Meanwhile, Justice Binta Nyako of a Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday said President Muhammadu Buhari was only expressing his personal opinion when he said last year December that the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, could not be granted bail.
The judge said this in her ruling on the bail applications filed by Kanu and his co-accused persons.
President Buhari, had in his first presidential media chat, in December 2015, said the likes of Kanu and the immediate past National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, who was accused of spearheading the diversion of over $2bn meant for arms procurement, could not be granted bail because of the gravity of the offences they had committed.
Though Justice Nyako refused to grant bail to Kanu and his co-accused persons, she pointed out while alluding to the issue of Buhari’s comment raised in the application filed by defence lawyers that the President was entitled to his personal opinion.
The judge said the President’s personal opinion was not binding on the court.
The judge said, “President Muhammadu Buhari is entitled to freedom of expression and his opinion.
“However, it does not necessarily have the force of law on the court.”
Kanu and his co-accused persons are being prosecuted by the Federal Government for offences including treasonable felony and an act bordering on terrorism.
The three other accused persons are National Coordinators of IPOB, Mr. Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi.
The defendants were, in the 11 counts, accused of managing an unlawful society, publication of defamatory matter, illegal possession of firearms and improper importation of goods.
Onwudiwe was specifically accused in one of the counts of an act bordering on terrorism.
All the counts were in connection with the accused persons’ alleged broadcasts on Radio Biafra and the agitation for secession from Nigeria, states in the South-East and South-South zones and other communities in Kogi and Benue states to constitute a Republic of Biafra.
Ruling on the applications filed by the four defendants on Thursday, Justice Nyako held that the defendants were not deserving of being granted bail as most of the charges preferred against them were “ordinarily not bailable”.
Before the case was heard on Thursday, Justice John Tsoho, who was handling the case before Kanu accused him of bias, had some weeks ago, refused to grant bail to the accused persons.
The case was transferred to Justice Nyako on account of Kanu’s allegation and all the accused were re-arraigned before her on November 8.
The lawyers to the four accused persons filed fresh bail applications which were subsequently argued on November 17.
Ruling on Thursday, Justice Nyako held that she had no reason to “deviate” from the earlier “findings” of Justice Tsoho, who had refused to grant bail to the accused while presiding over the case.
Justice Nyako ruled on Thursday that though the case started de novo (afresh) before her, there were no new facts and circumstances that could warrant her to grant bail to the accused as the charges preferred against them were “serious offences”.
She said as an alternative to granting bail to the defendants, she preferred to order an accelerated hearing of the case.
The prosecuting counsel, Mr. Shuaibu Labaran, after the judge delivered her ruling on Thursday, moved his application for witness protection.
He sought an order of the court “granting leave to the prosecution witnesses to be protected by giving evidence behind screen to be provided by the court.”
All the four defence lawyers opposed the application.
The judge fixed December 13 for ruling.