The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu was served with amended terrorism charges yesterday before the Federal High Court in Abuja but the re-arraignment on the said charges was stalled following the submission of defence counsel.
New lead defence counsel, Dr Mike Ozekhome (SAN), sought time to enable him to study the amended 15-count charge filed by the prosecution on January 17. The Senior Advocate argued that the defence was ambushed with the fresh charge.
He claimed that the proof of evidence served on the defence by the prosecution was not legible enough to enable them to know what constitutes the fresh charge.
“My Lord, as I am talking now, the defendant does not know the charge yet. He is just interacting with me. He cannot be made to take his plea in relation to a charge he has not seen.
“The principle of fair hearing is just being violated by the Federal Government.
“The frail-looking defendant standing in the dock there has not been allowed to access his family as directed by this Honourable Court. I went to DSS to see him and I was almost stripped naked before I could see him.
“We pray that the arraignment is adjourned till tomorrow (today) to enable his lawyers to study the new charge along with him in the interest of justice,” Ozekhome said.
Lead prosecuting lawyer, Magaji Labaran, faulted the defence’s claim that the amended charge was an ambush.
He also faulted the defence’s claim of Kanu not being properly fed, allowed to practice his religion and allowed free access to his family members.
He, however, did not object to the defence’s request for an adjournment.
Justice Binta Nyako adjourned till January 19 for arraignment on the amended charge.
Before adjourning, Justice Binta Nyako ordered that the defendant and his lawyers be allowed to interact within the courtroom for a while before being taken away.
On the defendant’s complaints, the judge ordered that he be allowed to change his clothes.
“I don’t want to see him in this clothe again. This one is almost off-white. Also, make sure that you allow him to exercise,” the judge said.
Justice Nyako however reminded the defendant that a detention facility is not a 5-Star hotel.
She declined the defendant’s oral request that a foreign lawyer, Bruce Fein, be allowed into the courtroom to observe proceedings.
The judge said the request would be allowed upon a written application and approval by the Chief Judge.
Operatives of the State Security Service (SSS) brought Kanu into the courtroom at about 9.50 am. He exchanged pleasantries with some of his family members and his lawyers.
Earlier, one of Kanu’s lawyers, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, told our correspondent that the defence beefed up its legal team by engaging some senior lawyers, among whom is Ozekhome.
Ejiofor was, however, silent on the identity of the others. Some supporters of Kanu, who stormed the court premises in large numbers, clashed with security operatives.
They chanted “Holy Holy Holy, Nnamdi Kanu is another Saviour”.
The IPOB supporters were at the other end of the Ministry of Justice when the security agents tried to disperse them.
The supporters refused, arguing that the security operatives gave free access to a pro-government group who were drumming and singing.
This resulted in a face-off between the supporters and security operatives who later called for reinforcement.