INDIGENOUS People of Biafra (Ipob) leader Nnamdi Kanu has been denied bail by the federal high court in Abuja amid fears that he may abscond again if released from detention as happened the last time.
Highly controversial, Mr Kanu has been campaigning for the recreation of the independent republic of Biafra which broke away from Nigeria between July 1967 and January 1970 during the civil war. His campaign, which has led to the phenomenal growth of Ipob, has set him at odds with the Nigerian government who him arrested and put on trial for treason.
While the case was still pending, Mr Kanu was granted bail in April 2017 on health grounds but skipped his bail after flouting the conditions given to him by the court and fled Nigeria. However, in a dramatic development in June last year, Mr Kanu was abducted in Kenya in a commando operation carried out by Nigerian security operatives and flown to Nigeria where his trial has resumed.
Yesterday, in court, Justice Binta Nyako dismissed the bail application as well as Mr Kanu’s his bid for the revocation of the arrest warrant issued against him when he ceased to attend court. She described the application, filed by Mr Kanu’s lawyers, led by Mike Ozekhome, as an abuse of the court process.
Justice Nyako held that Mr Kanu failed to provide satisfactory reasons why he failed to appear in court for the continuation of his trial shortly after he was granted bail on health grounds in 2017. In addition, the judge faulted Mr Kanu’s claim that he was forced to flee the country and was denied a fair hearing when the court revoked his bail and ordered his arrest.
She noted that, from the court’s records, Mr Kanu’s lawyers and sureties were present the day his bail was revoked and the bench warrant issued for his arrest. Justice Nyako added that although a court possesses the power to vacate its order, she has not been given any cogent reasons to so act.
Justice Nyako said: “In fact, the sureties told the court that they did not know the whereabouts of the defendant and even applied to be discharged from the matter, therefore, the defendant was not denied a fair hearing. The present application amounts to an abuse of court process for attempting to re-litigate an issue already decided by the court.
“If the defendant is dissatisfied, he has the Appeal Court to go to. This application is accordingly dismissed.”
Mr Kanu is standing trial on a seven-count treasonable felony charge but he applied for the vacation of the order for his arrest and the restoration of the bail earlier granted him. He claimed to have been compelled to leave the country following an alleged invasion of his family home in Abia State by men of the Nigerian Army.
In a ruling on March 18, Justice Nyako rejected the application. After the judge’s ruling yesterday, the prosecuting lawyer, David Kaswe, requested the commencement of trial but Mr Ozekhome objected saying his client has filed an appeal against an earlier ruling of the court in which it voided eight out of the 15 counts contained in the charge against Mr Kanu.
Ozekhome said his client believed that all the counts ought to be voided since the alleged offences were said to have been committed outside the country. Justice Nyako agreed with Mr Ozekhome on the need to await the Court of Appeal’s decision, so she adjourned the hearing until November 14.