They were in the charge that was signed by the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, Mr. Mohammed Diri, alleged to have committed treasonable felony, an offence punishable under Section 41(C) of the Criminal Code Act, CAP C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria. FG alleged that the defendants were the ones managing the affairs of the IPOB which it described as “an unlawful society”.
Specifically, Kanu, who is also the Director of Radio Biafra and Television, was alleged to have illegally smuggled radio transmitters into Nigeria, which he used to disseminate “hate broadcasts”, encouraging the “secession of the Republic of Biafra”, from Nigeria. The trio however pleaded not guilty to the charge on January 20, even as the trial judge, Justice John Tsoho, ordered their remand at Kuje prison pending ruling on a consolidated bail application they filed through their lawyer, Chief Udechukwu Udechukwu, SAN.
In the bail request dated January 14, which was predicated on the provisions of sections 35 and 36 of the 1999 constitution, as amended, and sections 158, 159 and 162 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, the defendants, insisted that all the allegations levelled against were bailable offences. Relying on the decided case-law in Ibori vs FRN, they urged the court to exercise its discretion in their favour considering that the law presumes them innocent until when their guilt is established.
Counsel to the accused persons maintained that his clients would not interfere with the witnesses if released on bail, adding that the statement of the defendants showed that they did not commit any crime, but were only agitating for their right to self determination under the African Charter for Human Peoples’ Right and the UN charter. Udechukwu, SAN, pleaded the court to grant the defendants bail on most liberal term since the charge against them does not attract capital punishment but the federal government, through a counter-affidavit it filed before the court, vehemently opposed the bail application.
The government urged the court to refuse the defendants bail, stressing that Kanu, who it said enjoyed large followership, was likely to continue operating Radio Biafra, if released from detention. FG further contended that the 1st defendant would not likely surrender himself for trial and could escape from the country since he has dual citizenship. The prosecutor told the court that Kanu hitherto operated Radio Biafra from the United Kingdom before his arrest, adding that he has the capacity to interfere with the witnesses who it described as “civilians dwelling within the area the defendants operated”.
Ruling on the application yesterday, Justice Tsoho denied the defendants bail, just as he okayed their accelerated trial. The Judge insisted that though the law permitted him to exercise his discretion in deciding whether or not the accused persons should be released on bail, he stressed that such discretion ought to be exercised “judicially and judiciously”. Justice Tsoho noted that the charge against the defendants “is a grave one that will attract severe punishment upon conviction”, adding that it carries life imprisonment.
More so, the judge maintained that the right to personal liberty of any individual takes secondary place once the issue of national security is involved. He observed that the defendants had in an affidavit they deposed in support of their bail application, averred that they have a right to agitate for self determination. “The situation as perceived by this court is that there is conflict of interest between the applicants who insist that they have a right to agitate and the respondent (federal government) which argues that it has the responsibility to maintain peace and order.
The court yesterday fixed February 9, 10, 11 and 12 to commence full-blown trial of the accused persons.
Culled from Vanguard