The leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, on Wednesday, challenged the terrorism charge filed by the Federal Government .Kanu, through his lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, told the trial Judge, Justice Binta Nyako that the amended 15-count charge preferred against his client was unmeritorious and should be thrown out by the court.
The senior lawyer urged the court not to waste its judicial time on the matter because the charges were watery.Earlier, the counsel to the Attorney-General of Federation (AGF), Shuaibu Labaran, told the court that the matter was scheduled for arraignment of Kanu and prayed the court to allow the defendant take his plea.After the 15 counts bordering on terrorism were read to the IPOB leader and he pleaded not guilty, Labaran said the prosecution was ready for trial as two witnesses were already in court.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the prosecution had, before court sitting, produced several documentary evidence, including electronic devices it would use to play some of the alleged inciting broadcasts that were made by the defendant (Kanu).But Ozekhome objected to the request that the trial should commence.He said a bail application had been filed on Kanu’s behalf.“We filed it this morning and we urge my lord to grant our prayer,” he said.“I will hear you in appropriate time,” the judge said. However, lawyer to the prosecution, Labaran, opposed the bail application. He argued that contrary to the provision of the law, a bail application cannot be filed same day an arraignment is coming up.
The lawyer, who argued that the process was not ripe to be taken, said the defence only filed the application in the morning and they were yet to go through it.Nyako, who acknowledged that the bail motion was only filed in the morning together with a preliminary objection notice, said the prosecution also had the right to respond.Ozekhome explained that since the last processing took place previous day, by the time they were done with their responses, the court registry had already closed.“So we filed it at the next available moment which is this morning my lord,” he said. The judge then asked if the court could proceed on the trial before addressing the defence question on the competency of the charge.But Ozekhome insisted that the trial cannot proceed without addressing their motion.According to him, the application is fundamental to the hearing of the 15-count charge. “If there is no count, then there is no reason to call witnesses,” he said.He said for the prosecution to ask the court to commence the trial meant that the lawyer had already concluded that the charge was meritorious.
The senior lawyer argued that in line with the Supreme Court decision, “once a motion is filed before the court, even if it is unmeritorious, it is the duty of the court to hear it and decide whichever way.”The lawyer, who argued that the case was already dead on arrival, insisted that the defence motion be taken before commencing the trial in order not to waste the judicial time of the court. He said the motion was necessary to be heard because it would be a determined factor whether the trial would proceed or not.
He said in the motion, “we are urging my lord to discharge and acquit the defendant of the charge because there is no charge at all.”He said the whole counts were incompetent and could not stand the test of time.Responding, Labaran disagreed that the application be taken.Rather, he argued that the trial should proceed while the motion could be taken in the course of the proceedings..He based his argument on Section 396 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2016, which provided that an objection can be raised at any stage of a trial.But the judge said that the preliminary objection must be heard before proceeding in the matter because “if there is no charge, what will you tried? I do not know why I will go into a trial and at the end, the trial will be said to be ineffective?” she asked rhetorically.
She asked if Labaran was ready for the application to be taken but he responded in negative answer.“We are not ready my lord. Yesterday, the learned silk said we ambushed him when we served him the charge a day before the sitting, but today, he just served us with their motion about an hour ago,” he said.Nyako was, however, not happy that the case was dragging despite the two-day sitting.She fixed Feb. 16 for hearing the preliminary objection.NAN reports that Kanu was arrested on Oct. 14, 2015 on 11 count charge bordering on terrorism, treasonable felony, managing an unlawful society, publication of defamatory matter, illegal possession of firearms and improper importation of goods, among others.
A judge at the Federal High Court, Abuja revoked Kanu’s bail that was granted him on health ground and issued a bench warrant for his arrest on the same date, over his failure to appear in court for hearing.
He has, upon jumping bail, been accused of engaging in subversive activities that include inciting violence through television, radio and online broadcasts against Nigeria and Nigerian State and institutions.Kanu was also accused of instigating violence especially in the Southeastern Nigeria that resulted in the loss of lives and property of civilians, military, para military, police forces and destruction of civil institutions and symbols of authorities.(NAN)