The Prosecution Counsel, David Kaswe, while speaking at the hearing on an application made by the Federal Government for the secret trial of Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB), pointed out that though the defendants were absent, the application is one that can be heard in their absence and with no objection from the defense counsel, Chuks Muoma, Justice John Tsoho ruled that hearing on the application begins.
On February 9th, the case of the Radio Biafra Director , Nnamdi Kanu was adjourned till today, February 19th for hearing on the application of his secret trial. However, in the application brought before the Federal High Court Abuja, the Federal government informed the court that the witnesses who are supposed to testify against Kanu and the two other pro-Biafra activists accused with him, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi, have refused the invitation to appear in court until their protection is assured.
As a result, Mr. David Kaswe, the Federal Government lawyer, pleaded with Justice John Tsoho to give an order that will ensure the protection of the identities of the witnesses by permitting them to either wear a mask on their faces or to give their testimonies behind screens.
The Federal Government also applied for the issuance of an order exempting other persons apart from parties, lawyers and accredited journalists from attending the trial.. In Kaswe’s submission, he said,
“Our application before this honorable court is to allow our witnesses most of whom are civilians residing in the geographical entity of the defendants. Our submission is that our witnesses that we intend to call have already expressed fear of insecurity.
“They categorically informed us that unless, they can be guaranteed some form of protection by this honorable court they are unwilling to come and testify.
“We submit with greatest respect that the case of the prosecution will be greatly frustrated in the event that the witnesses are not protected and they cannot come to court.
“The court is to do justice and there will be no justice of prosecution witnesses cannot come to court.
“We are very unambiguous in our application that accredited members of the press should be allowed to come in. They can be allowed to cover the proceedings. That simple application before the honorable court.”
Kaswe who agreed that there was need for the Judge to be seeing the expressions on the faces of the witnesses also said that it was still possible even with their faces covered.
In the meantime, Nnamdi Kanu who is facing a six-count charge of treason through his lead counsel, Chuks Muoma, SAN, has strongly objected to the Federal Government’s secret trial application for lack of merit.
Opposing the argument, Muoma pointed out that based on the constitution, there is no provision for faceless people to testify in a trial which involves a claimed act of treason. According to him,
“Section 36(4) of the Constitution referred to in paragraph 2.07 makes no provision for masquerades to testify as witnesses in a trial.
“An accused person under our jurisprudence and justice administration must be confronted with his accusers eye-ball to eye-ball.
“My lord we operate an accusatorial system of procedure under the common law. Justice must not only be done but must be seen to have been done.
“It is consistent with common sense and jurisprudence that you cannot accuse someone in the street and try him in the bedroom..
“I must confess that in my 45 years of legal practice, I have not witnessed this.
“We therefore urge this court not to allow masquerades to testify before it. We want to see their faces and ask them questions. As masquerades, how will the court be able to gauge their demeanor and body language? Is it by the rhythm of their dance steps?”
He further clarified that secret trials can only hold if the accused is charged with terrorism.
“The tenets of justice outweigh this application and we urge my lord to reject it. It has no merit whatsoever. Secret trial is for terrorism charge, it is not for the type of offence for which these defendants were charged.
“Secret trial does not apply in a case of treasonable felony or involvement in alleged unlawful society. During the trial we will prove to them that we are not an illegal organisation.”
However, the counsel of the Federal Government in his response, said the submission by the defense was marred by errors, arguing that section 232(4) paragraph (e) of the ACJ Act gave the court the discretion to grant protection to prosecution witnesses.
Nnamdi Kanu eventually showed up in court during procession while ruling on the application was fixed for 2pm.
In his ruling, Justice John Tsoho denied the prayer of the applicants that registered journalists be allowed to cover the trial, based on Section 232 subsection (4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) which specifies offences for which criminal acts should be secluded.
He said the court is in support of the respondent’s submission that section 232 (4) of the ACJA does not support the applications of the applicant (the federal government). According to the Justice who also agreed with Muoma that the demeanor of a witness is better observed from their faces rather than behind masks,“There is no gain saying that demeanor of witnesses is very crucial in a trial.”
Tsoho however granted prayer one, two and three of the application adding that names and addresses of the witnesses shall not be made public in any of the recordings of the trial process.
Following these, Tsoho adjourned the matter to Monday, February 7 to Friday, February 11 for the prosecution to open its case.
Meanwhile, Dr. Clifford Iroanya, IPOB’s Coordinator of Coordinators, has revealed that the reason why the Director Generals of the government-owned media houses were sacked was because Buhari was disappointed that after releasing billions of dollars for the purpose of equipping the media to be able to knock off Radio Biafra from the world-wide wave, they only proved to be incompetent in carrying out their duties against the Biafran radio station.