An Abuja Federal High Court on Friday refused to grant in full an application brought by the Federal Government seeking to conduct the trial of Ali Ndume, a senator, in secret.
Mr. Ndume is standing trial on terrorism charges.
Ruling on the application, Justice Gabriel Kolawole said the court was inclined to partially grant the request because the application was not strong enough to be granted in full.
Mr. Kolawole held that while the accused was entitled to fair hearing and fair trial, the state had the responsibility of protecting the lives of prosecution witnesses during the trial.
He said that the application was caught between fair hearing/trial and state responsibility, thereby necessitating the court to strike a balance between the two.
“The application is not one that is sufficiently strong and in the light of this the court will grant the application in a limited manner.
“Witnesses will be shielded under a special arrangement by the court but such witnesses will also not be masked.
“This is, except for members of the press and parties in the suit, the public will not be allowed into the court room,’’ the trial judge ruled.
The Federal Government had, through its Counsel, Ernest Orji, sought a court order to conduct the trial in secret.
Mr. Orji had in a motion dated September 23 and argued on October 21 prayed the court to protect the identity of prosecution witnesses that were to give evidence in the matter.
However, counsel to the accused, Isa Amaza, in his submission, told the court that the request would violate his client’s right to fair hearing.
He urged the court to refuse the application of the prosecution and go ahead with the trial in public.
Mr. Ndume is standing trial for allegedly failing to inform law enforcement agencies of the activities of the Boko Haram sect.
Mr. Kolawole adjourned the case to November 11 and 12 to commence the trial.