Journalists and lawyers are having a hell of a time gaining entry into the Federal High Court in Abuja where the trial of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is to take place today, Thursday.
Mr Kanu is being tried on charges of treasonable felony regarding his separatist activities. The trial is scheduled to resume before Binta Nyako, the trial judge, on Thursday.
The separatist, who was granted bail in April 2017, fled the country after the invasion of his home in Afara-Ukwu, near Umuahia, Abia State, by the military in September that year, a situation one of Mr Kanu’s lawyers, Alloy Ejimakor, described as the “rule of self-preservation.”
Mr Kanu is expected to take a fresh plea today on a seven-count amended charge.
At the street linking the court with the Federal Ministry of Justice at Maitama, there are three layers of security checks heavily manned by hooded SSS operatives, complemented by armed police personnel.
Businesses, especially hotels around the court’s precincts are locked up as workers are being turned away by security agents.
Our reporter observed angry lawyers engage the spy agents in a shouting match.
Some of the lawyers were frisked before they were granted access into the court premises, while a majority of them, whose cases were scheduled for Thursday, before other judges of the court, were turned away.
“My case is to come up before Justice Ahmed Mohammed, but I have been refused access,” a distraught lawyer, who did not want his name mentioned, told this reporter.
Workers of the Federal High Court, Abuja, were not spared the trouble of accessing their offices as they were subjected to trekking about 50 metres to the court.
There are over over 200 armed security operatives with water cannons and operational vehicles.
Human and vehicular traffic was diverted from the adjoining streets of the court.
At 8:22 a.m., a convoy of SSS operatives, in a commando-style drove into the court through the judge’s entrance.
The convoy was suspected to be conveying the IPOB leader.
Shortly after, a tinted SUV with a diplomatic vehicle number plate, drove into the court.
This might be members of the diplomatic corps whom Ifeanyi Ejiofor, Mr Kanu’s lead lawyer referred to at a pre-trial press conference on Wednesday in Abuja.
Mr Ejiofor had said members of the international community would witness Thursday’s proceedings in Abuja.
Mr Ejiofor had equally appealed to the SSS to allow journalists and lawyers to attend Mr Kanu’s trial on Thursday, but that entreaty appears to have fallen on deaf ears.
“The show of shame openly demonstrated by the overzealous security agents on July 26, 2021, should never repeat itself,” Mr Ejiofor had said on Wednesday.
At the last proceedings when journalists and lawyers were manhandled, Mr Kanu who is being held by State Security Service (SSS), was not brought to court, a development that was blamed on “logistical issues” by the prosecuting lawyer, Mohammed Abubakar.
There won’t be fair trail – Ohaneze Ndigbo
The Ohaneze Ndigbo has said there will not be fair trial of Mr Kanu.
Ralph Uwazurike, a lawyer, who was detailed to watch brief on behalf of Ohaneze, said the attitude of the Nigerian security operatives at the court premises on Thursday, showed that the IPOB leader would not get a fair hearing.
“It is now clear that Nnamdi Kanu will not get fair trial,” Mr Uwazurike told journalists on Thursday at the court premises.
The atmosphere at the court is tense.