There is anxiety in Abuja ahead of Monday’s resumed trial of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Leader Nnamdi Kanu.
The apprehension was heightened by the insistence of IPOB supporters to witness the trial and the vow by the Federal Capital Territory Police Command to counter any breach of the peace at the trial venue.
At the Federal High Court (FHC) where the trial would hold, armed security operatives were yesterday sighted in and around its premises.
Kanu is on trial for treason Although the IPOB leader was granted bail by Justice Binta Nyako in April 2017 on health grounds, he jumped the bail but was re-arrested last month by security agents in Kenya.
When he was produced in court on June 29, Justice Nyako acceded to the prosecution’s request that Kanu be remanded in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS).
Nyako also granted an accelerated hearing in the case and rescheduled the trial, earlier fixed for October 20, to July 26 and 27.
Prior to today’s resumed hearing, there were reports that the Office of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice had warned IPOB members and sympathisers to stay off the court premises.
This was however, denied by Dr. Umar Gwandu, the media aide to Justice Minister Abubakar Malami.
“I saw them (reports) also. I was not aware of any such statement they were referring to,” Gwandu said.
At the close of work on Friday, the court’s management and relevant security agencies were said to have begun dialogue on how to avert security breach, in view of the huge interest the case has generated.
The Nation learnt that part of the security measures being put in place was to restrict human movement in and around the court premises today, including pruning the number of journalists to be allowed to cover proceedings.
FCT Police spokesman Yusuf Mariam said yesterday that the police were doing everything possible to forestall a breakdown of law and order.
She said: “There is no problem. Our officers are there to keep the city safe.”
Kanu’s Special Counsel Aloy Ejimakor however, called on security agents not to molest supporters of his client, who might be in the court to show solidarity.
Ejimakor, in a statement on his Facebook wall yesterday, advised the IPOB leader’s supporters and the Federal Government to be guided by “the rule of law pertinent to why he (Kanu) is facing these tribulations and trials.”
He also explained that “ what is expected on Monday(today) is not a trial in terms of taking evidence but a procedural routine that lawyers call ‘taking a plea’ or a re-arraignment on the amended charges that might be brought” by the prosecutor.
Ejimakor said: “This press statement is prompted by media reports indicating that those coming to Abuja to show solidarity with Mazi Nnamdi Kanu will be harassed or even arrested by security agents.
“Let me make it clear that while I am not calling on people or Kanu’s supporters to throng Abuja for the hearing on Monday (today), it’s important to state that anybody who wishes to come is not doing anything illegal, provided such a person comes in peace.
“Kanu’s trial is an open trial, not a secret trial and he’s presumed innocent until proven guilty. Therefore, anybody wishing to be associated with his trial by being present in Abuja is protected by his constitutional right to freedom of association and movement.
“Therefore, once government recognises that the enterprise upon which Kanu is engaged is expressly recognised or protected by laws, it will see that dialogue, not trials and violence, is the only legal pathway to containing it.
“I am saying this because the same law that protects self-determination also requires the government to accommodate it. Article 1 of that Law provides that Nigeria ‘shall recognise the rights, duties, and freedoms enshrined in the Charter and shall undertake to adopt legislative or other measures to give effect to them’.
“Further, subjecting Kanu to any trial under the circumstances of his extraordinary rendition will face lots of legal challenges. Where the government missed its way is believing that it can suppress the desire for self- determination by means of punishment of some sort. History teaches that taking such a path ultimately proves fruitless,”
IPOB has however, promised decorum by its supporters that would attend the trial.
Its Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, said: “We will be in court tomorrow (today) for the solidarity of our Leader’s case in Abuja.
“Biafrans are advised to restrain from any indiscipline or criminal activities so that Malami and others controlling Nigeria would have nothing to hold on to kill those that would be there tomorrow.
“All roads lead to Abuja for the solidarity. Malami and others cannot use force to stop us from coming to Abuja.”