A federal high court sitting in Abuja has dismissed the application of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), seeking a stay of proceedings pending determination of his appeal.
Kanu had approached the appellate court challenging the earlier decision of the court upholding 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 of Chuks Muoma (SAN), Kanu’s lawyer, 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,” he said.
The judge also distinguished the trial of the Biafra agitators from that of Bukola Saraki, the senate president.
In Saraki’s case, the supreme court, after the advent of the ACJA, last year 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, and 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, more so 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.’’
After dismissing the application, the 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.