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, who is currently missing, should be separately tried.

Justice Binta Nyako made the order sequel to an oral application by the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Shuaibu Labaran, who lamented that Kanu’s continued absence from court since he was granted bail in April 2017 “has frustrated progress in the case.”

He added: “In the circumstance, the prosecution shall be asking for the indulgence of your lordship to separate the trial so that progress can be made in this matter.”

The affected persons are the national coordinator of IPOB, Mr. Chidiebere Onwudiwe, an IPOB member, Benjamin Madubugwu, a former field maintenance engineer seconded to the telecommunication company, MTN, David Nwawuisi, and Bright Chimeze. They are currently facing an amended five-count charge bordering on treasonable felony, terrorism and illegal possession of firearms, preferred against them by the federal government.

Meanwhile, the court has ordered Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe and other sureties to produce Kanu in court or explain his whereabouts on March 28. Kanu was on April 25, 2017, granted bail in the sum of N100 million.

Labaran had at the resumed trial yesterday sought the guidance of the court as regards further proceedings of the trial, taking into consideration the presence of only three of the defendants in court. According to him, the absence of the first defendant, Kanu, having been granted bail since April last year, has frustrated progress in the case.

Counsel to the pro-Biafra agitators did not object to the separation of the trial. In her ruling on the application, Nyako agreed with the prosecution that Kanu’s absence had stalled trial of the case and, consequently, ordered that the trial of Kanu should be separated from the rest.

After her ruling, Labaran requested for a short adjournment to enable the prosecution amend the charges to reflect the current position of the trial.

“We need to do the needful to make the record of the court neater,” he said.

Responding, Eric Ifere, counsel to Madubugwu, asked the court for a definite trial window and how the case would be conducted, to guide counsel in the matter. Similarly, P.A.N. Ejiofor, counsel to Nwawuisi, urged the court to prevail on the prosecution to ensure the amendment and service is done on time, to enable them adequately prepare their response.

The court, consequently, adjourned till March 20, 21 and 22 for the amended charge to be read to the defendants and continuation of trial.

Other defence lawyers did not oppose the application.

Kanu, who, alongside his co-defendants, is being prosecuted on five counts bordering on treasonable felony, among other charges, was absent from court yesterday.

He had not been seen since September 22, 2017, when his team of lawyers and family declared him missing after soldiers allegedly raided his home in Abia State during a military operation staged by the Nigerian Army to quell the activities of IPOB in the South-East zone of the country.

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