Court revokes bail of Nigeria secessionist leader, orders trial in absentia

Judge Binta Nyako at Thursday’s hearing ordered the revocation of the bail.
Political activist and leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement, Nnamdi Kanu (L), wearing a Jewish prayer shawl, poses in the garden of his house in Umuahia, southeast Nigeria, on May 26, 2017, before commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the war on May 30. – The war was triggered when the Igbo people, the main ethnic group in the southeast, declared an independent breakaway state, the Republic of Biafra. (Photo by STEFAN HEUNIS / AFP)

NEWS CENTRAL, Abuja

A Nigerian court in the country’s capital, Abuja has revoked the bail bond and ordered the arrest of Nnamdi Kanu, secessionist leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) who is facing charges on treasonable felony.

Kanu had failed to attend court since April 2017 after being granted bail by the Federal High Court but Judge Binta Nyako at Thursday’s hearing ordered the revocation of the bail. She asked the prosecution to proceed in Kanu’s absence, at the next adjourned date.

Prosecutor angry at Kanu’s consistent absence

Prosecutor Magaji Labaran had through an oral application requested for Kanu’s immediate arrest and revocation of the bail due to his consistent absence from court.

“This court has been so magnanimous in granting several adjournments, giving the sureties the opportunity to show cause. It is on record that even the sureties have applied to withdraw because they cannot explain the whereabouts of the defendant,” prosecutor Labaran said.

But lawyer to the cessationist leader, Ifeanyi Ejiofor objected to the prosecutor’s demands insisting that the military’s earlier invasion of Kanu’s community in the southeastern state of Abia, had led to his disappearance.

“In the absence of any reasonable explanation for his absence, I hereby revoke his bail and order that a bench warrant be issued for his arrest,” Judge Nyako said.

She said the court had given ample time for the accused to appear before it for trial to commence but that Kanu had been evasive. The judge denied the claim that there was a nexus between the military invasion of Kanu’s community and his disappearance.

“I have given the counsel for the defendant more than enough time to produce him in court. Therefore, by virtue of section 252(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, the only option open to do is to order that the trial will continue in his absence.” the judge added.

Sureties struggle to cut ties with IPOB leader

Shortly after the IPOB leader was declared “missing”, the trial judge on February 20, 2018, okayed a separate trial for the other three defendants standing trial with him.

Kanu, who has dual citizenship in Nigeria and the United Kingdom, had since been reportedly sighted at various locations outside the country, including Jerusalem and the UK. 

Three persons including a serving Senator, Enyinnaya Abaribe, who had guaranteed Kanu’s bail, have all applied to the court to withdraw their suretyship because they could not account for the whereabouts of the IPOB leader.

The court heard that Judge Nyako’s earlier ruling that each of the three sureties should forfeit their 100million naira or 278,000 dollars bail bond deposited with it on Kanu’s behalf, was appealed by the sureties.

Charges based on illegal broadcasts

Some of the charges against the secessionist leader include allegations that Kanu imported a radio transmitter known as TRAM 50L, which was concealed in a container that was declared as used household items, for the purpose of using same to disseminate information about secession plans by IPOB, which was earlier proscribed and declared a terrorist organisation by the Nigerian government.

“On or about the 28th April, 2015 in London, United Kingdom (Kanu) did in a broadcast on Radio Biafra monitored in Enugu, Enugu state and other parts of Nigeria within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, referred to Major General Muhammadu Buhari, GCON, President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a paedophile, a terrorist, an idiot and an embodiment of evil, knowing same to be false and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 375 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C. 38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.” the charge sheet said.

The government has since shut down Radio Biafra and cracked down on all individuals with links to the illegal station within and outside Nigeria.

Kanu has been fighting for the secession of the southeast from the rest of Nigeria in a repeat of similar demands made by the then leader of the region, Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, which led to a three-year civil war in the country in 1967, that left millions dead.

The judge has now fixed June 18 for Kanu’s trial to begin, whether he is in court or not.

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