The leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, has applied to the Federal High Court in Abuja to be transferred from the custody of the State Security Service (SSS) to prison.
Alluding to a worsening heart condition, Mr Kanu also urged the court to make an order granting him access to his cardiology doctor.
PREMIUM TIMES obtained a copy of Mr Kanu’s application as his trial on charges of treasonable felony began on Monday.
Mr Kanu who fled Nigeria, ditching his trial in 2017, was rearrested and brought back to Nigeria last month under controversial circumstances.
He was produced in court on June 29, when the trial judge, Binta Nyako, ordered him to be remanded in the custody of the SSS and adjourned the case till today (Monday).
The hearing resumed with the arrival of the judge around 11.10 a.m. on Monday.
Mr Kanu was conspicuously absent as the SSS, curiously, failed to produce him in court.
The prosecution cited issues of “logistics” as the reason for SSS’ inability to produce Mr Kanu in court, but defence lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, countered the suggestion, saying the defendant had been moved out of Abuja.
Mrs Nyako subsequently adjourned the trial till October 21.
Application for transfer to prison
In his application filed by his lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, on July 14, a copy of which PREMIUM TIMES obtained on Monday, Mr Kanu’s legal team said he would not get a fair trial if he remained in SSS custody.
“The applicant cannot get fair trial in this case if the applicant continues to be detained in the custody of the State Security Service, where there is apparent inhibition to witnesses and materials that will be used for his defence,” the application read in part.
It added, “The principle of Nemo Judex in Causa sua is applicable in this case: The State Security Service is keeping and prosecuting the applicant at the same time.
“The fact that it was the State Security Service that arrested and accused the applicant for the commission of the alleged offences in charge number FHC/ABJ/CR/383/2015 and still keeps the applicant in their custody, clearly shows that the right to fair trial of the applicant cannot be guaranteed.”
The defence lawyer also argued that aside from the SSS not being “an impartial entity regarding the detention”, Mr Kanu also faces the difficulties of having “very limited access to his lawyers”.
Mr Ejiofor said Mr Kanu’s lawyers “can only visit him after the approval of the Director of the State Security Services has been first fought and obtained, which said approval in most cases, takes days”.
The situation, he said, “would greatly impede the defendant’s constitutional right to unrestricted access to facilities for the preparation of his defence”.
In addition, Mr Ejiofor argued that “The cell of the State Security Service is not a statutorily recognised facility for detaining persons who are facing trials before a court of law”.
The Nigerian prison, officially referred to as the Nigerian Correctional Service Centre, Mr Ejiofor said, is not only the proper place of custody for the defendant but also “an impartial facility that has no interest whatsoever, in the outcome of this charge”.
Also cited as another ground for the application is Mr Kanu’s “health condition”, which was said to require “urgent and specialised medical attention”.
“It important that the defendant’s medical consultants be allowed to carry out proper, thorough end independent medical examination of the defendant to save the defendant’s life,” the application read in part.
It added specifically that Mr Kanu “needs regular medical observation” by his “medical specialists/consultants in cardiology”.
“The defendant can only be alive to stand his trial, since it is only the living that can face trial,” the defence said, adding that their client “is entitled to fair hearing and/or trial in this case”.
“The SSS has a great interest in the outcome of the trial of the applicant and would readily ensure that the applicant is jailed.
“Justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done,” the application added.
The defence team, therefore, prayed for, “An order of this honourable court directing the transfer of the applicant from the custody of the national headquarters of the State Security Service to the Nigerian Correctional Service Centre in Kuje, Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, where he was originally detained before he was granted bail, pending the determination of the charge.”
Another order sought in the application is one “directing the defendant/applicant’s custodian, to grant access to his medical experts/doctors for the purpose of carrying out a comprehensive independent medical examination of the defendant/applicant’s heart condition/status, while in custody”.
Government opposes application, says investigation ongoing
The federal government, through the prosecution team in the Federal Ministry of Justice, has filed an objection to the application, saying “there is an ongoing investigation as to other offences committed by the defendant/applicant” during the period he jumped bail.
In its counter-affidavit filed on July 19, it maintained that the offences he allegedly committed bordered on national security, adding that “transferring the applicant to the correctional facility will jeopardise the proper investigation of the offences”.
A litigation officer in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Federal Ministry of Justice, Loveme Odubo, who deposed to the counter-affidavit on behalf of the government, described how Mr Kanu was “magnanimously” granted bail on health grounds in April 2017.
Mr Odubo said instead of attending to his health condition, Mr Kanu “flouted all the bail conditions and also jumped the bail granted him by this honourable court”.
The litigation officer, who recalled how the court subsequently revoked the bail earlier granted the defendant, added that the court had, “considering the antecedents of the defendant/applicant” ordered his remand in SSS custody “pending his trial in the interest of national security”.
Responding to grounds of ill health canvassed by Mr Kanu’s lawyer, the government said the defendant “does not place anything before this honourable court that suggests the medical facility at the DSS (SSS) detention is not capable of handling his health issues.”
The government also said “the defendant/applicant’s application is capable of delaying the Proceedings in this case.”
Meanwhile, the trial judge, Binta Nyako, on Monday adjourned the case till October 21, which implies that Mr Kanu’s application is not likely to be heard until then.
Curiously, Mr Kanu was not produced by the SSS in court for the much-touted trial on Monday.
Mrs Nyako, in adjourning the case cited Mr Kanu’s absence and the commencement of the court’s judges’ vacation on Monday.