Lead counsel to the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, on Tuesday, October 17, 2017 told the Federal High Court that he had no information about his client’s whereabouts.
Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, who came to court with other lawyers in his team, immediately after announcing his appearance, declared that he was appearing for Kanu who “is presently in the custody of the Department of State Security Service (DSS)”.
He told Justice Binta Nyako that, since the military invaded Kanu’s resident in September during the Python Dance II operations, he had neither heard of, nor communicated with him.
“So, the soldiers should give account of his whereabouts,” he said.
According to him, an application had earlier been filed before the same Justice Nyako, praying the court to order the military to produce Kanu in court for trial.
But Justice Nyako had refused to record that on the ground that the court was yet to receive such application.
The judge therefore recorded that Kanu had failed to appear in court on Tuesday to stand trial as was part of his bail conditions and, consequently, requested his sureties to explain his absence.
The prosecution counsel, Mr. S.M. Labaran, had told the court that the matter was adjourned till Tuesday for continuation of trial, but that, unfortunately, given the prevailing circumstance, the absence of the first defendant – Kanu, the trial may not go on, in the interest of justice.
Labaran stressed that Kanu was granted bail on April 25, on health ground, but with an order to report in court on a monthly basis.
Noting that his failure to appear in court was a great violation of his bail condition, Labaran urged the court to revoke his bail.
Refuting the allegation that Kanu was in military custody, the prosecution counsel also prayed the court to issue a bench warrant for Kanu’s arrest, while the three sureties should be ordered to explain to the court why their N100 million each bail bond should not be forfeited and the three of them committed to prisons.
In a swift reaction, Ejiofor told the court that he could not comprehend the position of the prosecution, stressing that the prosecution should rather be called upon to disclose the whereabout of Kanu.
“Kanu was granted bail on April 25, and trial adjourned till July 11 for hearing. The date fell within the annual recess of judges but, on September 11, Kanu’s home was invaded by the military and, since then, nothing has been heard of him,” Ejiofor stated.
Ogechi Ogbonna, who appeared for Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, also told the court that his client has no information about Kanu’s whereabouts since the invasion of his home by the military and that he would want to distance himself from the case.
But Justice Nyako insisted that until Kanu is produced in court, the sureties cannot wash their hands off the matter. The judge however gave them the option of either forfeiting their bail bond or produce Kanu in court at the next adjourned date.
After much argument, lawyer to Abaribe, on behalf of his client, settled for the option that his client be given some time to produce Kanu in court.
The judge however reminded the sureties that their role towards Kanu could be likened to a guard towards a ward, and that it was their responsibility to ensure that he was available in court for trial.
Afterwards, the 4th defendant applied to have his private doctor attend to him as he has lost confidence in doctors operating within the prisons due to alleged threat to kill him.
He prayed the court to direct the officials of Kuje Prisons to allow him access a private doctor.
The judge, while granting his prayers, warned prison officials to be careful in their dealings with those in their custodies.
According to the judge, prisons should be seen as an extension of the court, and not an agency of security operatives.
The 4th defendant also notified the court of his readiness to face trial and consequently, requested that his case be separated from others in view of the prevailing circumstances affecting the first defendant.
The matter has been adjourned till November 20 for trial.
By Chinyere Obia