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Kanu’s absence forces three-month delay, court dithers on Igboho’s fate

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Amid heavy security, DSS blames Kanu’s absence on ‘logistics difficulties’
• IPOB leader drags Nigeria, Kenya to African rights commission, seeks return to the UK
• IPOB to DSS: produce Kanu to prove he’s not dead
• Commercial activities grounded in Onitsha, Nnewi for trial
• Police disperse supporters as Igboho’s trial resumes behind closed doors in Cotonou

Despite heavy deployment of security operatives to the Federal High Court and disruption of activities within and around the Abuja Division of the court, the Federal Government, yesterday, failed to produce Nnamdi Kanu for trial as planned.

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Leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Kanu, who was rearrested in Kenya last month, was scheduled to be brought before Justice Binta Nyako to resume his trial yesterday.

Kanu had jumped bail in September 2017 and had since then been speaking from undisclosed locations before his re-arrest. He was intercepted on June 27 and repatriated to Nigeria in a shadowy operation conducted by Nigerian security operatives in collaboration with international partners.

At about 8:00a.m., a long convoy inched into the court premises believed to have brought the IPOB leader, a development that further tightened the security situation around the court and threw the joint security operatives into a frenzy.

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Before that time, the entire roads leading to the Federal High Court were barricaded while human and vehicular movements were restricted. With the exception of few journalists, others were denied access to the court premises.

Like a scene from a war front, many people were harassed, as motion recording around the court was disrupted and phones were seized for slight expression of rights. Persons believed to have come in solidarity with the IPOB leader were quickly dispersed while those who resisted were hassled and threatened by overzealous security operatives. Anyone found recording or streaming activities around the court premises were either arrested or harassed.

One of the DSS officials, who spoke to The Guardian, attributed their actions to the nature of the case. “This particular case is different,” he said bluntly.

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Among those arrested was publishers of Sahara Reporters and convener of the RevolutionNow movement, Omoyele Sowore. He was immediately whisked to an unknown destination but released hours later.

Sowore was sighted around the court premises to attend the scheduled session on the fundamental rights abuse case involving five activists. Justice Obiora Egwuatu had last week, directed the Department of State Security Services (DSS), to produce in court on Monday, the five persons arrested for wearing the ‘Buhari Must Go’ t-shirt to Dunamis Church recently.

Sowore was, however, accosted as he continued the live streaming of activities around the court. His handset was also seized before he was finally whisked away. The camera belonging to one Brock Media was equally snatched from the journalist, Yusuf Rock, while he narrowly escaped arrest.

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Despite the tension raised by the activities of security operatives, many still patiently waited for Kanu, who has not been sighted in public since his extradition from Kenya some weeks back. It was not until 11:00 a.m. that the new counsel to the Federal Government, Mohammed Abubakar, announced that contrary to speculations, Kanu had not been brought to court.

Abubakar blamed the government’s failure to produce Kanu for logistics reasons. His explanation ignited heated arguments from counsel to Kanu, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, who accused the Department of the State Services (DSS) of frustrating efforts by lawyers and family members to access the detained IPOB leader. Ejiofor countered the claim of the prosecution, saying the IPOB leader had been moved out of Abuja.

He made frantic efforts to move an application for the transfer of his client to Kuje Correctional Centre as a better option to DSS custody, but his efforts were unsuccessful as Justice Nyako stood her ground not to proceed until Kanu was physically present in court as required by law

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In an application, Kanu, through his lawyers, had argued that he cannot get a fair trial if he remains in the custody of the DSS. He also sought an order to grant him access to his doctor for the purpose of carrying out a comprehensive independent medical examination on him. In her verdict, Justice Nyako ordered that the DSS should allow access to Kanu, although it won’t be a free-for-all.

The judge further drew the attention of the government’s lawyer and that of Kanu to the fact that the yearly vacation of the court had commenced. The judge told the parties that the fiat of the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho, was required for the trial to go ahead during vacation.

Although the judge expressed reservation on the failure of the prosecutors to bring Kanu to court, the matter was eventually fixed for October 21. The judge gave a caveat that the court will reconvene at an earlier date if the Chief Judge grants fiat for trial to proceed during vacation.

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A member of the IPOB leader’s legal team, Aloy Ejimakor, yesterday told newsmen that the judge ordered the DSS to grant Kanu access to his lawyers twice a week – Mondays and Thursdays.

According to him, the British Government had expressed readiness to provide “consular assistance” for Kanu but needed him to assent to the assistance by signing some forms, “but when we took the forms to Kanu in DSS custody, the secret police stopped Kanu from signing the consular assistance forms.

Kanu has, however, dragged the Federal Government and Kenyan Government to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, over alleged violation of his fundamental human rights by the two governments. Kanu, through one of his lawyers, Ejimakor, also demanded to be returned to the United Kingdom.

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Ejimakor, in a statement yesterday titled ‘Re: Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’, said the IPOB leader demanded accountability over his extradition to Nigeria from Kenya.

IPOB yesterday expressed disappointment over Federal Government’s failure to produce its detained leader in court. The group described the act as a deliberate and wicked plot to inflict further torture on its leader as well as confirmation of fear over uncertainty of his health condition.

In a statement by its Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, IPOB insisted producing Kanu was the only way to prove to its members he was still alive. It also demanded the unconditional release of those arrested in Abuja and other parts of the country for their solidarity with its leader.

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Also, the apex Igbo umbrella organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo General Assembly has warned against any form of compromise in the trial of Kanu, threatening to declare the Biafra Republic if he is not given a fair trial.

President-General of the body, Basil Onyeachonam Onuorah, said: “The doctrine of presumption of innocence under our law guarantees all rights and privileges to Nnamdi Kanu until the contrary is proven.”

MEANWHILE, there was compliance with the sit-at-home order on residents and visitors issued by IPOB, in honour of its leader’s arraignment in court, as members of the group blocked the entrance and exit points into the commercial city of Onitsha, Anambra State, including the Head bridge and industrial town of Nnewi.

A trader in Onitsha Main Market, Lizinus Eze, said: “We heard it yesterday as a rumour that there will not be market today, but this morning we found out that people were making bonfires everywhere in the city.”

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It was gathered that youths made bonfires in some empty streets of Onitsha, even as they commandeered vehicles attempting to enter the cities to go back. At Nnewi, the agitators suspected to belong to IPOB smashed windscreens of vehicles belonging to motorists who attempted to enter the city. But in Awka, the capital city of Anambra, the situation was different as commercial activities went on without hitches while offices opened, amid patrol by army and police personnel.

IN far away from the Benin Republic, yesterday, the police chased out hundreds of Yoruba Nation activists and journalists from the premises of the Cour De’appal De Cotonou, the venue of the hearing of the case against Sunday Adeyemo, also known as Sunday Igboho.

It was gathered that the policemen came in about seven trucks and dispersed the Yoruba Nation supporters who gathered on the court premises awaiting the position of the court. The Beninoise court was still in session at the time of filing this report.

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The court had earlier barred journalists and supporters of Igboho from the courtroom but allowed the agitator’s lawyers and his wife, Ropo, inside the courtroom. The court is investigating the allegations brought against Igboho by the Federal Government, which claimed, among other things, that the activist is a gunrunner. The court is also expected to rule on the extradition or otherwise of Igboho.

Igboho and his wife were arrested at the Cadjèhoun Airport in Cotonou last week Monday, while they tried to catch a flight to Germany. The court had last Thursday ordered the release of his wife but returned Igboho to the police cell.

As early as 7:00 a.m. yesterday, many supporters from Nigeria, as well as those in the Benin Republic, had besieged the court to identify with Igboho. The trial failed to start until around 4:00 p.m. despite the fact that Igboho was kept in one of the prosecutors’ rooms since the early hours of yesterday.

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Frustrated by the delay, some of Igboho’s supporters were seen venting their anger on anyone taking pictures or recording videos of events in the court premises, including journalists.

It was, however, gathered that the trial of Igboho may be adjourned to Thursday. According to a source close to his legal team, after meeting with the embattled Yoruba Nation activist in the room where he was kept since morning, everything suggests the trial may not be concluded on Monday as many have anticipated.

The pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, yesterday, lauded the Ooni of Ife, Oba Eniitan Ogunwusi Ojaja 11; the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji Ogungunniso 1; and other Yoruba monarchs in the Republic of Benin for steps taken on the Igbohos. Afenifere specifically praised Oba Adetunji for sending a delegation to Cotonou.

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Igboho is the arrowhead of activists agitating for a Yoruba nation and putting an end to harm being inflicted on farmers and women in Yorubaland by Fulani herders. The commendation of the royal father was contained in a release issued on behalf of Chief Ayo Adebanjo, acting leader of Afenifere by Comrade Jare Ajayi, National Publicity Secretary of the organisation.

Also, the Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams, yesterday mobilised 10 prominent Benin Republic monarchs to support the embattled Yoruba nation agitator at the ongoing trial in Cotonou. The Aare Onakankanfo’s intervention came as part of last-minute effort to ensure there is justice and fairness in the ongoing trial of Igboho.

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In a statement, yesterday, media aide to Aare Onakankanfo, Kehinde Aderemi, said the monarchs have been assigned to play both traditional and fatherly roles in ensuring that Igboho’s rights to freedom is protected without abuse or misjudgments.

Leading the traditional rulers were the Alajowun of Ajowun land, Oba Signon Adekilumo; Alajase of Ajase-Ile Porto-Novo, Oba Alajase Onikoyi; Onitowe of Towe land, Oba Shitu Adeleke; Ologunba of Ogunba, Oba Adio Ogunju; Oniohorije of Ohori land, Oba Awelede Salomon; Onimasse of Mase land, Oba Akerekoro; Palais Royal de Seme Krake, Sa Majeste Roi de KRAKE;

Palais Royal de Ilase Sa Majeste Roi de Ilase, Oloye R. Oguntosin Taye; the Tolulase of Ajase-Ile Kingdom, Porto-Novo; and Aremo Onikoyi Abesan Keefa Ajase-Ile, among others.

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