Southeast Based Coalition of Human Rights Organizations (SBCHROs) alleged that the proposed five Faceless witnesses which the Department of State Service (DSS) and the Directorate of Federal Public Prosecution intend to produce in court to testify against Biafra campaigner Nnamdi Kanu and his co accused may most likely have been recruited from among tens of thousands of “awaiting trial persons” presently languishing in the Nigerian Prisons with delayed or without trial.

“The unfolding drama in the ongoing trial of Citizen Nnamdi Kanu (POC) and ors over phantom accusation of being ‘treasonable felons’ as well as the macabre dance of Hon Justice John Tsehemba Tsoho in his trial proceedings and the Federal Government of Nigeria per DSS and Federal Directorate of Public Prosecution are a clear attestation of the fact under reference,” SBCHROs said in a statement issued in Onitsha.

The statement was signed by Emeka Umeagbalasi for International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety); Comrade Aloysius Attah for Anambra State Branch of the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO); Comrade Peter Onyegiri for Center for Human Rights & Peace Advocacy (CHRPA); Comrade Samuel Njoku for Human Rights Club (a project of LRRDC (HRC); Justus Uche Ijeoma, Esq. for Forum for Justice, Equity & Defense of Human Rights (FJEDHR); Comrade Chike Umeh for Society Advocacy Watch Project (SPAW); Obianuju Joy Igboeli, Esq. for Anambra Human Rights Forum (AHRF); Comrade Alex Olisa for Southeast Good Governance Forum (SGGF); Jerry Chukwuokolo, PhD, for International Solidarity for Peace & Human Rights Initiative (ITERSOLIDARITY); Evelyn Chinwe Eze, Esq. for Street Law Africa (LawAfrica); and Tochukwu Ezeoke, for Igbo Ekunie Initiative.

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In it, SBCHROs drew similarities between Kanu’s travails and those of Messrs Sambo Dasuki and Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, declaring that they “are already executively convicted waiting for mere judicial legitimisation.”

SBCHROs said in the statement: “By nature, something can never be produced from nothing. In law, he who alleges must proof and he who alleges falsely can only falsely proof as well. These explain the reasons behind the macabre dance of Hon Justice John Tsoho and other unfolding dramas under reference.

“We are also not surprised over “the Auta style” disposition of Hon Justice John Tsoho. We will not dissipate more energy repeating ourselves per Intersociety; having long and correctly disclosed and unmasked the unholy wedlock between the Judge and the embattled Federal Government of Nigeria with a compensatory reward of next CJship of the Federal High Court. Till date, that insightful position of ours has remained publicly undisputed.

“We wish to remind Nigerians and members of the international community that few weeks after the swearing in of Gen Muhammadu Buhari as Nigeria’s sixth electoral president, a close ally of his and chieftain of APC, Dr. Yakubu Lame (former police affairs minister) openly condemned the 1999 Constitution and the principles of the Rule of Law and called for “creation of emergency powers to enable Gen Buhari to perform”. Till date, the Government of Gen Muhammadu Buhari has kept sealed lips over such abominable and treasonable comments.

Since then the 1999 Constitution and the hallowed principles of rule of law including respect for citizens’ constitutional and fundamental rights have suffered a series of bastardisation and gross disrespect. President Muhammadu Buhari and his administration hardly mention the 1999 Constitution in most of their public utterances and international public functions.

“It is also worthy to recall that all the criminal cases brought against Citizen Nnamdi Kanu (POC) grossly lack indictable and prosecutorial elements till date. In the first phantom charges hurriedly cooked up after what looked like a failed abduction and assassination mission; the Federal Government shamelessly backed out and discontinued same. Then came another phantom criminal allegation of “terrorism and terrorism financing”, intended to keep him long in pretrial incarceration; the Federal High Court washed its hands off the phantom pretrial proceedings. The Buhari administration further gambled and came up with its latest “treasonable felony”; yet it still cannot sustain the charge, leading to resort to recruitment, indoctrination, brainwashing and proposed masking of false witnesses for the purpose of convicting Citizen Nnamdi Kanu (POC) alongside others at all costs.

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“The same persecution being visited on Citizen Nnamdi Kanu (POC) is also meted out to Sheik Ibrahim Zaky El-Zaky. Here is a man being persecuted and treated violently for belonging to a non-armed and nonviolent religious movement in Nigeria. Apart from violently murdering members of his nuclear family and 300-700 unarmed members of his sect, the Buhari administration has taken him into solitary and incommunicado confinement without fair and credible trial till date. Over 190 of his members are presently undergoing questionable criminal prosecution. Sheik El-Zaky Zaky was also battered and lacerated by Buhari administration’s killer soldiers in December 2015. Apart from legion of rights abuses committed against the battered and detained Muslim leader, there is no section in the 1999 Constitution that allows Gen Buhari and his diarchic administration to detain a citizen in perpetual confinement without credible trial or release.

“These explain why we hold strongly that “the present administration of Gen Muhammadu Buhari is utterly diarchic and operates with a set of rules unknown to the 1999 Constitution and harmful to the same Constitution, Nigerians and the rule of law. The Buhari administration has further gone ahead to recruit morally diminished and shameless characters in the country’s judiciary for the purpose of doing its coercive biddings. It is on account of this that Gen Buhari is emboldened to inform international press of “those “who will end up in jail” by fire by force and outside recourse to constitutionalism and rule of law. To him, the likes of Citizens Nnamdi Kanu, Sambo Dasuki and Ibrahim El-Zaky “are already executively convicted” waiting for mere judicial legitimisation.

“The macabre dance of Hon Justice John Tsoho in the phantom trial of Citizen Nnamdi Kanu is a clear case in point. Apart from being inescapably caught up between his parochial interest of becoming the next pro establishment Chief Judge of the Federal High Court after the exit of the “Ogoni Nine” hanger and the interest of justice (justice to Citizen Nnamdi Kanu, rule of law and Nigerians); the two cardinal principles of nemo judex in causa sua (no one should be a judge in his or her own cause/case or judicial biasness) and audi altarem partem (listen to the other side or let the other side be heard as well) have not only been ridiculed but also grossly bastardised under his procedural watch. The absence of these two cardinal principles has reduced the trial proceedings of Hon Justice John Tsoho to “a kangaroo military tribunal”.

“Apart from Hon Justice John Tsoho’s trial proceedings lacking “fair hearing and fair trial” components, he also probated and reprobated by ruling and countering and contradicting himself and his earlier ruling. His clear conflict of interest (eyeing of CJship) has robbed him and his trial proceedings of fairness, independence, neutrality and impartiality. His brazen refusal to hands off the matter as was earlier advised is shocking and alarming. For instance, the same judge that had in his earlier ruling, ruled against any form of secret trial and presentation of masked witnesses or witnesses behind the screens; suddenly turned around and granted same. He has also delayed deliberately the signing of his questionable rulings to enable the defense counsel prepare and file relevant appeals. The signing of his controversial ruling on Citizen Nnamdi Kanu’s bail application was done few hours to the expiration of 14 mandatory days for appeal, after hot verbal exchanges with the defence counsel.

“We have long been informed by concerned reliable sources and we did not believe it, until the unfolding events unveiled; that the insistence of the Government of Muhammadu Buhari to prosecute Citizen Nnamdi Kanu off camera or with masked witnesses is not only because it has no credible witnesses to testify against him on phantom allegation of “treasonable felony”, but also because it planned to recruit, indoctrinate, brainwash and use some “awaiting trial persons” detained over sundry street crimes allegations to falsely testify against him; in return for withdrawal of such criminal allegations against them or enlistment of their names in the list of those periodically granted pardon or unconditional release by relevant Chief Judges of States and FCT during their routine visits to prisons for the purpose of prison decongestion.

“Section 174 (1) (c) of the 1999 Constitution empowers the Attorney General of the Federation to discontinue at any stage before judgment is delivered any such criminal proceedings instituted or undertaken by him or any other authority or person in any court in Nigeria. Under Section 1 (1) of the Criminal Justice Release from Custody Special Provision Act CAP C40, 2007, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria and relevant provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJ) of 2015, Chief Judges of the 36 States & FCT are empowered to release unconditionally those in awaiting trial detention. There are other provisions (prerogative of mercy) empowering the president, governors, Chief Justice of Nigeria and States and FCT Chief Judges to during special public events, release or pardon or commute long jail sentences given to jailed serious criminal offenders.

“It is on this note that we commend the dogged and untiring efforts of the defence counsel led by the duo of Chief Chuks Muoma, SAN and Ifeanyi Ejiofor, APTP (advocate of the persecuted & threatened people). The clinical efforts of our (Intersociety) amiable head of democracy & good governance advocacy programme, Barr Chinwe Umeche, who is a member of the defence legal team, are also commended and appreciated. We have further taken public notice of open threats directed at Barr Ifeanyi Ejiofor by some overzealous DSS operatives during the court sitting of 7th of March 2016.

“The position and insistence of the defence legal team that Hon Justice John Tsoho is unfit and morally diminished to continue to preside over the trial is totally correct and gratifying. The democratic tenets, principles of the rule of law and provisions of the 1999 Constitution forbid any form of secret or presentation of masked witnesses or false evidence against a citizen accused in the open and in a democratic society. As a matter of fact, Section 36 (3) of the 1999 Constitution (amended in 2011) commandingly directs that “the proceedings of a court or proceedings of any tribunal relating to matters mentioned in subsection (1) of this section including the announcement of the decisions of the court or tribunal shall be held in public.”

“We cannot accept or tolerate a situation where citizens are accused and charged in the open courts of judiciary and the masses only to be tried and evidenced in secret or behind the screens. It is our sound advice to Citizen Nnamdi Kanu and his legal team to stick to their insistence on exercising their rights to fair hearing and fair trial as well as open court trial including open witnesses, open testimonies, open examinations, open cross examinations and open judgments. The trial proceedings under reference must also be removed from the hands of Hon Justice John Tsehemba Tsoho and assigned to another judge.”

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