The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mr. bhghgghas rejected his arraignment and trial by the federal government before Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja, citing lack of fair hearing.
Kanu, who is also the founder of Radio Biafra, bluntly refused to take a plea on a six-count criminal charge for treason, importation of illegal goods and possession of firearms filed against him by the Department of State Services (DSS) on the grounds that he will not get fair trial.
The Biafran agitator, who was docked along with two others, Messrs Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi, claimed that he has no confidence in the court because of information available to him indicated that he will not get a fair trial before the judge.
He said: “I will not sacrifice the due process of the law founded on the principles of natural justice upon the altar of speedy release from detention.
“In other words, I will rather remain in detention rather than subject myself to a trial that I know amounts to the perversion of justice.
“Previous court judgments and rulings have been delivered by competent court of laws in Nigeria in my favour which the Department of the State Security Service failed to obey or implement.
“On that premise, I am not ready to stand before this court for trial because I am convinced that the outcome will go the way of the previous ones.
“Therefore I have chosen to remain in custody until justice prevails in my matter in the interest of justice.”
Opposing this refusal to take a plea, the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Mohammed Saidu Diri, asked Justice Mohammed to reject Kanu’s claim on the grounds that being an accused, he could not issue dictates to the court.
He said the accused, if he had any objection to his trail, could only come by way of an application stating his grievances with exhibits in clear terms the special circumstances under why he should not be tried by a particular court.
Diri, who is the Director, Public Prosecution (DPP) of the Federation, sited Section 396(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, adding that under the Act, any objection to trial can only be raised by the accused when the plea has been taken and not before as was the case of the accused person.
He urged the court to compel Kanu, who was already in the dock, to take his plea.
But Kanu’s counsel, Mr. Vincent Obetta, informed the court that the accused has the fundamental right to object to the trail and pleaded with the court to grant him his request.
In his ruling, Justice Mohammed agreed that accused person has the right to object to his trial before his court on the grounds that justice is rooted in confidence and rejected the submission of the federal government’s lawyer.
The judge subsequently ordered that the case be returned to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court so that it can be re assigned to another judge and for further action, saying he was standing down from the case.
He added that the prosecution would have done the same thing if they were in Kanu’s shoes.
“Assuming it was the prosecution, if they had no confidence in the court of jurisdiction; would they not have done so?”
“I hereby remit the case file to the honourable chief judge of this court to reassign it,” the judge said.
The federal government is accusing Kanu of plotting to split Nigeria by creating a Republic of Biafra with South-east, South-south states, and parts of Kogi and Benue States as component units.
Before his arraignment yesterday, he had been released unconditionally by Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja, from the custody of the DSS but the order was not obeyed.
A day before his unconditional release, a Magistrate’s Court, also in Abuja, absolved him of all criminal charges brought against him by the state.
In a related development, IPOB has dragged the federal government and concerned agencies before a Federal High Court in Abuja for the killing of their members on separate occasions in Onitsha, Anambra State.
IPOB, in suit filed on behalf of its deceased and injured members by the Kingdom Human Rights Foundation, is demanding the sum of N8.5 billion as damages from the federal government for the killing and maiming of its members.
Joined as co-respondents in the suit are the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria; Attorney General of the Federation; the National Assembly; the Chief of Army Staff; Inspector General of Police; Commissioners of Police, Imo, Anambra, Abia, Enugu, Ebonyi, Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers State Command; the Commandant General, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC); and the Director General of the Department of State Security Service (DSS).
The rights group, through its lawyer brought the application on behalf of IPOB and families of victims of various shootings by security agencies on October 20 and December 2, 2015 in parts of the South-east and South-south zones.
In the application, they sought a declaration by the court condemning as a crime against humanity, the unlawful, cruel, inhuman, brutal and wicked killing (shooting) of unarmed, non-violent and peaceful protesters who were exercising their rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of association, and right to self-determination as guaranteed in the Sections 39 and 40 of the constitution and Articles I, IV, XIX and XX of the African Charter on Human Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, by the combined team of the Nigerian Army, Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies.
They further demanded: “An order of the court awarding N100,000,000 to each of those who sustained gunshots and were grievously injured by a combined team of the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Police and other security agencies on the October 20 and December 2, 2015 at Onitsha, Anambra State, and in Owerri, Imo State; Ebonyi, Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta State respectively.
“A declaration of the Honourable Court that the arrest and continued detention of the non-violent and peaceful protesters who were exercising their right to peaceful assembly, freedom of association, and right to self-determination as guaranteed in Sections 39 and 40 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria and Articles I, IV, XIX and XX of the African Charter on Human Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, by the combined team of the Nigerian Army, Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies, was unconstitutional, illegal, inhuman, brutal and discriminatory.
“An order granting unconditional and immediate release of detained members of IPOB (second applicants) who are in detention in prison, police and army custody and further restraining the fourth to eighth respondents from further harassment of the applicants who were peacefully and non-violently exercising their rights to self-determination, freedom of association, and expression.”
The group further expressed displeasure over the killing of IPOB members who were merely celebrating the order to release Kanu on December 17 in Onitsha.
It also wondered why the recent Army-Shiite clash generated so much concern by the government of Nigeria, with a presidential delegation led by the Minister of Interior to ascertain what happened even when it claimed that it was “clear the Shiite sect was on the wrong side of the law”.
“Also, the National Assembly has called for judicial panel into the clash, but yet, the government of Nigeria is pretending not to be aware that its military killed unarmed members of IPOB in Onitsha, Anambra State, on December 2, and at various places across the South-east and South-south,” it stated.
The group observed that rather than tender apology and seek how to compensate the families of members of IPOB killed by the military, the Nigerian military and their joint task force on Thursday, December 17, opened fire on jubilating members of IPOB who were celebrating the unconditional release of their leader by the court in Abuja.
“This is indeed a crime against humanity, and we shall present a petition to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague to look into the matter and bring the Chief of Army Staff and Inspector General of Police to justice before ICC,” it added.