By Ononye VC
The trial of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), was “truncated” on Tuesday due to the late service of the amended charges on the secessionist’s legal team.
Binta Nyako, the trial judge, after rejecting the prosecution’s excuse for the late service of the newly amended charges on the defence, expressed displeasure over how the attitude truncated the day’s proceedings, forcing her to adjourn the case until Wednesday.
The Nigerian government had on Monday served an amended 15-count charge on Mr Kanu’s legal team.
Mr Kanu, who is being tried on an a seven-count charge bordering on treasonable felony, was expected to take a fresh plea to 15-count amended charge, dated January 17, 2022.
At Tuesday’s sitting, Mr Kanu, who had engaged the services of a prominent lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, to strengthen his defence team, told Mrs Nyako, the trial judge, that he was only served with the fresh amended charge on Monday morning.
“The business of today is to deal with three subsisting applications — application for transfer, motion for bail of the defendant and Preliminary Objection raised in respect of the earlier charge of October 2021,” Mr Ozekhome, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, told the court.
The defence lawyer with the amended charge only served on him Monday morning, he had yet to discuss the contents of the fresh charge with Mr Kanu.
But the judge disagreed with Mr Ozekhome, insisting that the matter was for trial.
“The date that was set down for trial was the day Mr Ejiofor staged a walk-out on the court,” Mrs Nyako said.
Responding to Mr Ozekhome’s displeasure over late service of court documents, the prosecuting lawyer, Shuiabu Labaran, said the 15-count charge was served on the defence team at 9:45 a.m. on Monday.
He argued that Mr Kanu could still take his plea not minding the lateness in service of the court documents.
Mr Ozekhome lamented that it was the sixth time the federal government had amended charges against the IPOB leader, describing the latest as a “judicial ambush, not justice.”
“The defendant is being told to plead to a charge he has not seen?,” the defence lawyer wondered.
Dissatisfied with the prosecuting lawyer’s argument over the time of service, Mrs Nyako retorted, “but it is bad enough.”
“The day’s proceedings have been truncated,” the judge added, before adjourning the case till Wednesday, January 19, for Mr Kanu to take his plea.
I was almost stripped naked – Ozekhome
Recounting his ordeal in accessing his client at the State Security Service (SSS) detention facility in Abuja, where the IPOB leader is being held since his rearrest last July, Mr Ozekhome said the spy agency ordered him to take off his “wristwatch, shoes and socks” and almost his “pants.”
“The frail-looking defendant (Mr Kanu) is being denied access to people. I was not allowed to go in to see Kanu with even a piece of paper. I was almost stripped naked,” Mr Ozekhome narrated.
“The court’s orders are being flouted with impunity,” the lawyer argued.
In her reaction, Mrs Nyako said: “No detention centre in the world would allow wristwatches, pen because they can be used to record in the detention.”
But the judge restated her earlier orders, directing the secret police to give Mr Kanu the “maximum comfort” that is available.
The fresh amendment to the case by the prosecution saw addition of eight charges to make a total number of 15 counts.
In the court document signed by the Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation, Mohammed Abubakar, which was filed barely 24 hours before the commencement of Tuesday’s proceedings, the IPOB leader was accused of making “a br…