The Federal High Court in Abuja is considering changing the venue of the trial of Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), to address the challenges it poses for court staff and other activities of the court.
Business owners, public servants and users of adjoining roads always face a lot of difficulties whenever the proceedings hold at the court complex along Shehu Shagari Road leading to Maitama, Abuja.
The Sun reported that the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, John Tsoho, disclosed the plan to change the venue of the trial to ease the challenges associated with the trial during a courtesy visit to him by the newly elected executives of the Abuja chapter of Nigerian Bar Association (Unity Bar) on February 16.
Mr Tsoho, who said the court was working on a long-term solution to the problem, lamented the restrictions security agents had to put in place during the trials.
He lamented how the measures always prevented lawyers and other litigants with ongoing cases from entering the court because of the trial.
He described the road blockage and tight security measures put in place during the trial as a worrisome development for the courts, lawyers, and litigants, as other courts presided by other judges cannot function anytime the case comes up.
Mr Tsoho said even though it was challenging, the court could not prevent the situation.
“It is not truly the making of the court,” Mr Tsoho said, adding that the security arrangement was something that had been “forced upon the court as a necessary action due to the high number of people interested the trial.”
“If you observed, for those who were at the last hearing, the matter came up, but of course, the roads were free because the matter was shifted to late afternoon. The security operatives were advised not to close the access roads to the court until the time proximate to the trial. We are improving along the line,” Mr Tsoho said.
The venue of the trial may have to change, Mr Tsoho hinted.
“We are exploring the possibility of shifting the venue of the trial. That will be the best way out, otherwise, if the trial continues here, it will interfere with our business. We have 11 courts here but it is only one court that is trying Kanu,” he said.
The Chief Judge did not mention how soon the change of venue might happen.
It cannot yet be ascertained if the venue change will begin with the ruling the court, on Wednesday, scheduled to be delivered on April 8.
The trial judge, Binta Nyako, who handles Mr Kanu’s case, had, on Wednesday, heard an application by the defendant challenging the validity of the terrorism and treasonable felony charges preferred against him.
After the hearing of the application, which was opposed by the federal government’s prosecuting team, the judge fixed April 8 for ruling.
A lawyer, Tope Temokun, recently sued Mr Tsoho and the State Security Service (SSS), the agency keeping custody of Mr Kanu since he was brought back to the country in June last year, over the restriction of journalists and others during the trial.
Premium Times reported how surprisingly, the SSS complied with the judge’s advice not to block access to the premises of the Federal High Court during Wednesday’s proceedings.
It was reported that the trial judge, Ms Nyako, who fixed the sitting for 1 p.m., had advised the operatives of the SSS to inform their office about her recommendation.
A morning check on the trial day showed that the Federal High Court staff, lawyers, litigants, journalists, among others, had free access into the high-rise building and its surroundings.
There was free movement of people and vehicles within and outside the court before and during the hearing of the case.
Mr pleaded not guilty to the amended terrorism and treasonable felony charges arising from his alleged separatist activities in January.
Meanwhile, the Sun also reported that Mr Tsoho assured the leadership of the Unity bar of the willingness of the bench to work harmoniously with the bar.
He also promised to address the issue of impromptu adjournment of cases by judges of the court without adequate information to lawyers in the matter.
He, however, said given the sudden changes in schedule of judges and other court officials, impromptu adjournments of cases cannot be avoided.
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