The cases of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu and the Yoruba Nation agitator, Sunday Igboho resumed on Monday in Abuja and Cotonou, Benin Republic.
While Kanu’s trial was stalled over the failure of the Department of State Services (DSS) to produce him in court, a Beninese court hearing the case against Yoruba Nation agitator, Sunday Adeyemo, aka Sunday Igboho, was still in session as of the time of filing this report at midnight.
- Behind the scenes of the resumed trial of Nnamdi Kanu
Court orders release of ‘BuhariMustGo’ worshippers, Sowore’s associates
The Federal High Court presided by Justice Binta Nyako declined request by Kanu’s lawyer to transfer him to Kuje Correctional Centre from his present custody at the DSS.
Igboho’s trial proceeded on federal government’s extradition case against him from the neighbouring country.
When Kanu’s matter was called, prosecution counsel, Mohammed Abubakar informed the court of Kanu’s absence for the day’s proceeding, citing logistical reasons.
But lead defence counsel, Ifeanyi Ejiofor Esq accused the prosecution of denying the legal team and family members the opportunity to see the IPOB leader.
Ejiofor, however, sought to move an application for the transfer of his client to prison as preferred custody to the DSS facility.
But the presiding judge, Justice Binta Nyako declined the application, insisting on the physical presence of Kanu before she could proceed on the matter.
The court directed the prosecution to ensure that the DSS grant access to Kanu’s defence lawyers on certain days of the week.
Meanwhile, the parties have agreed that since the matter is coming during the annual vacation of the court, the presiding judge will require a fiat from the Chief Judge to proceed.
The judge told the parties that it was the duty of the prosecution to apply for the fiat if they want the trial during vacation and not the duty of her court.
Consequently, the judge adjourned the matter to October 21, while noting that if the fiat was obtained, the court could reconvene at an earlier date.
Kanu, who was facing three-count charges bordering on treasonable felony and terrorism, in September 2017 jumped bail and left the country. He hinged his decision to jump bail on a military operation in his hometown of Afara Ukwu, Umuahia in Abia State which resulted in several deaths.
He was re-arrested in Kenya in June and brought back to Nigeria.
Heavy security in court
As early as 6 am, security agencies cordoned off the entrance to the Federal High Court in Abuja venue of the trial of the leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu.
Vehicles loaded with operatives of the Nigeria Police and the Department of States Services (DSS) prevented unaccredited journalists and members of the public from accessing the court.
Security agencies also redirected human and vehicular traffic from the roads leading to the court.
Leader of the #RevolutionNow movement, Omoyele Sowore and several supporters of Kanu who had thronged the court were momentarily arrested by security agencies.
Economic activities disrupted in South East
Economic activities in parts of the South East were disrupted as shops remained closed and passengers stranded.
In Anambra State, persons suspected to be members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) allegedly blocked the movement of vehicles in and out of the major cities of the state.
The blocking of entrance and exit into or out of the commercial city of Onitsha and the industrial town of Nnewi forced residents and visitors to stay indoors.
Passengers in Awka, the state capital, were stranded at various parks as there were no vehicles to convey them even as shops and markets in Nnewi and Onitsha were shut as bonfires were set on major roads.
A trader in Onitsha Main Market, Mr Michael Eze, said he heard rumours that the market will be shut but only came out to see bonfires littering the roads.
One of the Onitsha-bound stranded passengers in Awka, Mr. Uche Nweke, said that he had important function in Onitsha which he could not attend to because IPOB members blocked the road.
Reacting, the Anambra State Police Command spokesman, Ikenga Tocheukwu said that the police and locals in the cities have cleared the bonfires and normalcy returned.
According to him, the command was in charge and working to ensure that there is no breakdown of law and order in the state.
In Aba, Abia State several shops were locked and roads stranded in the morning as some traders observed the trial of Kanu in Abuja.
Kanu’s lawyers fault client’s absence
A counsel for Ohaneze Ndigbo, Goddy Uwazuruike Esq, said the justice the body expects to see in the matter is for Kanu, who it believes was unlawfully taken away from Kenya, to be brought to court and to be taken to prison.
“And the reason given by the prosecution is equally questionable. They say its problem of logistics; in simple language, the DSS says they don’t have a vehicle to bring him to (court). As far as I understand the meaning of logistics, and that does not make sense,” he said.
Lead counsel to Kanu, Ifeanyi Ejiofor Esq said the team has not heard from Kanu for eight days and cannot ascertain his state of health.
Meanwhile, a defence lawyer, Aloy Ejimakor Esq has advised the federal government to go for dialogue rather than pursue treasonable felony charges against agitators for self-determination.
He said Nigeria has never successfully convicted any citizen with treason charges such as Obafemi Awolowo, Olusegun Obasanjo.
“So, Nigeria needs to thread with caution and a keen reference to history as it ramps up on its aggressive treason trials of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, Igboho and Omoyele Sowore,” he said.
Both the prosecution team from the Federal Ministry of Justice and DSS did not comment on Kanu’s absence from the court.
However, several calls Daily Trust pulled across to the mobile phone of the secret police’s spokesman, Peter Afunanya, were rejected.
He directed one of our correspondents to send a text message but he did not reply to the text message as of the time of going to press.
The trial of Igboho at the Court D’Appal of Cotonou was ongoing as of the time of filing this report at midnight yesterday.
It is unclear if the court which is expected to pass its judgment would discharge Igboho or extradite him to Nigeria as requested by the federal government.
The court, which was expected to start hearing the case at 10:00 am began sitting at 5 pm.
The court also barred journalists and supporters of Igboho who thronged the court premises as early as 7:30 am.
Daily Trust learnt that supporters of Igboho were dispersed from the premises of Court later in the evening, prompting rumours that he might be deported to Nigeria.
The Nigerian government has accused him of trafficking in arms, inciting violence to disrupt the public peace and agitating for secession.
Igboho and his wife, Ropo, were arrested at the Cardinal Bernardin International Airport, Cotonou, last Monday while trying to catch a flight to Germany.
However, Ropo, who is a German citizen was set free by the prosecutor on Thursday while the self-styled agitator was remanded in the custody of Brigade Criminelle in Cotonou ahead of docking before the judge on Monday.
Igboho was placed on the wanted list on July 1 by the State Security Service, also known as the Department of State Services after its operatives raided the Soka residence in Ibadan of the agitator, killing two of his aides and arresting 12 others during the operation.
Afenifere backs Igboho, criticizes FG
The Pan Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, has praised the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji Ogungunniso 1, for sending a delegation to Cotonou, Benin Republic, where Igboho is facing trial.
Afenifere also demanded the immediate cessation of “harassment” of agitators and freedom fighters across the country.
Acting Afenifere leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo in a statement signed by the Publicity Secretary of the group, Comrade Jare Ajayi said there was nothing wrong with the decision of Igboho to escape abroad.
He accused President Muhammadu Buhari of concentrating on hunting and harassing those who are seeking relief from the oppressive situation in Nigeria”.
He said the president is now shying away from “Tackling the menaces of kidnapping, terrorism and antics bordering on ethnic cleansing”.
The Afenifere leader also commended the Ooni of Ife, Oba Eniitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II who, last week, set up the Ooni Caucus meant to work on various issues pertaining to Yoruba interests including the travail presently being faced by Igboho. It would be recalled that Olubadan of Ibadan had raised a delegation to be at the court where the Yoruba agitator is being tried in Cotonou.
Afenifere also expressed delight that some kings and Yoruba communities in Benin Republic mobilised heavily in support of Igboho who is on trial in that country.
Afenifere stated that what is now regarded as Sunday Igboho’s travail ought not to occur at all, if there had been good governance in Nigeria and people are not harassed without any just cause.
On the decision of Sunday Igboho to escape abroad, Afenifere insisted that there is nothing strange or wrong with this adding that history is replete with conveyors of a new order having to seek refuge outside their immediate at least for a time.
By John C. Azu, Idowu Isamotu (Abuja), Titus Eleweke (Awka), Linus Effiong (Umuahia), Abiodun Alade & Abdullateef Aliyu (Lagos)