From Duncan Odey & Agency Reports
In a ruling in Abuja on March 28, 2018, a federal high court overruled the federal government on the matter of Nnamdi Kanu, the Biafran leader who has been missing since September last year when the Nigerian army carried out lethal operations at his home at Umuahia in Abia State.
Since Kanu’s trial resumed in October last year after the military attack, Kanu has neither be seen nor heard from. Relying on army’s denials of holding Kanu, the federal government has since then claimed that his nonappearance at his trial was enough to revoke his bail and compel his three sureties to forfeit their bonds.
Conversely, the lawyers to the sureties had consistently advanced the argument that the issue of the military invasion had to be considered first before the issue of breach of bond or Kanu’s trial can ever arise. But till this last hearing, counsels have never had sufficient opportunity to fully present their arguments.
On February 20, 2018 when the matter came up for further mention, Justice Binta Nyako of federal high court Abuja agreed to severe Kanu’s case from that of his co-defendants, which then set the stage for treating Kanu’s case separately and perhaps properly.
On March 28, when the case came up for a resumed hearing, the Attorney General of the Federation yet again strongly argued for revocation of Mazi Kanu’s bond and issuance of bench warrant against him. The AGF who was represented by Barrister Shuaibu Lanaran, further argued that Kanu’s sureties ‘did not deserve any hearing on the matter, but must produce Kanu or face sanctions’.
In opposition, counsels for the three sureties jointly argued that a forfeiture proceedings first requires a an “enrolled” Show Cause Order before any issue of revocation or bench warrant can arise. The lawyers told the court that their clients are yet to be served with such Order and thus the matter cannot be said to be properly before the court. Counsels cited pertinent statutory and judicial authorities.
In a counter argument, Barrister Laban alleged that the lawyers have “conspired” to raise technical defenses to the matter, whereupon the court immediately took exception to the remark and ordered Labaran to apologize to the lawyers, which he did promptly and profusely.
In the end, Justice Nyako agreed with the submissions of the lawyers for the sureties and ordered the AGF to properly and timely serve the sureties with an Order to Show Cause in compliance with the rules of procedure.
The next hearing is scheduled for June 26, 2018 when lawyers for the sureties will have the first opportunity to introduce direct evidence of the army invasion of Kanu’s house, which has been said to be the proximate cause of his disappearance. If the court upholds their argument, Nigerian army may be cited in contempt and that alone is likely to affect the course of the trial in Kanu’s favor.
It will be recalled that Mazi Nnamdi Kanu was taken on bail last year on the bond of 100 million Naira each provided by Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, Jewish Rabbi Immanu El Ben Madu and Tochukwu Uchendu, an accountant.
The sureties were represented in court by Barristers Aloy Ejimakor, Chukwuma Machukwu Umeh (SAN), and FC Chude.