By Vivian Okejeme, Abuja
Justice Binta Nyako of a Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday granted the prosecution leave to separate the trial of the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, from that of his three other co-accused.
The trial judge gave the separation order sequel to an oral application brought by Prosecution Counsel, Shuaibu Labaran, at the resumption of the matter yesterday.
Kanu, Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi, are currently facing an amended 6 count charge bordering on treasonable felony, terrorism and illegal possession of firearms, preferred against them by the Federal government.
When the matter was called up, the first defendant(Kanu) who is still at large was absent in court for his trial.
Consequently, Labaran, sought the guidance of the court as regards further proceedings of the trial taken into consideration the presence of only three of the defendants in court.
Arguing his oral application, Labaran said that as far as Kanu’s whereabouts is still unknown, it was imperative that his trial be separated from the others to enable the matter proceed, adding that his absence since April, 2017, he was granted bail has frustrated progress of the case.
“We shall be asking for the indulgence of the court to separate the charges so that progress can be made in the matter.
“The absence of first defendant since he was granted bail since April 2017, and presently we don’t know where he is because he has jumped bail thereby stalling the case.
“The prosecution shall therefore be requesting to separate the charge of Kanu from the others so that progress can be made in the matter, “ Labaran submitted.
Reacting to the oral application, counsel to the 1st to 3rd defendants did not object to the separation of the trial.
Delivery his ruling, the judge agreed with the prosecution, that Kanu’s absence since when he was granted bail last year had actually stalled trial of the case and consequently ordered that the trial of kanu be separated from the rest.
Justice Nyako asked Kanu’s Counsel when he is presenting his client in court, Ifeanyi Ejiofor replied that the defence is hopeful that the prosecution will produce Kanu on the 28 March.
The judge, however, reminded Ejiofor that the onus to produce Kanu lies in the defence and the sureties hands because Kanu was granted bail and handed over to them.
“In view of this fact, I subsequently separate the the trial of the other defendants,” the Judge ruled.
‘’The court, is adjourned till, March 28, for the 1st defendant to be produced in court or his sureties appear in court to explain the whereabouts of Nnamdi Kanu.
“Also March 20, 21, and 22 for the three other defendants to take their plea to the amended charge and commencement of trial.
Earlier, prosecution counsel reminded the court that the matter was adjourned to yesterday for Abaribe and two other sureties to show cause why they would not forfeit the bond for Kanu’s bail or for the court to take necessary action provided by the law.
He however informed the court of a letter from Abaribe’s counsel seeking adjournment of the matter on grounds of a matter at the Supreme court.
It would be recalled that the court had on April 25, 2017, granted Kanu bail in the sum of N100m.
The bail was to enable him attend to his ailing health condition.
The judge in addition ordered that the defendant produces three sureties with N100m each.
Kanu has been declared missing since September 22, 2017, by his lawyers and family after soldiers allegedly invaded his home in Abia State during a military operation known as Phyton dance, staged by the Nigerian Army in the South-East zone of the country.