By Sunday Ejike Benjamin
The Federal Government yesterday failed in its efforts for secret trial of Kogi state university lecturer, Dr. Nazeef Mohammed Yunus and two others, who are currently standing trial for allegedly sponsoring the deadly activities of the dreaded Boko Haram sect.
Ruling in the secret trial application before a Federal High Court in Abuja, the trial judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole held that the court is mindful of the accused persons’ right to fair hearing and the need to protect the identities of witnesses from the general public as it is done in advanced democracies where cases of terrorism are tried.
Justice Kolawole said: “To balance the conflicting interests of fair trial as prescribed by the constitution and not to unjustly expose ordinary citizens to danger; who have decided to give evidence on behalf of the state; if the court fails to give minimum comfort to witnesses, it will get to a stage where the state will no longer find witnesses”.
The court further held that: “I shall not shut down the entire court room, but shall make adequate provisions to shield the identities of the witnesses including personal securities for those of their families need to be concealed from the general public.
“The court will guarantee fair hearing to the accused persons and protection to the witnesses”, Justice Kolawole assured.
The government in an application filed its counsel, Mrs. N.B Jones Nebo, Chief State Counsel, Attorney-General of the Federation’s office, had applied to the court for a secret trial of the accused persons in order to protect the identities of the witnesses.
The three accused persons; Dr. Nazeef Mohammed Yunus, Musa Umar and Salami Abdullahi, were arraigned on an eight-count charge bordering on terrorism.
Justice Kolawole, adjourned the case to May 6th, 7th and 14th May, 2014, for accelerated hearing.