Three separate suits involving the detained leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and the Director of Radio Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, spokesman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Olisa Metuh and the immediate past National Security Adviser (NSA) Col. Sambo Dasuki at the Court of Appeal Division in Abuja, were all stalled yesterday for various reasons.
The Appellate Court however dismissed the move of the Senate President Bukola Saraki to stop his ongoing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for alleged false assets declaration.
Kanu and two other pro-Biafra agitators, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi are being tried for alleged treasonable felony, an offence punishable under Section 41(C) of the Criminal Code Act, CAP C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
The Federal Government is alleging that they were the ones managing the affairs of the IPOB which it described as “an unlawful society”. Specifically, Kanu 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.
However, the accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charge on January 20, even as the court ordered their remand at the Kuje Prison in Abuja.
At the Appellate Court, Kanu, through his counsel, Chuks Muoma (SAN) in an appeal is urging the Appeal Court in Abuja to set aside a decision of Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court in Abuja which gave the Department of State Services (DSS) permission to protect its witnesses.
Kanu’s appeal came after Justice John Tsoho granted the DSS the permission to protect its witness.
The court in its ruling had asked that the witnesses be shielded from the audience and that their names and addresses be protected from the public.
But in his argument, the defence counsel said it would be wrong to make such protection for people who had accused the defendants in public.
Surprisingly, Kanu’s appeal was not listed yesterday on the cause list as the presiding justice of the three-man panel of the appellate court, Justice Abdul Aboki, said the suit was deliberately not slated for hearing due to a week-long conference being organised for the court’s Justices.
Upon a passionate appeal for a short date to accommodate the suit by Kanu’s lead counsel, Mr. Muoma (SAN), who told the court that he had travelled all the way from Aba, Abia State, Justice Aboki adjourned the suit till May 5 for hearing.
For Olisa Metuh, the PDP spokesperson is challenging the decision of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court which ordered Metuh to open his defence in his trial for money laundering on April 11.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, on January 15, 2016 arraigned Metuh and his firm, Destra Investments Limited, before Justice Abang on a seven-count charge of money laundering involving a $2m cash transaction.
Justice Abang had made the order directing them to open their defence on April 16 after dismissing a number of the defendants’ applications, including one asking the judge to withdraw from the case and another asking for an indefinite adjournment.
Metuh, through his lawyer, Mr. Emeka Etiaba (SAN), had requested an indefinite adjournment pending when the Court of Appeal would hear and determine his appeal against the court’s ruling dismissing his no-case submission and his motion for stay of proceedings of his trial.
Another lawyer, Mr. Tochukwu Onwugbufor (SAN) took over the defence of Metuh’s firm while Etiaba remained the PDP spokesperson’s lawyer.
The prosecution led by Mr. Sylvanus Tahir, had since February 9, 2016, closed its defence with eight witnesses, and the court had subsequently on March 9, 2016, dismissed the accused’s no-case submission.
At yesterday’s proceedings of the suit at the Appellate Court, Metuh’s appeal was stalled due to irregularities in the filing of court processes.
As a result, Justice Aboki adjourned the suit till May 5 to enable the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Tahir file his response to the appellants’ motions.
In the suit of the former National Security Adviser (NSA) Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), he approached the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, praying it to set aside the judgment of an Abuja High Court which declined to nullify his arrest and detention by the Federal Government since December last year, in spite of existing court orders that admitted him to bail.
In the appeal filed by his counsel, Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN), Dasuki is asking the Appellate Court to stop his trial in the criminal charges of money laundering and corruption brought against him until government has purged itself of the contempt of court.
The appeal was in response to the ruling of Justice Baba Yusuf which last month refused to stop his trial on the ground that his detention was at the instance of the Department of the State Security Service (DSS) and not the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission responsible for the trial before the judge.
In the notice of appeal, the appellant claimed that the Abuja High Court erred in law by not holding the fact that the DSS detaining him and the EFCC responsible for his trial on corruption charges are both agents of the Federal Government which is the complainant in the charges against him.
However, when the case came up for hearing yesterday, the Appellate Court could not go ahead following the inability of the Federal Government (respondent) to file its brief of argument.
The Federal Government’s counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) told the three-member panel of Justices of the appeal court headed by Justice Abdul Aboki that the appellant’s brief of argument was served on him last week and that by the practice of the court, he has 10 days to file his own respondent’s brief of arguments.
Jacobs then asked for brief adjournment to enable him file his brief of argument and Justice Aboki granted the request and that the adjourned date would be reserved until all processes have been filed and exchanged by all parties involved in the matter. Justice Aboki said that the date will be communicated to the lawyers when fixed.
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal Division in Abuja yesterday struck out an application by the Senate President Bukola Saraki in which he prayed the court to stay proceedings at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit before the appellate court.
Saraki is standing trial at the CCT over alleged false assets declaration while he was governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.
The Senate President, through his counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), had filed a request at the appellate court to challenge the March 24 decision of the Tribunal.
The CCT had on March 24, 2016 dismissed Saraki’s application which questioned the tribunal’s jurisdiction to hear his suit.
But at the commencement of proceedings at the Appeal Court for the hearing of the motion, Agabi pleaded to withdraw the request to temporarily stop sitting in the matter at the Tribunal.
In a short ruling, the three-man panel of the appellate court presided over by Justice Abdul Aboki, acceded to the request and struck out the application.
Justice Aboki held that it is no longer possible for the court to stay proceedings at the trial court anymore.
“Our practice is not to stay proceedings at the lower court. Even if you move any application in that regard, we shall reject it,” the Justice declared.
Thereafter, Agabi appealed to the court for an accelerated hearing following the withdrawal of the application for stay of proceedings at the CCT.