The Court of the Economic Community of West Africa, ECOWAS, on Tuesday again adjourned hearing of the fundamental rights suit filed by leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu.
The case, in which Mr. Kanu is challenging his detention by the Nigerian government, will now resume on February 7 next year.
The adjournment followed an application by Mr. Kanu’s counsel, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, who asked for time to respond to a recent application by the Nigerian government who are respondents in the suit.
The case had earlier been adjourned on October 10 at the request of the prosecution, despite vehement opposition by Mr. Ejiofor.
At the resumption of hearing on Tuesday, Mr. Ejiofor told the court he received the fresh application from the respondents two days earlier and had not had enough time to prepare his reply. He, however, described the application as illegal.
Mr. Ejiofor also urged the court to entertain all pending applications in the next sitting.
Responding to Mr. Ejiofor’s submissions, lawyer for the Nigerian government, Maimuna Shiru, said she was surprised that he complained about her client’s application.
“My Lord, the rules of this court allow us to file the application. We filed our motion on November 14 and I believe the plaintiff has since then been aware of this application. He cannot come before the court and pretend to have just been informed about this motion,” Mrs. Shiru said.
She added that the motion filed by the plaintiff included a request for an additional document, which she said would result in a further delay of the matter.
Responding, Mr. Ejiofor said the request to file additional document had already been brought before the court in the previous sitting and was due to be heard on Tuesday.
He however confirmed the submissions of the respondent’s counsel that he was told about the fresh application immediately it was filed.
According to the federal government’s recent application, brought pursuant to article 87 (1) and (2) as well as article 88 (2) of the rules of the community court, the respondent seeks to nullify the fundamental rights suit on the grounds that Mr. Kanu has since been released on bail.
The motion based on three grounds of appeal is suggesting that Mr. Kanu’s fundamental rights suit “has become devoid of purpose and unnecessary to adjudicate upon”.
According to the motion, “a decision on the fundamental rights suit would serve no purpose since the applicant is no longer in the custody of the respondents.
“The plaintiff in the suit before this court is challenging his arrest and continued detention by the defendant applicant.
“The plaintiff has already been released on bail by the respondent. He has jumped bail and his whereabouts remain unknown,” the federal government said in its motion, deposed to by a counsel at the justice ministry, Thomas Etteh.
The court presided over by Justice Hemeye Mahdmadane refused a request by Mr. Ejiofor for a short adjournment on the matter.
Mr. Mahdmadane said the court would also require time to translate the recent application into other ECOWAS languages.
He however warned against unnecessary delay of cases by parties before the court. The judge said the case could only be adjourned till a date in February, if any adjournment was to be secured on the matter.
Subsequently, Mr. Ejiofor accused the respondent of frustrating the matter again and demanded a cost of N10 million to be awarded against the Nigerian government.
Reacting to Mr. Ejiofor’s application, Mrs. Shiru said the request for adjournment was brought by the plaintiff and that they (respondents) were ready to go ahead with the matter on Tuesday.
“We have filed our motion since last week. The Court officials were not able to file the proceedings on the plaintiff just as the court was unable to translate the details of the document. That cannot be visited on the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Mrs. Shiru said.
The court adjourned the matter till February 7 for hearing on the applications and determination of Mr. Ejiofor’s request for cost.