The Federal High Court, Abuja, will on April 25 rule on whether or not the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu and three others, should be admitted to bail.
The judge, Justice Binta Nyako, gave the date after hearing arguments from counsel to Kanu and those of the three co-defendants – Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi.
Counsel to Kanu, Mr Ifeanyi Ejiofor, in his argument, told the court that the proof of evidence filed by the prosecution against his client was not strong enough to warrant his continued detention.
According to him, the proof of evidence is empty and not strong enough to sustain the charge against him and his health is deteriorating. “We have attached nine exhibits to our application; one of them is an order of this court made by your learned colleague, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, that he be granted bail which has not been complied with.
“We also attached a letter we wrote to the Controller-General of Prisons informing him of an attempt to terminate the life of the defendant.
“Canisters of tear gas were left in his cell which he inhaled and this has affected his lungs and he can barely stand and if not released on bail, his health will get worse in prison,” Ejiofor said.
He acknowledged that bail was at the discretion of the court, and urged the judge to exercise the descretion in favour of his client in the most liberal terms. Mr Inalegwu Adoga, counsel to Onwudiwe, urged the court to admit his client to bail, adding that bail was constitutional, temporary and would end if the defendant was convicted.
He argued that his continuous detention amounted to him already serving a jail term even though the constitution held that he was innocent until proven otherwise. He expressed concerns that he might not be able to properly defend his client while in detention as the DSS was making it impossible to have access to him.
“On the last day I went to visit my client in Kuje Prison, l was told by stern looking DSS operatives that he was no longer allowed visits from anyone, including his lawyers.”
Mr E.I Eseme, Counsel to Madubugwu, told the court that his client was being held on a two-count charge which was not even remotely related to a capital offence. He said that since his client had no previous criminal record, he was entitled to bail, adding that when released on bail, he would not commit any other crime.
Nwawuisi’s counsel Maxwell Okpara also appealed to the judge to grant his client bail, adding that the court’s last ruling, which struck out some of the charges against his client gave hope to a lot of people.
“Granting bail to the defendants will pave way for peace just as when Uwazurike and Asari Dokubo were granted bail, it paved way for peace.”
The prosecuting counsel, Mr Shuaibu Labaran, opposed the application for bail, arguing that the first, third and fourth defendants premised their applications on non-existing laws.
“They based their application on the Criminal Procedure Act, nevertheless we replied. Labaran prayed the court to refuse the bail application and maintain the order of accelerated hearing for the case.
Nyako adjourned the matter until April 25 to rule on the bail application. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Kanu and his co-defendants are standing trial on charges of treasonable felony, unlawful possession of firearms and other offences bordering on their agitation for the secession of the Republic of Biafra from Nigeria.
NAN reports that Nyako would be the second judge to hear Kanu’s bail application. Ademola had in 2016 admitted Kanu to bail unconditionally while ruling in an application filed and argued by his former lawyer, Vincent Obeta.
Kanu, however, during one of sittings told the court that he was no longer confident in the court saying he got information that he would not receive a fair hearing. The case file was then returned to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, who reassigned it to Justice John Tsoho.
However, following an alleged conflicting ruling given on the issue of secret trial in favour of the DSS, Kanu in a petition asked the National Judicial Council (NJC) to investigate Tsoho.
He also filed an application asking the judge to disqualify himself from the matter. Tsoho then hands off the matter on Sept. 26 and sent the case file to Auta who reassigned it to Nyako.