IPOB: Why court reduced FG’s charge against Nnamdi Kanu from 15 to 7
The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Friday, struck out eight out of the 15-count treasonable felony charge the Federal Government preferred against the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu.
Trial Justice Binta Nyako held that the charges were mere repetitions that did not disclose any offence that could be sustained by the proof of evidence before the court.
FG had in the counts that were struck out, alleged that Kanu had through his broadcasts, incited members of the public to not only stage a violent revolution, but to attack police officers and also destroy public facilities in Lagos State.
While the court threw out counts 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12,13 and 14 of the charge, it okayed Kanu’s trial on counts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8 and 15.
The ruling followed an application Kanu filed to quash the entire charge against him, which he insisted was manifestly incompetent and legally defective.
The embattled IPOB leader, through his team of lawyers led by Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), argued that the court lacked the jurisdiction to try him on the strength of an incompetent charge.
Ozekhome (SAN), further told the court that his client was “unlawfully, brutally and extraordinarily renditioned from Kenya without his consent”.
He argued that since some of the allegations FG levelled against Kanu, were purportedly committed outside the country, the high court, therefore, lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the charge.
“The charges appear to give this court a global jurisdiction over offences that were allegedly committed by the Defendant, without specifying the location or date the said offences were committed”.
He argued that under the Federal High Court Act, such a charge must disclose the specific location where the offence was committed.
More so, Ozekhome contended that Kanu could not be charged with belonging to an unlawful organization since the action of FG, in proscribing the IPOB, is still subject to legal dispute at the Court of Appeal and therefore subjudice.
Consequently, he urged the court to dismiss the charge, as well as to discharge and acquit the defendant of the entire 15-count charge pending against him.
“This case is hollow, there is nothing in it. It is dead on arrival. Elements constituting the offence must occur within the jurisdiction of this court”, he argued.
However, FG’s lawyer, Mr Shuaibu Labaran, opposed the application and urged the court to allow the prosecution to open its case.
He argued that Kanu’s application would touch the substance of the case that is yet to be heard.
“The position as of now is that the IPOB is a proscribed organization which was duly proscribed through the due process of law”.
He argued that Section 32 of the Terrorism Prevention Act imbued the court with the requisite jurisdiction to handle the trial.
“We urged my lord to refuse the application to pave way for the commencement of the trial in Ernest.
“This is a matter that has been pending for over five years now”, the prosecution counsel added.
Meanwhile, the court, fixed slated May 18 to rule on an application Kanu filed to be released on bail, pending the determination of the charge against him.
Whereas, Ozekhome (SAN), argued that his client was entitled to bail considering the presumption of innocence he enjoys under the 1999 Constitution, as amended, FG’s lawyer, Labaran, urged the court to decline the bail request.
The Prosecution maintained that Kanu betrayed the previous discretion the court exercised in his favour when he jumped bail and escaped from the country.
He argued that it was owing to Kanu’s conduct that the court revoked his bail and issued a bench warrant for his arrest.
“My lord granted him bail in 2017 on health grounds, but since then, to date, no medical record was submitted to the court until he jumped bail.
“What we should be saying is contempt of court because he has flagrantly violated the orders of this court,” Labaran submitted.
However, Ozekhome, SAN, faulted FG’s lawyer for alleging that his client jumped bail.
He told the court that Kanu attended his trial regularly, until the military, in September 2017, invaded his home in an operation that led to the loss of lives.
Ozekhome insisted that it was the action of the Nigerian Army that made his client run for his life.
Besides, he argued that FG violated the fundamental rights of his client in the way he was forcefully abducted and extraordinarily renditioned back to Nigeria.
He, therefore, urged the court to allow Kanu on bail to enable him to effectively prepare his defence to the charge pending against him.
“My lord can limit him to stay in my house and I will not allow him to move around,” Ozekhome jokingly added.
Before the case was adjourned till May 18 and 26 for ruling and continuation of trial, Justice Nyako, dismissed Ozekhome’s contention that Kanu’s extra-ordinary rendition was illegal, stressing that there was a subsisting warrant from the court for the Defendant to be arrested wherever he was found.
“Rendition for the purpose of criminal prosecution is allowed. In the instant case, there is a bench warrant on the defendant, suffice it say, he is a fugitive before the court”, the judge held.
On the proscription of IPOB, Justice Nyako, held that though the matter is before the appellate court, the proscription order still subsists.
Meantime, FG had in some of the charges that were sustained by the court, alleged that Kanu had in his broadcast that was received and heard in Nigeria, issued a deadly threat that anyone who flouted his sit-at-home order, should write his/her Will.
It told the court that as a result of the threat, Banks, Schools, Markets, Shopping Malls, and Fuel Stations domiciled in the Eastern States of Nigeria, were not opened for businesses, citizens and vehicular movements in the Eastern States of Nigeria were grounded.
It alleged that Kau had on diverse dates between 2018 and 2021, made a broadcast received and heard in Nigeria, inviting members of the public to hunt and kill Nigerian security personnel and their family members, thereby committing an offence punishable under Section 1 (2) (h) of the Terrorism Prevention Amendment Act, 2013.
While FG, in count-8, alleged that Kanu, directed members of the IPOB “to manufacture Bombs”, it told the court in count-15 that the defendant had between the month of March and April 2015, “Imported into Nigeria and kept in Ubulisiuzor in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, a Radio Transmitter known as Tram 50L concealed in a container of used household items which you declared as used household items, and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 47 (2) (a) of Criminal Code Act Cap, C45 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004”.