By Uche Amunike
Detained leader of the secessionist group, Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s Trial witnessed a dramatic twist as his lawyers staged a walk out yesterday, when the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja began its proceedings on the seven-count charge of treasonable felony preferred against him by the Federal government of Nigeria.
As a result of this, the operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) refused to allow some members of his defense team from gaining access into the courtroom.
The embattled Mazi Nnamdi Kanu was brought into the courtroom by 9:52am, but shortly after that, his case was called up without his complete legal team being inside the courtroom. This made him lament that security agents blocked some members of the legal team, especially his lawyer from the United States of America, Mr Bruce Fein.
Mr Fein, who was said to be handling a case for him in the United States was reported to have flown into the country to witness Mazi Kanu’s trial.
After the Trial Justice, Binta Nyako observed that the Federal Government’s lawyer, Mr Muhammed Abubakar, who is the Director of Public Prosecution DPP had announced his appearance and introduced his team, she inquired why Kanu’s lawyers were not present in court.
From the dock, Kanu answered, ‘My counsel from the United States is not allowed to come in. I have an ongoing case in the US. I have not been allowed to see him. He is here to see me and to observe the proceedings. He has been to the DSS to see me, but they denied him access to me.’
Justice Nyako, in reaction, stated that the court had earlier directed the DSS to allow the defendant access to 3 visitors every Monday and Thursday of the week.
She maintained that the court did not specify those that should make the visitors list, therefore, nothing stopped Kanu’s American lawyer from being among those that had visited him in detention.
At this juncture, a representative of the British High Commission, Heather Wilkir who was present in court to observe Mazi Kanu’s trial proceedings was asked by Justice Nyako, how she gained access to the courtroom. To this, she answered that she made a request to the Chief Judge who gave her access to the courtroom.
Nyako, who was not pleased that such a request was granted by the Chief Judge reprimanded Nnamdi Kalu’s Trial Observer from the UK.
Her words: ‘Next time, if you need to observe proceedings in my court, apply to me, not the Chief Judge. The Chief Judge is Justice John Tsoho and he is in charge of Court 1. My name is Justice Nyako and I am the one in charge of court 2’.
Nyako asked Kanu if he was ready for his trial to take place in the absence of his lawyers and he declined.
The Federal government’s lawyer, Abubakar, on his part, tried to persuade the court to continue with Mazi Kanu’s trial, even in the absence of his lawyers, citing that the matter was fixed for hearing of an application filed by the defendant.
He submitted that his pending application should be considered abandoned because his lead counsel, Mr Ejiofor, who was initially inside the courtroom worked out with his team shortly before the arrival of the judge.
Justice Nyako ruled that she was displeased over the conduct of Kanu’s lawyers but she refused to dismiss the pending application and rather adjourned the case still January 19th and 20th, 2022 for trial, adding that she will not make a pronouncement on the action of the defense lawyers. She reiterated that staging a walk out on the court was a very serious offence and advised Kanu to speak with his lawyers over their attitude in order for progress to be made in his case.
After the proceeding, Ejiofor told newsmen that it was wrong for the trial judge to continue with the matter without finding out the reason for the walk out.
He stressed that the court should have invited him to know what the problem was , instead of adjourning the case, noting that one of their grievances was the refusal of the DSS to allow Kanu access to three visitors thrice a week.
Fein confirmed to journalists that the DSS denied him access to Kanu five times, adding that their ‘extraordinary rendition’ of Kanu from Kenya contravened all known international laws and conventions.
He said he would meet the International Criminal Court of Justice at the Hague to seek redress