A FEDERAL High Court in Abuja yesterday refused the federal government’s application to completely shield witnesses in the trial of the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mr NnamdiKanu, who is facing a six-count treason charge.
The prosecution had in the motion it filed before Justice Tsoho, complained that all the witnesses lined up to testify against Kanu and two other pro-Biafra agitators, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi, facing trial with him, have declined to appear in court.
It said the witnesses insisted that they would not testify against the defendants unless their safety was guaranteed.
As a result, the prosecution counsel, Mr David Kaswe, urged the court to issue an order protecting the identities of the witnesses by allowing them to either wear facial mask or to testify behind screens.
The prosecution also asked for an order excluding persons except journalists from witnessing the proceedings.
Meanwhile, Kanu, through his lawyer, Chief ChuksMuoma (SAN), opposed the application which he said grossly lacked merit, insisting that section 36(4) of the 1999 constitution made no provision for masquerades to testify in a trial involving an alleged act of treason.
“An accused person under our jurisprudence and justice administration must be confronted with his accusers eye-ball to eye-ball.
“We therefore urge this court not to allow masquerades to testify before it. We want to see their faces and ask them questions. As masquerades, how will the court be able to gauge their demeanour and body language? Is it by the rhythm of their dance steps?
“The tenets of justice outweigh this application and we urge my lord to reject it. It has no merit whatsoever. Secret trial is for terrorism charge, it is not for the type of offence for which these defendants were charged.
“Secret trial does not apply in a case of treasonable felony or involvement in alleged unlawful society. During the trial we will prove to them that we are not an illegal organisation”, Muoma said.
After listening to the parties, Justice Tsoho stood down ruling on the matter till 2pm.
Upon his return, the trial judge ruled that the prosecution’s request to shield witnesses lacked merit.
Consequently, Justice Tsoho upheld the argument of the defence counsel that the protection of the identities of witnesses is only applicable to terrorism charges.
Nigerian pilot Saturday recalled that Kanu, who was the Director of Radio Biafra and Television, has been in detention since October 14, 2015, when he was arrested by security personnel upon his arrival to the country from the United Kingdom.
The suit has been adjourned to March 7, 2016 for trial.

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