…challenges jurisdiction of court
…Senator Uba, Ohanaeze protest exclusion from trial
Court adjourns till Nov 10
Self-acclaimed leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu yesterday pleaded not guilty to the seven-count amended criminal charge preferred against him by the Federal Government before the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja. Kanu, however, challenged the court’s jurisdiction to hear the matter on the grounds that the alleged offences were committed in the United Kingdom and not in Nigeria. Kanu was in June re-arrested in Kenya and extradited to the country to face his trial. He was first arrested in a Lagos hotel in 2015 by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) and was arraigned alongside four others in 2016.
At yesterday’s re-arraignment, Kanu, was spotted wearing white Fendi designer’s clothes and was ushered into the courtroom at exactly 10am by security operatives and took his fresh plea to the amended charge at about 10:45am. Just like the earlier charge, Kanu also pleaded not guilty to the amended charge. His counsel, Ifeanyi Ejiofor had requested that he be transferred to the custody of the Nigeria Correctional Service, but the judge declined to grant the request on the grounds that it would be in the interest of Kanu to remain with the DSS. New Telegraph recalls that the court had ordered that the IPOB leader be kept in custody of the DSS pending his arraignment and commencement of trial. Meanwhile, the trial judge, Justice Binta Nyako had adjourned to November 10 for hearing of Kanu’s application challenging the court’s jurisdiction to try him as well as the competence of the charge.
In his preliminary objection cited by New Telegraph, Kanu contended that the charge did not in any way link him to the offence and that the alleged offences were also said to be committed in the United Kingdom and not Nigeria. However in a related development, Ohaneze Indigbo had accused the Federal Government of conducting a secret trial in the issue of Kanu.
Chief Ralph Uwazurike, who spoke alongside former Anambra Governor, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, said that the sociocultural group condemns the trial in its entirety because they were barred from covering the proceedings. Similarly, the Senator representing Anambra South Senatorial District, Senator Ifeanyi Uba, also condemned the action of the Federal Government, claiming that as a Senator of the Federal Republic he ought not to be barred from witnessing the proceedings.
He lamented that even after filing a case in the matter, he was still denied access. Also, journalists covering the court, although allowed entry into the court premises, were, however, prevented from entering the courtroom proper. This was despite the fact that the journalists had forwarded their names to the court and DSS for coverage of the proceedings. At the last adjournment on July 27, there was an altercation between the operatives of the DSS and journalists, following their refusal to allow the media access to cover the proceedings.
One of the DSS operatives, whose identity could not be ascertained, had claimed that they are awaiting directives from the trial judge, Justice Binta Murtala-Nyako, on how many journalists should be allowed to go in and cover the proceedings.
”The instruction we have is that journalists should stay in their press centre from where they would be screened to go in to cover the proceedings after getting clearance from Justice Nyako, the trial judge,” he said. While the trial was going on in the 5th floor, journalists were not allowed to move out of their press centre which is at the ground floor. Kanu was later driven out of the court premises by the DSS after the trial.