29 March 2019

Nigeria: Court Revokes Bail of IPOB's Leader Nnamdi Kanu

Photo: Katrin Gänsler/Deutsche Welle
Nnamdi Kanu.

Abuja — The Federal High Court, Abuja, yesterday revoked the bail granted the acclaimed leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu.The trial judge, Justice Binta Nyako, who ordered the immediate arrest of Kanu by the Inspector General of Police, also held that his treasonable felony charge should proceed even in his absence.

Nyako hinged the court's decision on Kanu's failure to appear in court since April 25, 2017 to face his trial. She condemned the inability of Kanu's lead counsel, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, to give cogent reasons why his client repeatedly failed to appear in court to answer to the charge preferred against him by the Federal Government.

The judge also noted that the three persons who had guaranteed his bail had applied to the court to withdraw their surety, as they could not account for his whereabouts.Earlier in his argument, Ejiofor made numerous failed attempts to convince the court to grant a short adjournment, to enable him to file affidavit evidence to explain reasons behind the defendant's disappearance.

Kanu was arrested on October 14, 2015 and was detained without trial for over a year, in spite of various court orders that ruled for his release.He was finally arraigned on November 8, 2016 in an Abuja Magistrates' Court for the first time on charges of criminal conspiracy, intimidation and membership of an illegal organisation.

In April 2017, Nyako granted bail to Kanu on health grounds. The judge stated that she was convinced Kanu was ill and needed more medical attention than the prison could offer.

"The first defendant, Nnamdi Kanu, has appealed to the court for bail based on health grounds and it is only the living that can stand trial. I am minded to grant him bail, so that he can attend to his health and face his trial alive," she had said.

She, however, barred him from granting interviews, being found in groups of more than 10 people, organising rallies or attending social functions. She threatened to revoke the bail if he failed to comply with the conditions. She further ordered that he deposit both his Nigerian and British passports with the court and that a report on the progress of his health be made available to the court on a monthly basis.

But following the alleged attack on Kanu's Umuahia village home in September 2017, his whereabouts became unknown until recently when he was sighted in Jerusalem. Prior to this, his lawyers had accused the military of abducting and assassinating him.Consequently, the court turned to his surety, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, to show cause why he and others should not forfeit their bail bonds.

But Abaribe's counsel, Chukwuma Machukwu-Ume approached the Court of Appeal, challenging the position of the lower court on the bail bond. He filed a motion for a stay of action pending the determination of the appellate court on the appeal number CA/A/1099C/2018.

Machukwu-Ume argued that by virtue of Order 4, Rule 10 of Court of Appeal Rules, once the appeal has been compiled, transmitted and number given, a lower court can no longer have jurisdiction pending the determination of the matter before the appeal court.

"When we filed the appeal, we verified affidavits, showing the court that the matter is now at the Court of Appeal," Machukwu-Ume said. The sureties had challenged the order urging them to show cause why they should not forfeit their bail bonds for failing to produce the accused to face trial. They held that rather than rule on the application, the court went ahead to make an order of interim forfeiture of bail bond of N100 million each.Thus, with the appeal at the appellate court, the judge had no option but adjourn the matter until the outcome of the appeal at the higher court.

In revoking the bail, the judge said she was relying on Section 352(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015. She fixed June 18 to commence his trial in absentia. NAN reports that a Federal High Court had struck out a case against Abaribe and former Aviation Minister Femi Fani-Kayode over the disappearance of Kanu.Justice John Tsoho dismissed the suit on the grounds of lack of diligent prosecution following the absence of the lawyer who filed the matter.

The applicant, Isaiah Agidi Ayugu, had filed the application seeking an order compelling the Nigeria Police and the Department of State Services (DSS) to prosecute Abaribe and Fani Kayode over the escape of Kanu from Nigeria.But the applicant failed to respond to the preliminary objection contending that the suit was an abuse of court process by the respondents.

Ayugu had through his counsel, Oghenevo Otemu, also sought the prosecution of Kanu's counsel and his siblings, Emmanuel Kanu, Uchechi Kanu and sureties, Tochukwu Uchendu, Emmanuel Shallom-Ben, whom he alleged had a hand in Kanu's escape.

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