The detained leader of the Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB) Nnamdi Kanu was not present as the court sat to adjust his trial date on Thursday.
Mr Kanu, facing charges of treasonable felony and terrorism, is being detained by the State Security Service (SSS). His lawyers who staged a walk-out on the Judge during the November 10 court sitting approached the court for abridgement of time in the trial adjourned to January 19 and 20 next year.
The prosecution team led by Shuaibu Labaran opposed the abridgement of time filed to hear some applications challenging the competence of the charges filed against the separatist leader.
Mr Labaran at the emergency court sitting told Justice Binta Nyako that he has filed a counter-application to the defendant’s motion.
After spirited efforts by the defence team to sway the court in granting their request Justice Nyako explained that the abridgement of time trial cannot hold because the court’s diary was already congested due to her busy schedule.
“I don’t have a free date to abridge the time for your pending applications,” Mrs Nyako told Ejiofor-led team. “Your case truncated other cases and congests the court. I will take the pending applications at the appropriate time.
“On Friday (tomorrow) alone, I have three judgements to deliver. Then, we have a moot court trial for virtual court sitting. Also in this month, we have the new Legal Year activities as well as a valedictory court session for one of my former colleagues (the late former Chief Judge of Federal High Court, Abdu Kafarati),” she explained.
After the court grudgingly brought the case forward by one day, January 18, instead of January 19 earlier fixed for it, Mr Ejiofor drew the court’s attention to his client’s “squalid condition” in the SSS detention.
He said his client was being subjected to “psychological torture.”
“The defendant is being kept in a tiny cell and has not been eating well,” Mr Ejiofor told the court.
Mr Kanu’s lead counsel further said since his client’s “abduction” by the Nigerian government and subsequent “extraordinary rendition to Nigeria in June,” the defendant had been wearing the same clothes.
Addressing Mr Ejiofor’s complaints, the judge directed the prosecuting lawyer to impress it on the State Security Service (SSS), the agency keeping Mr Kanu in custody “to give the defendant possible maximum comfort.”
In a bid to de-escalate the visibly charged atmosphere in the courtroom, the judge said the spy agency should prepare “Ofe-Owerri,” a special delicacy in South-eastern Nigeria for Mr Kanu, a comment that elicited laughter from both legal teams.
Following a complaint by Mr Kanu’s lawyer, Mrs Nyako also advised the SSS to allow the IPOB leader to practise his Jewish faith.
Unlike previous sittings where journalists were either barred or had restricted access to the courtroom, Thursday’s proceedings were slightly different, probably due to the absence of Mr Kanu.
The IPOB leader was not brought to court because the application for abridgement of time was filed out of the court’s schedule.