Appeal Court to hear Kanu’s case April 25
The Court of Appeal, Abuja division, yesterday fixed April 25 for hearing the appeal case brought before it by the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, and his co-accused, David Nwawusi and Benjamin Madubugwu.
The appellate court fixed the date after Kanu, through his counsel, Chief Chuks Momah (SAN), had been informed that the court would proceed on the Easter vacation any moment.
Justice Moore Adumen, who presided over a three-man panel of justices, had told Kanu that his case could not be accommodated until after the vacation.
The appellants have leveled allegation of bias against Justice James Tsoho before whom they were being prosecuted at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Kanu and his two co-defendants are being prosecuted on a six-count charge of treasonable felony, unlawful possession of firearms and other offences bordering on their agitation for a republic of Biafra from Nigeria.
They had approached the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, asking for an order to compel the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, to withdraw the case from Justice Tsoho and re-assign it to another Judge.
The defendants accused Justice Tsoho of bias following the judge’s ruling delivered on Monday, which would permit the prosecution witnesses to testify behind a “shield” in order to hide the witnesses’ identities from the members of the public.
The defendants on Tuesday filed one-ground notice of appeal before the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, asking for an order to set aside Justice Tsoho’s ruling and transfer the case to another judge of the Federal High Court.
Justice Tsoho is the second judge of the Federal High Court to be accused of bias by Kanu.
Earlier on December 23, 2015, when he and his co-defendants were produced before Justice Ahmed Mohammed, the IPOB leader said in the open court that he lacked confidence in the judge and sought the transfer of the case to another judge.
The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court subsequently re-assigned the case to Justice Tsoho and the accused persons were eventually arraigned on January 20, 2016.
The accused are again seeking transfer of the case to another judge following Justice Tsoho’s ruling delivered on March 7.
They also seek another order compelling the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, to withdraw the entire case from Justice Tsoho and re-assign it to another judge of the court.
In addition to the notice of appeal, the appellants filed an application before Justice Tsoho asking him to stay proceedings pending the hearing and determination of their appeal.
The prayers in their notice of appeal read, “An order of this court setting aside the ruling/order of the learned trial judge, dated March 7, 2015.
“An order of this court directing the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to transfer the trial hearing of the substantive charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/383/15, currently pending before Justice J. Tsoho to another judge of the Federal High Court for trial.
As his grounds of appeal, the appellants argued that the judge erred in law “when having refused the application for the witnesses of the prosecution to testify behind screens, or masked” on February 19, “suddenly varied the said order in the ruling delivered on March 7, on a mere oral application by the respondent.”
The lead defense counsel, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, contended that Justice Tsoho granted the prosecution’s oral application without jurisdiction, and thereby “occasioning a miscarriage of justice.”
Alleging bias in the handling of the case by Justice Tsoho, the appellants stated that the particulars of the judge’s error include giving an order in violation of his right to fair hearing.
“There is manifest bias on the part of the learned trial judge in the conduct of this case, which is apparent in the unwholesome manner his order was reviewed to give undue advantage to the prosecution, in flagrant violation of the appellants’ right to fair trial, as constitutionally guaranteed under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended),” the notice of appeal read in part.
Yesterday, the lead defense lawyer, Momah, informed the trial judge, Justice Tsoho, that the notice of appeal and application of stay of proceedings have been filed.
The Director of Public Prosecutions in the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Diri, confirmed that the processes had been served on him. He however, sought time to respond to the application for stay of proceedings.The judge adjourned hearing of the application till April 4.
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