Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday expressed displeasure at the decision by defence lawyers in the trial of the self-acclaimed leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Nnamdi Kanu.
Justice Nyako however declined the request by the prosecution to deem Kanu’s application abandoned, his lawyers having decided to boycott proceedings.
As it has become the practice in recent time, armed security operatives, drawn from the State Security Service (SSS) and the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) flooded the Federal High Court premises as early as 6am.
They screened everybody and decided who accessed the court, thereby denying some lawyers in the defence team access into the courtroom.
Before the commencement of proceedings, some lawyers in the defence team, who were inside the courtroom, led by Ifeanyi Ejiofor, staged a walk out in protest against the refusal of the security agents to allow others in the team, including a foreigner, into the courtroom.
When proceedings commenced a little after 10 am, Kanu, who was brought into the courtroom around 9:52am, complained that security agents prevented some of his lawyers, particularly Bruce Fein from the United States access into the court room.
He told the court that Fein, who he said was handling a case for him in the US, was around to witness his trial.
Kanu said: “I have an ongoing case in the US. I have not been allowed to see him. He is here to see me and to observe the proceedings.
“He has been to the DSS to see me but they denied him access to me,” Kanu said.
At that point, the judge as Kanu if he would conduct his case in the absence of his lawyers, to which he said no.
But, lead prosecuting lawyer, Mohammed Abubakar, who is the Director of Public Prosecution, urged the court to proceed with the trial in the absence of Kanu’s lawyers.
Abubakar contended that since Kanu’s lead lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, who was earlier granted access into the courtroom, walked out with his team shortly before the commencement of proceedings, they should blame themselves.
He noted that ordinarily, the case was fixed for the hearing of an application filed by the defendant, adding that since the defence lawyers were absent, the court should deem the application abandoned.
Ruling, Justice Nyako frowned at the conduct of Kanu’s lawyers.
The judge rejected the prosecution’s application to deem the defence’s pending application abandoned.
“Staging a walkout on the court is a very serious offence. I will not dismiss the applications. Let them be in the case file,” she said.
Turning to Kanu in the dock, the judge said: “But, discuss with your lawyers, so that their attitude can change.”
On the defence’s complaint that Fein was denied access into the courtroom, the judge said individuals seeking to attend Kanu’s trial must write her court for consideration.
Another foreigner, who claimed to be from the British High Commission, said she was in court to witness proceedings and got the consent of the court’s Chief Judge, to whom her office has written.
Justice Nyako said said it was wrong for the white lady to have written the court’s Chief Judge said.
She said: “If you need to observe proceedings in my court, you must apply to me. But for the high respect I have for my Chief Judge, I will allow you for today.”
The judge then adjourned further proceedings in the case till January 19 and 20 next year.
While speaking after the court proceedings, Ejiofor accused the judge of taking sides with the Nigerian government by conducting proceedings in their absence.
“It is now clear that the Honourable trial judge (Mrs Nyako) part of the prosecuting team. She will have to recuse herself,” he said.
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Ejiofor described as strange, the decision by the judge to conduct proceedings while they were not in court.