The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday reserved ruling on whether or not it will reverse its order on witness protection in the ongoing trial of the Director of Radiozz, Nnamdi Kanu – Counsel to Kanu, Mr Ifeanyi Ejiofor told the court that he had filed an application asking the court to review its stand on protecting the identity of witnesses in the case – Justice Nyako adjourned the matter until April 25 to rule on both the application to review the witness protection order and bail .
Justice Binta Nyako, on March 27, insisted that she would not review her judgment on the issue of protecting the identity of the witnesses as long they were security operatives. “I will not vary my order on protection of security operatives; It is either they wear a mask or are behind a screen. “Security operatives need to be protected not because of this case but because of the future, and so as long as the witnesses are security personnel, they will be taken behind a screen,” Nyako said.But counsel to the defendants maintained that since some of the charges against the defendants had been struck out, there was need for the order to be reviewed to reflect the current charges. At the resumed hearing on Thursday, the prosecuting counsel, Mr Shuaibu Labaran, told the court that the matter was slated for argument on the application to review the court’s decision on witness protection. Counsel to Kanu, Mr Ifeanyi Ejiofor told the court that he had filed an application asking the court to review its stand on protecting the identity of witnesses in the case. Ejiofor said that part of the reason he filed the application was on the grounds that six out of the initial 11-count charge against the defendant were struck out. He prayed the court to vacate the order it made allowing the prosecution witnesses to give evidence behind a shield and to instead order the witnesses to testify in an open court. Mr E.I Eseme, counsel to the third defendant, Benjamin Madubugwu, in his argument, also prayed the court for the same relief, adding that his application was brought pursuant to Section 6(6) of the 1999 Constitution. He urged the court to review the order it made on Dec. 13, 2016, to shield witnesses, set aside the order and direct that all witnesses should testify in public.Eseme added that his client was not standing trial for any of the offences that required witness protection. According to him, Section 36(4) of the 1999 Constitution provides that it is mandatory for proceedings in all criminal trials to be public. He noted that there was no counter- affidavit from the prosecution, adding that it could only mean that the facts were not contradicted and so they were not opposing the application. Mr Chukwuma Ozougwu, counsel to the fourth defendant, David Nwawuisi, also towed the same line of argument and urged the court to grant the application in favour of his client. Labaran, in his reply, prayed the court to dismiss the three applications on the grounds that they were frivolous and a deliberate attempt to delay the prosecution of the case. He told the court that the claim by the defence counsel that since he did not file a counter affidavit, the court should assume that he was in support of the application should be discountenanced. According to him, if the defendants have a problem with the ruling of the court that witnesses should be protected, they should appeal the decision.
He added that moreover, it was only journalists and the general public that would not see the witnesses but only hear them as all the defendants, the lawyers and the judge would see the witnesses. He said the order was granted based on the discretionary powers given to the judge by Section 232 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA). Justice Nyako adjourned the matter until April 25 to rule on both the application to review the witness protection order and bail. Meanwhile, NAIJ.com highlights lessons Nigeria can benefit from Biafra war of 1967.