The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court has declined to quash the six-count treason charge the federal government entered against the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu.
In a ruling on Monday, March 7, 2016 trial Justice John Tsoho equally permitted the prosecution to shield the identity of eight witnesses that are scheduled to testify against Kanu and two other pro-Biafra supporters, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi.
The court refused to discharge and acquit the trio as it was prayed to do by the defence lawyer, Chief Chuks Muoma, SAN.
The ruling came on a day the Department of State Service, DSS, told the court that it “uncovered plot by some pro-Biafra agitators to invade the court and forcefully free the defendants.”
The Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, Mr. Mohammed Diri, told trial Justice Tsoho that the DSS has already commenced investigation on the planned invasion.
Even though the allegation forced the court to stand-down the matter for three hours, Justice Tsoho subsequently waved it off, even as he resumed sitting on the case around 12pm yesterday.
The DPP had tendered a paper that was signed by the DSS, alleging subterranean plot to free the defendants.
The court upheld objection that was raised by the defence lawyer, noting that the allegation could not be traced to the DSS since it was contained in a piece of paper without the letter head of the security agency.
Meanwhile, following the inability of the Federal Government to produce any of the witnesses in court yesterday as it was earlier directed, Chief Muoma, SAN, applied for his clients to be discharged and acquitted of the charge against them.
He predicated the application on the provision of section 351(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
“The DPP had 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 love their lives and requested that their identities be shielded from people who are coming to witness the proceeding,” Diri said.
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.”
Meantime, owing to the fresh application by the Federal Government, trial Justice Tsoho, yesterday, permitted the witnesses to testify behind a screen. The judge maintained that the decision did not amount to a variation of the previous ruling that prohibited the witnesses from appearing in mask.