By Sylvester Udemezue

GENERALLY, all aspects of a court trial must be held in public, else void. See. Ss. 35 & 36 (1)&(4) CFRN, 1999. Trial is said to be held in public in line with ss. 35 and 36(1) CFRN,1999 when all members of the public without any exception (including all journalists without any accreditation) who wish to be present in court are allowed to be present to witness the proceedings, subject to availability of space in the courtroom.

Restriction or Accreditation of journalists under such circumstances (ie, where trial is held in public) is illegal and unconstitutional; it’s immaterial that many journalists were accredited. The mere fact of accreditation at all is illegal
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Trial in Camera (exclusion of the public from court proceedings) may be legally excused under some circumstances: see 6(5)CYPL; SS. 225(2),205(2) & 203(c) CPL; S. 13, RECOVERY OF PUBLIC PROPERTY (SPECIAL MILITARY TRIBUNAL) DECREE, 1984;s.36(4) CFRN, 1999; Where trial is held in camera, only the following persons are allowed access into the courtroom:
1️⃣ accredited representatives of Media Houses;2️⃣Parties to the case;3️⃣ Witnesses in the Case;4️⃣. Lawyers/Counsel in the case;5️⃣. Court officials who by the nature of their job-schedule, are required to be present in Court during trials.

Question Arising:
Is Nnamdi Kanu’s trial holding in public or in camera. If in public, any attempt to restrict access into the courtroom by anyone is a constitutional breach capable of rendering the entire trial void, no matter how good it’s on the merit. MILITARY GOVERNOR OF LAGOS STATE VS. OJUKWU (2001) FWLR (Part 50) 1779 at 1802 & 1799; PETER OBI V. INEC (SC No:2) [2007] Vol. 9 M.J.S.C 1; WHYTE V KWANDE (APPEAL NO.CA/PH/161/99);
AMAECHI V. INEC & 2 ors (2008) 1 SCNJ 1; (2008) 5 NWLR (Pt. 1080) 227.

We must therefore be cautious and careful because as of today, Nigeria is still a constitutional democracy operating upon Rule of Law and Due process. Lawlessness is inimical to democratic constitutionalism. Besides, Nigeria operates the adversarial criminal Justice system pursuant to which a person charged for a criminal offence stands and remains innocent until or unless otherwise proven in Court. S 36(5) CFRN 1999. See OKORO V. THE STATE (1988) NWLR (Pt 74) 255;

Respectfully,
Sylvester Udemezue (udems)
(26/07/2021)

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