By Eric Ikhilae, Abuja
The planned resumption of trial in criminal case against leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Nnamdi Kanu before a Federal High Court in Abuja was stalled on Monday owing to the failure of the Department of State Services (DSS) to produce him in court.
Kanu, charged with terrorism, treasonable felony, unlawful possession of firearms and management of an unlawful society, is being kept in the custody of the DSS, courtesy of an order of court made on June 29 this year.
He was earlier arraigned with some members of his group but jumped bail until he was rearrested and produced in court on June 29, during which the court ordered resumption in his trial on July 26.
At the mention of the case around 11. 10am on Monday, lead prosecuting lawyer, Mohamed Abubakar noted Kanu was not yet in court.
Abubakar said the prosecution was ready for trial and has three witnesses in court.
He was optimistic that the defendant would be produced in court by the DSS, noting the delay in his arrival could be as a result of logistic challenges.
The prosecuting lawyer noted that even if the defendant was present, he was not sure the court could proceed with the case in view of the court’s vacation, which began on July 26.
He added that the judge also did not have the necessary fiat from the court’s Chief Judge for the case to be heard during vacation.
Lead defence lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, expressed dismay that his client was not in court.
Ejiofor, who complained about not being informed of the June 29 proceedings in the case and the hearing scheduled for July 26, said his team has been denied access to his client.
“We have been denied access to the defendant for the past eight days. I was informed yesterday that my client has been taken out of where he was being detained,” Ejiofors said.
Ejiofor said he filed an application for transfer of his client from the custody of the DSS to prison but the prosecution served him its response late.
The defence lawyer also complained some lawyers in his team were denied access into the courtroom by security operatives deployed to the court.
Ruling, Justice Binta Nyako ordered the prosecution to allow the defence lawyers access to the defendant on agreed terms.
Justice Nyako noted the prosecution was tardy with its handling of the case because it ought to have applied for the necessary fiat when it became obvious that the court’s vacation would commence on yesterday.
On Ejiofor’s application, Justice Nyako said she was not ready to vary her order for Kanu’s detention in DSS’ custody.
“I am not transferring him to prison. I will not grant your application. I have told you that I have kept him where I want him to be kept.
“I will make an order to allow you access to him. But it will be regimented. Your access will be controlled. I will give you time to see him, if you miss that opportunity that is for you,” the judge said.
She ordered the prosecution to ensure the production of the defendant on the next adjourned date and subsequently adjourned till October 21.
A former Anambra Governor, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife attended the proceedings.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo was also represented by a lawyer, Chief A.G. Nwazurike, who said he was holding a watching brief for the group.
Another lawyer, N C.Dim Udegwuanyi, also said he was in court to represent the interest of Otu Oki iwu (all the Igbo lawyers in Abuja).
Access to the court premises was difficult on Monday as many security operatives deployed to the court subjected lawyers and other visitors to strict scrutiny.
Many were turned back and there were instances of altercation between some lawyers an security operatives over the ways they were subjected to checks while some were denied access to the courtroom.
All roads leading to the court building were cordoned off while the proceedings lasted. Court staff, lawyers and other visitors were prevented from bringing their vehicles into the court premises.