The Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday ordered the arrest of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, and directed that his trial on charges of treasonable felony should proceed in his absence.
The judge, Justice Binta Nyako, whose decision was anchored on the provisions of Section 352(4) of the Administrative of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, said Kanu had failed to appear in court since April 25, 2017 without any reasonable explanation.
The lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Magaji Labaran, applied for the court’s orders earlier in the Thursday’s proceedings.
Kanu’s lawyer, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, had opposed Labaran’s oral application, and had asked to be given more time to explain why his client had not been in court by filing all necessary papers.
He insisted that Kanu’s disappearance was as a result of soldiers’ invasion of the IPOB leader’s home in Afara-Ukwu near Umuahia, Abia State, during military’s ‘Operation Python Dance II’ staged to quell agitation for a Republic of Biafra.
But the judge, noting that she had, in a judgment on a civil suit filed by Kanu, held that there was no nexus between the said military invasion and the IPOB leader’s disappearance, overruled the objection, insisting that the request for explanation of the defendant’s absence in court was belated.
The judge, who also noted that Kanu had violated the conditions and terms of the bail granted him, recalled that after the defendant was granted bail on April 17, 2017, the following proceedings of July 11, 2017 could not hold due to the court’s vacation.
She also recalled that on October 17, 2017 Kanu also failed to appear in court with his lawyer, who claimed that the defendant’s absence from court was caused by the invasion of his home in Abia State by soldiers.
The judge also noted that the three persons who had guaranteed his bail had applied to the court to withdraw their suretyship because they could not account for his whereabouts.
She noted that on March 28, 2018, Kanu’s trial was separated from that of his four other co-defendants in order to avoid delays of the other persons’ trial.
She added that on November 14, 2018, she ordered that the sureties should temporarily forfeit their N100m bail bonds or produce Kanu in court.
The judge added that, since the time Kanu’s trial was separated from that of others, there were four court sessions that held and were adjourned without Kanu attending any.
“Proceedings must end one way or the other,” Justice Nyako said.
She added, “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.
“Also, 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.”
She fixed June 18 for trial to commence with or without Kanu’s presence in court.
Since last year, Kanu has been seen making appearances online; and was, at a time, said to be on a religious pilgrimage to Israel.
Kanu’s lawyer, Ejiofor, has vowed to appeal the court’s ruling for his client’s arrest and trial in absentia.(Punch)