- FG allowed to shield prosecution witness
Department of State Service, DSS, yesterday, told a Federal High Court in Abuja that it has uncovered a plot by some pro-Biafra agitators to invade the court and forcefully free the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu.
The security agency made the allegation yesterday when the federal government was to open its case against Kanu, who is facing a six-count treason charge alongside two other pro-Biafra supporters, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi.
The Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, Mr. Mohammed Diri, told trial Justice John Tsoho that the DSS has already commenced investigation into the planned invasion.
Following the inability of the federal government to produce any of the eight witnesses scheduled to testify before the court, the defendants, through their lawyer, Chief Chuks Muoma, SAN, applied to be discharged and acquitted of the charge against them.
They predicated their application on the provision of section 351(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
Also, the DPP informed the court that the witnesses said they would not appear to testify against the defendants unless they are allowed to wear masks or their identities shielded from both lawyers and people observing the proceeding. “My lord this is because they are already receiving threats from associates of the defendants that they will be dealt with.
“The witnesses said they loved their lives and requested that their identities be shielded from people who are coming to witness the proceeding”, Diri added.
He said DSS operatives also billed to testify in the matter, made similar request on the basis that they are investigating terrorism cases and would not want their identities exposed.
Justice Tsoho had on February 19, refused an application by the federal government which sought leave to mask the witnesses.
The application was vehemently opposed by counsel to the defendants who urged the court not to allow ‘masquerades’ to testify before it.
Meanwhile, the parties still exchanged arguments on the application for the charge to be quashed and the defendants discharged and acquitted.
Kanu, who was hitherto the Director of Radio Biafra and Television, has been in detention since October 14, 2015, when he was arrested by security operatives upon his arrival to Nigeria from his base in the United Kingdom.
The defendants were alleged to have committed treasonable felony, an offence punishable under section 41(C) of the Criminal Code Act, CAP C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
FG alleged that they were the ones managing the affairs of the IPOB which it described as ‘an unlawful society’.
Specifically, Kanu was alleged to have illegally smuggled radio transmitters into Nigeria, which he used to disseminate “hate broadcasts”, encouraging the “secession of the Republic of Biafra”, from Nigeria.
The accused persons however pleaded not guilty to the charge on January 20, even as the court ordered their remand in Kuje prison.
FG allowed to shield prosecution witness
Justice James Tsoho of a Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday allowed the proposed prosecution witnesses lined up by the Federal Government to testify behind a witness screen against the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra and Director of Radio Biafra, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu.
The judge dismissed the objection by Kanu’s lawyer, Mr. Chuks Muoma, SAN, ruling that the request by the Federal Government for its witnesses to testify behind a witness screen did not amount to revisiting the court’s earlier ruling prohibiting the prosecution witnesses from wearing masks.
He upheld the argument of the prosecution led by the Director of Public Prosecutions in the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mohammed Diri, that the screen would only shield the witnesses from the members of the public present in court.
He said the use of the screen would not prevent the judge, the accused persons and lawyers to the parties to see the witnesses while testifying.
A witness screen is a device positioned to shield a witness from seeing the accused in the courtroom.
The court also dismissed the request by Muoma that the court should discharge and acquit its witnesses because the prosecution failed to produce its witnesses to enable the trial to commence yesterday.
The judge ruled that the provision of section 351(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 relied on by the defence to ask for the quashing of the charges, did not apply to the circumstances of the case.
According to the judge, the court can only dismiss the charges against an accused person who is present in court when the complainant in the case is not represented in court.
The court fixed 9th of March for trial to commence in full.