A Federal High Court, Abuja, has dismissed the application of leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, seeking for stay of proceedings pending determination of his appeal.
Kanu had approached the appellate court challenging the earlier decision of the court which upheld the prosecution’s request to shield their witnesses from members of the public during trial.
The judge, Justice John Tsoho, held that the application for stay of proceedings lacked merit and ordered that the trial would proceed in the mode earlier directed by the court.
Kanu and his co-defendants are standing trial on a six-count charge of treasonable felony, unlawful possession of firearms and other offences bordering on their agitation for secession of the Republic of Biafra from Nigeria.
Tsoho relied on provisions of Section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, which prohibits courts from entertaining a motion for stay of proceedings with respect to criminal cases.
Contrary to the contention by Kanu’s lawyer, Chuks Muoma (SAN), Tsoho held that the provision of Section 306 of ACJA could not deny an accused person fair hearing.
The judge held that the provision of the ACJA was to enhance the right to speedy trial guaranteed an accused person in the constitution.
“Section 306 of ACJA removes hitches to speedy trial which is component of fair hearing,’’ Tsoho held.
The judge also distinguished the trial of the Biafra agitators from that of the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki.
In Saraki’s case, the Supreme Court last year, after the advent of the ACJA, granted an order for stay of proceedings in his trial before the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
Tsoho held that the prevailing circumstances informing the decision of the Supreme Court to grant stay of proceedings in Saraki’s case was not available in the instant case.
He said in Saraki’s case the issue of whether the cases entertained by the CCT were criminal in nature or not was still to be determined by the Supreme Court was not available in the case before him.
He explained that it was not in doubt that the Federal High Court had jurisdiction to hear criminal cases.
“It is moreso, given that the application for stay of proceedings is not founded on lack of intrinsic jurisdiction of this court but on mode of procedure to be adopted in the trial.’’
The court after dismissing the application held that the trial would proceed in the mode he had earlier directed on March 7 which was to shield them from the public but not to wear masks.
The case was adjourned till June 20 to June 23 for trial.