The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Wednesday, slammed N200, 000 fine against the Federal Government for lack of deligent prosecution of four alleged accomplices of the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu.
The court, in a ruling that was delivered by trial Justice Binta Nyako, berated FG and the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, for repeatedly truncating proceedings in the trial of the four alleged pro-Biafra agitators- Bright Chimezie, Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi.
It ordered FG to pay the N50, 000 to each of the Defendants for inconveniences they suffered as a result of repeated failure of the Prosecution counsel to appear for continuation of hearing of the matter.
The court held that the Defendants must be paid the money before March 17, which is the next adjourned date.
The four Defendants had through their lawyers, complained that on various occasions they appeared in court for their trial, there was no legal representation for the Prosecution.
Their complain came after the matter was called up on Wednesday and no lawyer stood up for FG.
Meanwhile, as trial Justice Nyako was about to adjourn the case, a lawyer from the Ministry of Justice, Mrs Adewumi Aluko, entered the courtroom and apologized for the absence of government’s lead lawyer, Mr. Shuaibu Labaran who she said was out of the country.
She told the court that though two witnesses were available, the matter would however not proceed in the absence of the lead Prosecutor.
Mrs. Aluko, therefore, applied for a short adjournment.
Dissatisfied with the development, Justice Nyako, warned FG to be more serious with the matter, even as she awarded the fine.
The judge further warned that she would not entertain frivolous applications from the Defendants.
It will be recalled that the court had on February 20, 2018, okayed separate trial for the four Defendants who were initially charged alongside Kanu.
The order for their separate trial came after the embattled IPOB leader fled the country in 2017.
The four Defendants, who were previously detained, were later granted bail on June 25, 2018, to the
tune of N10million each, with two sureties in like sum.
Justice Binta ordered their release after she reviewed a previous ruling that denied them bail following FG’s insistence that it has a “very serious” case against them.
The judge observed that though offences the Defendants allegedly committed would attract a maximum of seven years upon conviction, they had already spent better part of the years in prison custody.
The three-count amended charge against the Defendants borders on treasonable felony and conspiracy.
In the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/383/2015, FG, alleged that the Defendants, alongside Kanu and others at large, “on diverse dates in 2014 and 2015 in Nigeria and London, United Kingdom, did conspire amongst yourselves to broadcast on Radio Biafra monitored in Enugu and other areas within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, preparations being made by you and others at large, for states in the South-East and South-South zones and other communities in Kogi and Benue States to secede from the Federal Republic of Nigeria with a view to constituting same into a Republic of Biafra and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 516 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C77, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004”.
In count-two of the charge dated March 16, 2017, FG, alleged that Chimezie and Kanu had between the months of March and April, 2015, imported into Nigeria and kept in Ubuluisiuzor in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State, a Radio transmitter known as TRAM 50L, which they concealed in a container that was declared as used household items, contrary to section 47(2) (a) of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C77, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
It equally alleged that Madubugwu, had sometimes in the month of October 2015, had in his possession at his house in Ubuluisiuzor in Ihiala LGA of Anambra State, one Emerald Magnum Pump Action Gun with Serial Number TS 870-113-0046 and one Delta Magnum Pump Action Gun with Serial Number 501, as well as forty-one cartridges/ammunition without lawful authority or licence and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 27(b) (i) of the Firearms Act, Cap. F28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
All the Defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge.