Kanu heads to Appeal Court, accuses judge of bias

Chukwumerije Aja, Abuja

The detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Director of Biafra Radio, Nnamdi Kanu has accused a federal High Court in Abuja of bias conduct in his trial.

He accordingly filed an appeal against the ruling of the trial court allowing prosecution witnesses to give evidence against him behind screen, through a private witness box.
The Biafran leader also filed a motion asking the trial court to stay proceedings on the matter pending the hearing and determination of his appeal.

In a ten-paragraph affidavit in support of the motion for stay of proceedings, the Biafran leader attacked the ruling of the court, saying that the court sat on an appeal over its own ruling.

He further contended that the court has no jurisdiction to re-litigate on issue that it had already decided.

He alleged that, “the court had manifested serious bias in the conduct of this trial, which is gravely impeding the defendants’ constitutional rights to fair hearing and or trial”.

In his Notice of Appeal filed on Tuesday, Kanu prayed the Court of Appeal to set aside the ruling of the trial court on the use of screen by the prosecution witnesses and to also direct the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to transfer the case to another judge of the Federal High Court.

The processes, including the Notice of Appeal and the motion for stay of proceedings filed by the Director of Radio Biafra were served on the prosecution in the commencement of proceedings yesterday.

In view of that, the prosecution counsel and the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Mohammed Diri asked the court for an adjournment to enable him respond adequately.

The trial Judge, Justice John Tsoho adjourned the matter till April 5, 2016 for hearing of the motion for stay of proceedings.

It will be recalled that, this is the second time that the Biafran leader is accusing Judges of the Federal High Court, handling his matter of bias.

He, first accused Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed and his case was transferred to Justice John Tsoho, who he had also accused of bias in his Motion on Notice filed yesterday.

Kanu who is facing a six-count treason charge, had opposed an application by the Federal Government to conduct his trial in secret.

Government had, in its application, decried that all the witnesses billed to testify against Kanu and two other pro-Biafra agitators, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi, who are facing trial with him, have declined to appear in court.

Government’s counsel said the witnesses insisted that they would not testify against the defendants unless their safety was guaranteed.

Diri informed the court that the witnesses in the suit had declined to testify following threats from associates of the detained IPOB leader.

Witness Protection

While opposing the application to shield witnesses, Kanu’s lawyer, Chuks Muoma (SAN), argued that the court had on February 19, 2016 decided on the Federal Government’s request to protect witnesses, adding that if the prosecution was not satisfied with the court’s decision, it should appeal against the order.

After listening to counsels’ submissions, the trial judge, Justice John Tsoho dismissed the objection by Muoma and added that FG’s request 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.

The court upheld the argument of the prosecution that the screen would only shield the witnesses from the members of the public present in court.

Kanu 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”.

Kanu was alleged to have illegally smuggled radio transmitters into Nigeria, which he used to disseminate “hate broadcasts”, encouraging the “secession of the Republic o Biafra”, from Nigeria.

However, the accused persons, pleaded not guilty to the charge on January 20, even as the court ordered their remand at Kuje prison ‎in Abuja.