Nnamdi Kanu international lawyer from the United States of America Bruce Fein has threatened to drag Nigeria government before the International Criminal Court over alleged gross violation of his client’s fundamental human rights. Bruce Fein was in court on Wednesday to monitor the trial of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, but was denied access into the courtroom.
Speaking with journalists after the proceedings, Bruce Fein said; “Today was the fifth time I was told I could not enter the courtroom despite the court’s previous order that Nnamdi Kanu could have access to any three persons he wants to.
“I had the chance to talk briefly to him on my way to the courtroom. It is clear that I am the target in particular. That’s the reason why this proceeding did not transpire today.
“And I am here to tell Nigerians and the international community that I am taking this to international tribunals. It is clear that the Nigerian tribunals are compromised.”
The lawyer said he will petition “the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in Geneva, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and I will be going to the United States Congress and urging that sanctions be considered against Nigeria for gross violations of fundamental human rights”.
“I am here not to be an irritant but there are huge international law issues that are present in Nnamdi Kanu’s case. I am here because I am an international expert to provide more enlightenment on what legal issues are present here,” Bruce Fein stated.
Meanwhile, the legal team of Nnamdi Kanu, yesterday staged a walkout as the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja commenced its proceedings on the seven-count charges leveled against Nnamdi Kanu by the Federal Government of Nigeria. Their action followed refusal of operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) to allow some members of Nnamdi Kanu’s defence team gain access into the courtroom.
The embattled IPOB leader, who was brought into the courtroom around 9:52am, had shortly after his case was called up, lamented that security agents blocked some members of his legal team, especially his lawyer from the United States of America, Mr Bruce Fein, from entering the courtroom.
Nnamdi Kanu told the court that Mr. Bruce Fein, whom he said was handling a case for him in the US, was around to witness his trial. The trial judge, Justice Binta Nyako had after FG’s lawyer, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, who is the Director of Public Prosecution, announced his appearance and introduced his team, asked why Nnamdi Kanu’s lawyers were not present in court.
Addressing the court from the dock, Nnamdi Kanu, said: “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.”
Reacting to Nnamdi Kanu’s explanation, Justice Nyako said the court had earlier issued an order that directed the DSS to grant the defendant access to three visitors every Monday and Thursday of the week. Justice Nyako maintained that since the court did not specify those that should make the visitors’ list, nothing barred Nnamdi Kanu’s US lawyer from being included among those that had to visit him in detention.
At this juncture, the trial judge ordered a representative of the British High Commission, Heather Wilkir, who was in court to observe the proceedings on how she gained access into the courtroom. “We made a request to the Chief Judge to have access to the court,” Heather Wilkir responded.
The judge, who was not pleased that such request was directed at the CJ, rather than her, chided the observer from the UK. “Next time, if you need to observe proceedings in my court, apply to me, not the CJ. The CJ 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,” she fumed.
Turning to Nnamdi Kanu, Justice Nyako asked if he was ready to conduct the proceedings in the absence of his lawyers. “No”, Nnamdi Kanu responded. On his part, FG’s lawyer, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, urged the court to proceed with the trial in the absence of Nnamdi Kanu’s lawyers. Mr. Mohammed Abubakar told the court that ordinarily, the matter was fixed for hearing of an application filed by the defendant.
He argued that since Nnamdi Kanu’s lead counsel, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, who was initially inside the courtroom, walked out with his team shortly before the arrival of the judge, his pending application should be deemed abandoned. “Having decided to stage a walkout, we urge the court to see that they have abandoned the application. We urge my lord to accordingly dismiss the application dated October 27,” Mr. Mohammed Abubakar submitted.
In a short ruling, Justice Nyako expressed her displeasure over the conduct of Nnamdi Kanu’s lawyers, she declined to dismiss the pending application and rather adjourned the case till January 19 and 20, 2022, for continuation of the trial. “We will forget the application and let it lie there in the file. I am not going to make a pronouncement on the action of the defence team. Staging a walkout on the court is a very serious offence,” she added.
Turning to Nnamdi Kanu, Justice Nyako said; “It is in your best interest to discuss with your lawyers over their attitude so that we can make progress in this matter,” she added before adjourning the case till 19th January 2022.
Speaking to newsmen immediately the proceeding ended, Nnamdi Kanu’s lead counsel, Barr Ifeanyi Ejiofor, who was flanked by members of his team, including the lawyer from US, Bruce Fein, alleged that the court was bias, partial and unprofessional. Barr Ifeanyi Ejiofor maintained that it was wrong for the trial Judge to proceed with the matter without enquiring into what led to the walkout.
“I have not seen where lawyers will stage a walkout from the court in protest of what we considered to be an abnormality. What the court should do is to invite the lead counsel to know what was going on and not to adjourn the case,” Barr Ifeanyi Ejiofor stated.
“If the court decides to go on with the case without us being a part of it, then, it simply means that we have lost confidence in the court and the court should naturally disqualify itself,” he added.
Barr Ifeanyi Ejiofor noted that part of the grievances his team had included are the refusal of the DSS to obey an order the court made on the last adjourned date for Nnamdi Kanu to be granted access to three visitors twice a week. He said his team had already filed a Form 48 (Contempt of Court Proceeding), against the Director-General of the DSS.
Similarly, Nnamdi Kanu’s US lawyer, Bruce Fein, told journalists that the DSS denied him access to Nnamdi Kanu five times. He alleged that the action of the security agency was barbaric, as well as the “extraordinary rendition” of his client from Kenya, was in contravention of all known international laws and conventions. Bruce Fein further stated that he would approach the International Criminal Court of Justice at The Hague to seek redress.
Meanwhile, a mild drama ensued outside the court premises, as anti-IPOB protesters and Nnamdi Kanu’s supporters, clashed. Shortly after Nnamdi Kanu’s supporters converged on the highway overlooking the court premises, chanting and singing his praise, over a hundred anti-IPOB protesters arrived the scene with two white coffins, waving the national flag.
Boldly written on the coffin and a banner the anti-IPOB protesters arrived the scene with was “IPOB dead”, “Nnamdi Kanu is a terrorist, he killed many security agents”. It took the intervention of a team of security agents, drawn from the DSS, the Nigerian Police Force and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, to avert the fight that ensue between the two groups.
The security operatives, who barricaded all routes leading to the high court adjacent of the Federal Ministry of Justice, had initially barred journalists from gaining access into the court premises. As early as 6am when our correspondent arrived at the court, heavily armed operatives of the DSS ordered him to turn back.
The security operatives equally barred both print and broadcast journalists from major media organizations from entering the court premises. “We are working on instructions, we can’t let you people in,” one of the operatives told newsmen.
Similarly, some lawyers and traditional rulers who arrived the court to represent Ohanaeze Ndigbo, were also turned back. Following a group protest by journalists, those with identification cards previously issued by the court, were allowed to enter the court premises around 8:45am.
While all the accredited journalists were marshalled into the media center where they were ordered to stay, only five, representing the print, broadcast and online media, were eventually permitted to enter the courtroom.
It will be recalled that the federal government had on October 21, 2021 re-arrainged Nnamdi Kanu on a seven-count amended charge. The Federal Government in the amended charges, alleged that Nnamdi Kanu had in furtherance of an act of terrorism, issued a deadly threat that anyone that flouted his sit-at-home order should write his or her will.
It alleged that as a result of Nnamdi Kanu’s directive, banks, schools, markets, shopping malls, fuel stations were not opened for businesses, with vehicular movements grounded in the South East. It said the action amounted to an offence contrary to and punishable under section 1(2) (b) of the Terrorism Prevention Amendment Act, 2013 and many more.
However, spokesman of the Coalition of United Political Parties, Chief Ikenga Ugochinyere Imo, urged the Federal Government of Nigeria to release Nnamdi Kanu unconditionally. He condemned the action of security agencies, saying that baning journalists and members of the public from observing the court proceedings made Nnamdi Kanu’s trial seemed like a planned conspiracy.
He said the decision of security agents, especially the Department of State Services (DSS) to shut out the media from participating in the trial, was enough to erode public confidence in the ability of the court to do justice in the matter.
Bemoaning how some elder statesmen sent to represent Ohanaeze Ndigbo in court were treated by security agents, Chief Imo, who is equally a legal practitioner, said; “Our traditional rulers were also kept under the sun and were not even allowed to enter inside the court premises. What danger does a 90-year-old man portend?
”This cannot be a fair trial. If you want to try a man, you must try him fairly and judiciously. This court even lacks the jurisdiction to try him. The rules of fair trial is very simple; If you think a man has done something wrong, you should try him publicly. We are not going to allow a repeat of what happened in Kenya.
”Has any of the journalists have the courage to ask the Attorney-General of the Federation to ask President Muhammadu Buhari about what happened in Kenya before Nnamdi Kanu was brought back to Nigeria.
”He was abducted at a car park and beaten before he was brought back to Nigeria. Some people will say it does not matter how a suspect was brought to court but we are saying today that it matters because this reminds us of what the Saudi Arabian government did to Khashogi in Turkey.
”We are focusing on what is happening today but we are not focusing on how we got to the point we are right now. Any messenger of truth and anybody who desires justice will understand that the events of today were all predicted. You saw the injustice and the lopsidedness of the action taken by the President right from the very moment he was sworn-in,” he concluded.
On Wednesday, Umuahia, the capital of Abia State, was literally locked down in solidarity with the IPOB leader. Nnamdi Kanu hails from Isiama Afaraukwu Ibeku Autonomous Community in Umuahia North Local Government Area, and his community plays host to Abia seat of power. Shops, markets and business centres in the state capital were all shut down until late afternoon when news of his arraignment and court adjournment filtered in.
Banks also shut down, while schools, both private and public, were all closed. The roads were equally deserted until late afternoon when human and vehicular movements began to flow but was not as heavy as on a normal day.
In Onitsha and Nnewi in Anambra State, roads and streets of the commercial and the industrial towns were completely deserted as residents and traders observed another sit-at-home in solidarity with the IPOB leader. As usual, markets, commercial banks and other financial institutions, street shops and private offices, were all under lock as traders, workers and owners of businesses stayed away to observe the solidarity sit-at-home.
Federal Government establishments in Onitsha and Nnewi, including the Federal Inland Revenue Services, and National Inland Waterways Authority, were also shut down from business transactions.
Some residents who spoke with journalists, including a lawyer, Oguwike Nwosu, alleged that the Federal Government of Nigeria was very happy that the South East was constantly being locked down and would like it to continue since it does not in any way threaten cattle business.
A resident, who preferred anonymity, told journalists that whether the Federal Government liked it or not, the people of the South East would continue to sit-at-home in solidarity with Nnamdi Kanu until he is released unconditional. What the people of the South East are clamouring for are equity, fairness and equal treatment in the project called Nigeria,” he stated.
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