Journalists were prevented from covering Tuesday’s proceedings of the illicit drug trial of Abba Kyari, a suspended deputy commissioner of police, and others at Court 10 of the Federal High Court, Abuja, venue of the proceeding.
The judge, Emeka Nwite, gave the order following an application to the effect by Sunday Joseph, counsel for the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).
Mr Joseph, a director of the Legal and Prosecution Department of the NDLEA, had applied for the protection of the next witness listed to give evidence in the trial.
The lawyer prayed the court that other lawyers, litigants, and visitors, including journalists, who were in the court should not be allowed to be in the courtroom while the hearing lasted.
Mr Nwite then stood down the matter to allow non-parties in the anti-narcotic suit against the suspended police officers to move out.
However, when the judge came in for the matter, a lawyer, Emmanuel Oluwabiyi, whose case was on number 11 on the cause list, told Mr Nwite that he was in the court for another matter.
“I am embarrassed by the application my lord,” the lawyer said of Mr Joseph’s application that everyone not connected to Mr Kyari’s case, including lawyers and journalists be cleared out of the courtroom.
Mr Nwite then pleaded with lawyers not connected to Mr Kyari’s matter to bear with the court in the interim.
However, when journalists asked the NDLEA’s lawyer on the reason for the application, he said it was to give protection to intelligence officers scheduled to testify in the case.
When asked about his reaction to the opinions of other lawyers in court, Mr Joseph said “There is a doctrine of state privilege in the interest of national security.”
He said it had been observed that members of the Inspector-General (I-G) of Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT) who were loyal to Mr Kyari were still coming to court.
“And you don’t know who is who; so, it is for the witness’ protection.
“We are now going into the nitty-gritty of the matter and there have been allegations that we are just witch-hunting them,” he said.
Mr Joseph said though the agency had been calling witnesses, he said the present witnesses cannot be exposed to the public.
The hearing was ongoing as of the time of filing the report.
Mr Nwite had, on 22 March, dismissed an application filed by Mr Kyari and others seeking an order dismissing the NDLEA’s charge against them.
Mr Kyari and three other co-defendants in the suit bordering on drug offence had filed the application.
They are Mr Kyari, ACP Sunday Ubia, Insp Simon Agirigba and Insp John Nuhu.
They urged the court to stop their trial because they had not been subjected to the internal disciplinary action of the Nigeria Police Council (NPC) and the Police Service Commission (PSC), as provided by the constitution.
They said that the failure of the complainant (NDLEA) to await the disciplinary action against them rendered the charge incompetent and deprived the court of jurisdiction to entertain the charge.
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