The leader of the indigenous People Of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, has again asked the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court to vacate an order it previously made for the protection of witnesses in his ongoing trial.
Mr. Kanu and three others, David Nwawuisi, Benjamin Madubugwu and Chidiebere Onwudiwe, are accused of treasonable felony.
Mr. Kanu’s lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, made the application on Thursday, stressing that the amended charge against the defendants has rendered unnecessary the need for the protection of witnesses in the trial.
The charges against the defendant were recently amended to exclude allegations of terrorism previously included in the allegations.
In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr. Ejiofor said the defendants are entitled to public trial, citing section 36 (4) of the constitution.
“Our application urging the court to vacate the order for the protection of witnesses made on the 13th day of December, 2016 was heard this morning. The fulcrum of the application is that the grant of the order was premised on application brought under sections of the laws that allows the protection of witnesses giving evidence in terrorism offences.
“Following the ruling of the court, delivered on the first day of March, wherein the court quashed the offence of terrorism proffered against the defendant, it became compelling, following the introduction of a fundamental change in the status quo that the order is varied; especially now that the offences they are charged with are not such provided under the extant laws to be tried under any form of restriction. The defendants are entitled to public trial, as clearly provided under section 36 (4) of the constitution,” said Mr. Ejiofor.
The prosecution counsel, Magaji Labaran, objected to the request, describing it as a deliberate attempt by the defence to delay the proceedings.
In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr. Labaran said the defence is under an erroneous impression, regarding the amendment of charges.
“Since the court amended the charge, the defence were of the erroneous impression that the case has started afresh. Therefore, any order made with regards to the previous proceedings would no longer be effective. And that the order for the protection of witnesses was made pursuant to allegations of terrorism.
“Section 4 (a) and B of the constitution as well as section 232, subsection 4 (e) of Administration of Criminal Justice Act, were the bases the order for the protection of witnesses were made. And by virtue of section 216 and 217 and of ACJA, the order for the amendment of charges does not invalidate the proceedings.
“Since the altered charge is still the one before the court, the order for protection of witnesses still subsists. So, if they are not satisfied, they should go and appeal.
“Section 232, subsection (4) of the ACJA gave the court the discretion to make the order for the protection of witnesses, so the application is interfering with the discretion of the court and a deliberate attempt to delay the trial, so we urge the court to dismiss it,” said Mr. Labaran.
The presiding judge, Binta Nyako adjourned the case till April 25 for ruling on the application and the request for bail by the defendants.
Mr. Kanu had vehemently opposed the decision for the protection of witnesses in his trial, describing it as an attempt to intimidate him.