Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court, Abuja, has ordered the trial in absentia of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Justice Nyako made the order on Thursday and revoked the bail granted Nnamdi Kanu just as the court ordered his arrest.
The court predicated its order on the failure of Kanu’s lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, to provide “cogent, compelling, and verifiable reason” why his client repeatedly did not appear in court to continue his trial.
Kanu was being prosecuted by the Federal Government on a treasonable felony charge before he allegedly fled the country.
His whereabouts has remained unknown since September 2017.
But Kanu, who has dual citizenship, has since been reportedly sighted at various locations outside the country, including Jerusalem and the United Kingdom.
He was standing trial for a five-count charge, alongside three other pro-Biafra agitators, Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi.
In view of the provision of section 352(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, Justice Nyako held that the court would go ahead to try Kanu in absentia.
Consequently, the court fixed June 18 to begin Kanu’s trial in his absence.
The ruling was sequel to an application made by Shuaibu Labaran, counsel to the Federal Government, on Wednesday.
Labaran had, at the resumed trial, urged the court to revoke Kanu’s bail which was granted to him on April 25, 2016.
Labaran had drawn the attention of the court to the fact that all the three persons that stood surety for the IPOB leader had since applied to withdraw from the matter.
“We humbly submit that the defendant has been given adequate opportunity in line with section 352(4) of the ACJA.
“When he failed to utilise such opportunity, the court took the appropriate step of initiating proceeding requiring the sureties to show cause.
“Even at that, this court has been so magnanimous in granting several adjournments, giving the sureties the opportunity to show cause.
“Consequent upon which the court delivered a ruling on November 14, 2018, for the sureties to forfeit their bail bond, a matter that is currently the subject of appeal.
“It is on record that even the sureties have applied to withdraw because they cannot explain the whereabouts of the defendant.
“It is our submission that the request by counsel to the defendant is rather belated.
“This is the kind of application that he ought to have brought when the court, after granting the defendant bail, adjourned for nearly 12 months.
“We urge the court to discountenance the request for adjournment to give any explanation, and order that the bail be revoked, and issue a bench warrant against the defendant.
“Finally, we urge the court to issue an order for trial of the defendant in absentia, in compliance with relevant portions of the law,” Labaran said.
Kanu’s lawyer, Ejiofor, had earlier made concerted efforts to persuade the court to grant a short adjournment to enable him file affidavit evidence to explain reasons behind the defendant’s disappearance, but this was refused.
Ejiofor had insisted that Kanu’s disappearance was occasioned by the unwarranted invasion of his home by the Nigerian army.
He was overruled by the judge who traced the history of the case and Kanu’s repeated failure to make himself available for trial since he was released on bail.
“I am of the opinion that learned counsel is only seeking for time to delay the inevitable,” Justice Nyako held.