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Court to Rule on Review of Order to Shield Witnesses on April 25


A Federal High Court Abuja, will on April 25 rule on whether to review an order earlier made by the same court presided over by Justice Binta Nyako to shield witnesses in the case involving leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu.
Justice Nyako had December 13, 2016, ordered that witnesses that will testify for the prosecution against Kanu and three others on trial for conspiracy to broadcast materials tended to secede from the Federal Republic of Nigeria and create a Biafra state.
Kanu is the first defendant, while Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi, are the second third and fourth defendants.
They are currently facing an amended 11-count charge slammed against them by the federal government.
At Thursday’s proceeding, counsel to Kanu, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, argued that since terrorism charge has been struck out, among others, against the defendants there was need to review the ruling which gave the prosecution the right to shield witnesses.
He averred that terrorism act seeks leave to protect witnesses but now that that charge had been struck out from among charges the defendants are been tried, it was necessary for court to set aside the order of December 13, 2016.
“An accused who is not standing trial on offences not mentioned in that section can be tried in the open court.”
Counsel to the third defendant, Emmanuel Esene, cited section 36 (4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, saying defendants standing trial on criminal cases should be tried in open court.
“When the order was made (to shield witnesses) , terrorism charge was included now that my Lordship struck out terrorism charge against the defendants, that order should be vacated”, he said.
Also arguing along the same line, Chukwuma Ozougwu, counsel to the fourth defendant, urged the court to note that everybody before the court was equal and should be treated equally.
He queried: “On what basis is the prosecution opposing the application for open trial? The prosecution counsel has not given enough reasons why my application should be refused. No basis, no foundation for opposing the application. Justice should not only seen to be done but should not also be clouded in darkness. For interest of justice, I urge the court to grant my application”, Ozougwu held.
However, prosecution counsel, S. M Labaran urged the court to dismiss the defendants’ application, adding “it is frivolous, lacking in merit and an attempt to slow down the progress of the case.”
He drew the attention of the court to Section 232 (4) of the Administration of the Criminal Justice Act which gives a judge discretionary power under which the December 13 order was made.
He held if the court should the order review, the defendants would have succeeded in making incursion into the Judge’s power.


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