Nnamdi Kanu to be prosecuted in secret, trial venue moves to CCT

THE trial of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Nnamdi Kanu is to be conducted in secret in line with the new Practice Directions on terrorism-related cases adopted by the Federal High Court (FHC).

In line with the development, the venue of Kanu’s trial will move from the Abuja FHC to the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) headquarters in Abuja.

According to the new practice directions, trial of terrorism-related offences are to henceforth be conducted in camera.


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Chief Judge of the FHC John Tsoho, who issued the new practice directions, said it was adopted in line with the provisions of Section 254 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).

Under the new arrangement, media coverage of terrorism-related proceedings is strictly prohibited, unless permitted by the court.

Order 2 of the new practice directions, which deals with trial proceedings stated: “The perimeters of the court sitting over a terrorism trial shall be secured for the period of the trial for the safety of litigants and court officials.

“Distance and size of perimeters to be secured for the trial shall be determined based on the recommendation of security agencies on a case-by-case basis.

“No person shall be allowed within the secured perimeters save the approved court officials; parties and a number of pre-registered legal practitioners on either side, witnesses; and any other person as may be directed by the Judge or the most senior Judge in the given circumstances.

“Only the judges, other essential court staff, and security agencies involved in the particular case and their vehicles shall access the court premises.

“Proceedings of offences of terrorism, subject to the provisions of section 232 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 and section 34 of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 (as amended), shall be held in camera or as may be ordered by the Court.

“The names, addresses, telephone numbers and identities of the victims of such offences or witnesses in the proceedings shall not be disclosed in any record or report of the proceedings and it shall be sufficient to designate the names of the victims or witnesses with a combination of alphabets.”

Also, according to the practice directions, to ensure the safety and/or protect the identity of the victim or a witness, “The court will hold its proceedings at any place to be designated by the Chief Judge and in the case of the Abuja Judicial Division, the venue for the time being, shall be the premises of the Code of Conduct Tribunal.”

The court can also “receive evidence by video link; permit the witness to be screened or masked; receive written depositions of expert witnesses and direct that all or any part of the proceedings of the Court shall not be published in any manner.”

In the same vein, the court can “exclude from the proceedings any person other than the parties and their legal representatives,” and “make order as to any electronic devices that would be allowed during a proceeding.”

The Chief Information Officer of the FHC Catherine Christopher on Thursday in Abuja said that the practice directions shall take immediate effect.

In another development, Justice Tsoho said the decision to change the venue of Kanu’s trial was informed by the need to prevent the interruption of other pending cases in court.

He disclosed this while hosting the newly elected executives of the Abuja Chapter of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in his office.

It is believed that the decision might not be unconnected to complaints about the discomfort experienced during the trial, which usually attract many security agents.






     

     

    Also on Thursday Kanu filed a fresh suit before the Federal High Court, Abuja, demanding his unconditional release.

    Kanu, in the suit, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/462/2022, is also claiming N50 billion damages and N100 million as the cost of the suit.

    He argued that he was abducted in Kenya by the Nigerian government’s agents, brought to Nigeria and kept under unlawful custody.

    The Federal Government and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) are the defendants.

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