Typical dramatic scenes in the trial of Nnamdi Kanu played out again on Wednesday at an Abuja Division of the Federal High Court where the separatist leader is being tried for alleged treason.
Mr Kanu is facing trial for alleged involvement in treasonable offences by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
The case was adjourned in June till Wednesday for Mr Kanu’s sureties, Eyinnaya Abaribe, a serving senator; a banker, Tochukwu Uchendu, and a Jewish priest, Ben El-Shalom; to explain why the N100 million bail bond for Mr Kanu should not be forfeited after the accused went missing in September 2017.
At the opening of session on Wednesday, however, two of the sureties, Messrs Abaribe and El-Shalom, were not in court.
A lawyer representing the Jewish priest, Aloy Ejimakor, informed the court about a letter written by his client which he claimed to have received on Tuesday.
On his part, Mr Abaribe’s lawyer, Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume, said his client could not attend the trial because of a Senate function he was engaged in.
In reaction, the judge, Binta Nyako, accused the sureties of neglecting the instant case and threatened to issue a bench warrant against the sureties.
“I have taken the view that the oversight function is more important than this hearing. You know what I am going to do? I will order his arrest. I will order a bench warrant against the sureties”
At that point, the lawyer representing Mr Uchendu informed the court about the presence of his client.
“God has saved you,” Mrs Nyako told Mr Uchendu.
After much plea by the lawyers to the other sureties, Mrs Nyako decided against issuing a bench warrant but noted that an order would be made for the forfeiture of the N100 million contained in the bond for Mr Kanu’s bail.
Again, the lawyers began another session of requests, forcing an irate Mrs Nyako to demand the presence of an interpreter in court.
“What language do you speak. Please do we have an Igbo translator,” Mrs Nyako asked.
“My Nnamdi Kanu was here, within where I could reach him and he applied to say, ‘Please let me go, I will always be here whenever you want me’.
“And this three men whom you have described as men of impeccable character said they will bring him. If at the end of the day, they cannot produce my own Nnamdi Kanu, they will be in my trouble because I gave him to them,” Mrs Nyako said.
Reacting, Mr Ejimakor said the mere submission of sureties as representatives for Mr Kanu to be granted bail cannot result in immediate forfeiture of the bail bond.
“Bail bond forfeiture is a process. The surety is not strictly liable, by the mere undertaking. With due respect, if we jump all these loopholes, a fair hearing would have been denied them,” Mr Ejimakor argued.
In addition, Mr Ume added: “My Lord, there is an application before you now. And any order you make will send a signal to the entire nation.”
“I will be very happy to do that,” Mrs Nyako responded.
The judge noted that in the event where a person decides to assume the place of surety, his involvement in the matter is between himself and the court. Mrs Nyako then reiterated the constitutional provision which allows bail to be at the discretion of the court.
“Before you take anybody on bail, you must ensure it is a person you can vouch for and a person you can produce in court. Am I going to continue to say the same thing? Even if Mr Nnamdi Kanu is in Israel or he is in Saudi Arabia, that is not my business.
“I am not interested in the fact that they found Mr Nnamdi Kanu. You can talk from today till tomorrow, but they will forfeit the bail bond,” Mrs Nyako said.
The judge ruled that the responsibility of producing Mr Kanu would not be shifted to any party as the issue regarding the defendant’s bail is now a matter between the court and the sureties.
Following the various requests by the defense team, Mrs Nyako said the court would avoid a direct forfeiture order but noted that an order for variation of the bail condition would be made.
“I am going to vary the bail conditions,” Mrs Nyako said.
The judge ordered the three sureties to deposit the bond of N100 million each with the court registrar within two months.
“The interim order will remain so till six months,” the judge added.
Mrs Nyako said the court would make further directives after hearing the current applications by the sureties on March 28, 2019.
The court also adjourned the trial of the other defendants earlier arraigned with Mr Kanu to March 26 and 27 next year.