John Tsoho, justice of the federal high court, Abuja, on Friday, denied Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and director of Radio Biafra, bail. The judge ruled that Kanu was a threat to national security, and as a result would not be granted bail. He held that if released Kanu might commit the same offence again, and that there was a probability that he might jump bail because he possessed dual citizenship. He therefore ruled that Kanu be remanded in prison custody, and ordered an accelerated hearing of the case. Tsoho had fixed Friday for ruling on Kanu’s bail application which was argued on Monday. Arguing for Kanu’s release, Nnoruka Udechukwu, senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), urged the court to release him, stating that the offence he was alleged to have committed was a bailable one. Udechukwu argued that the Criminal Justice Act, 2015, stipulated bail for anyone not accused of a capital offence.
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He said that the offence of which Kanu was accused was a “civil rights” issue, adding that the right to agitate is guaranteed in a democracy. “The right to agitate is inherent in a democracy. People must not be denied of their rights to protest by way of being kept in custody,” he said. “If national security was a ground to throw people into detention the Criminal Justice Act would have said so.” Making his own submission, Mohammed Diri, counsel to the federal government, said he was “seriously opposed to this application.”
He argued that the application did not fulfil certain conditions spelt out in section 162 of the Criminal Justice Act, 2015. Diri said that Kanu might jump bail if released because according to his statement to the Department of State Services (DSS) he is a British citizen. “He sneaked into this country. He didn’t enter the country the proper way. He may sneak out,” he said. “I urge this court to refuse this application and order for accelerated hearing.” Kanu alongside Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi is facing a six-count charge of treasonable felony. Count one of the charges reads:
“That you, Nnamdi Kanu and other unknown persons now at large in London, United Kingdom, between the year 2014 and September 2015, with intention to levy war against Nigeria in order tto force the president to change his measures of being the president of the federation, head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the federation as defined in section 3 of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) by doing an act wit: Broadcast on Radio Biafra monitored by NBC for your preparations for the states in the southeast geo-political zone, south-south geo-political zone, the Igala community of Kogi and Idoma to secede from the federal republic of Nigeria and form themselves into a republic of Biafra, and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 41 (C) of the criminal code act, CAP C38 laws of the federation of Nigeria, 2004.” On December 23, 2015, he had refused to take his plea before Ahmed Mohammed, justice of the federal high court, Abuja, citing lack of confidence in the court.
This was after Adeniyi Ademola, another justice of the federal high court, Abuja, ordered the DSS to release him unconditionally, and after a chief magistrate court discharged and acquitted him of charges of criminal intimidation and management of an unlawful society.
Meanwhile, there was mild drama at the court over legal representation for Kanu. Kanu had written a letter to the judge, stating that his lawyers were only Chuks Muoma(SAN) and Ifeanyi Ejiofor, excluding Udechukwu, who argued his bail application, and Vincent Obetta, the counsel, who had represented him since the beginning of his trial at the chief magistrate court, Wuse zone 2, Abuja. In protest, Udechukwu announced that he was standing down, and asked the court to strike out his name as Kanu’s counsel.
But Muoma, in order not to stall the ruling, asked Justice Tsoho to rule on the defendant’s bail application even though Udechukwu, who argued it had pulled out. The judge thereafter delivered the ruling refusing Kanu bail.