The Federal High Court in Abuja has slated November 26 for the commencement of the trial of the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, with five prosecution witnesses lined up to testify against him.
The hearing notice issued on November 24 for the Thursday’s proceedings was on Tuesday sighted by a Punch correspondent.
According to the media outlet, copies of the hearing notice were served on the prosecution team in the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Kanu’s lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor.
Oriental Times reports that 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 matter is, however, pending before the Court of Appeal in Abuja.
Meanwhile, the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra on Tuesday said the Igbo would resist any attempt to arrest Abaribe over the case.
The MASSOB leader, Uchenna Madu, made this known in a statement in Awka, the Anambra State capital.
The group also attacked the Alhaji Yerima Shettima-led Arewa Youths Consultative Forum for calling for Abaribe’s arrest for not being able to produce Kanu.
The statement read in part, “AYCF’s stinking vomit against Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe is an expression of a sadistic and tribalistic ethnic group in Nigeria.”
Distinguishing Abaribe’s surety to Kanu and that of Ali Senator Ali Ndume to Maima, MASSOB said, “Maina was a corrupt criminal that shamelessly looted public fund when he was the chairman of the defunct National Pension Task Team. Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe’s standing as surety for Nnamdi kanu was a unanimous decision of Ndigbo; it was not a personal venture.
“The baseless treasonable and felonious court case against Nnamdi kanu is closed because the Nigerian government knows it has no evidence against Kanu. Any attempt or arrest of Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe will be resisted by Ndigbo.”
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