By Taiye Agbaje
Abuja, Dec. 2, 2021
A Federal High Court, Abuja, will on Jan. 18, 2022, hear a suit filed by the Leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, challenging its jurisdiction to preside over his matter.
Justice Binta Nyako fixed the date, on Thursday, following an application for abridgment of time filed by counsel to the IPOB leader, Ifeanyi Ejiofor.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Justice Nyako had, on the last adjourned date, fixed Jan. 19 and Jan. 20, for Kanu’s trial continuation.
Kanu’s team of lawyers staged a walkout over allegation that the operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) refused to allow other counsel, including his American Lawyer, Bruce Fein, access into the courtroom.
But Ejiofor had filed an application, praying for the time within which to hear the trial to be abridged, and the motion was served on counsel to the Federal Government.
According to the lawyer, a trial of this nature requires a day-to-day hearing in accordance with the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, and the Federal High Court Practice Direction.
Nyako then fixed Thursday to hear the application.
When the matter was called, lawyer to the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Shuaibu Labaran, informed that the case was earlier adjourned to Jan. 19 and Jan. 20, 2022, for trial continuation at the instance of the defendant (Kanu).
“My lord, only two days ago, we received a call from the registry of the court, informing us that following an application for an abridgement of time filed by the defendant, today is fixed for the hearing of the said application.
“My lord, we looked at the application and we filed a counter affidavit to that effect,” he said.
Responding, Ejiofor said it was not in contention that the trial was adjourned to Jan. 19.
He stated that the substantive applications, challenging the competency of the charges against Kanu and jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter were not adjourned along with trial.
“We have an application for time abridgement for today.
“Also, we have an application challenging the competency of the suit,” he said.
The judge, however, expressed concern on why Ejiofor felt the earlier adjourned date was too far.
“But importantly, I don’t know why you think I gave you a time that is far.
“Tomorrow (Friday), I have three judgements to give, on 6th December, I am attending a valedictory session of my deceased colleague.
“On Dec. 10, I will sit to deliver judgment .
“On Dec. 13, the court is closed for the year,” she said.
The judge explained that there was no date to accommodate the case.
“Mr Ejiofor, when we give you dates, we want you to accept it,” she added.
According to Nyako, you had the opportunity to take all those applications on the last adjourned date but it was your choice not to do so.
“I don’t have time to abridge for you. I stand down other cases for 1 pm whenever your case comes up,” she said.
The judge also told the IPOB lawyer that the day’s sitting was not scheduled to take other applications.
“On the last adjourned date, the DPP (director of public prosecution) had applied to strike out your suit challenging the competency of the charges, but I declined,” she said.
Nyako, who noted that the application for abridgement of time could go on without the defendant (Kanu), however, insisted that other applications challenging the competency of the charge could not be taken in the absence of the defendant in court.
Ejiofor also prayed the court to make an order, directing the Federal Government to keep Kanu in a convenient facility.
“He is kept in a tiny place, he has not been eating well. He has been wearing one cloth since his detention,” he told the court.
The judge, who said that the DSS custody is not a five-star hotel, however said: “unless I am given an evidence about what you are saying.”
She directed the lawyer to file an affidavit of facts about his claim.
Ejiofor also urged the court to direct the DSS to allow Kanu to practise his faith.
“Our client is a Jew, he is not allowed to practise his Jewish faith,” he alleged.
The judge then directed the DSS to give Kanu a maximum possible comfort; including changing his clothes and feed him with good diet.
“Mr Ejiofor, be serious in this matter. He is in a detention facility, there are certain things that are not allowed there. I have visited detention facilities in the US and UK,” Nyako said.
Justice Nyako, who adjourned the matter until Jan. 18, 2022, assured that all pending applications filed by Ejiofor would be taken on the adjourned date.
NAN reports that the AGF had, on Oct. 21, rearraigned Kanu on a seven-count charge as against the five counts he was previously answering to, bordering on treasonable felony and terrorism.