The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, has accused President Muhammadu Buhari of lying, saying the president cannot intimidate him.
At a stormy court session on Tuesday, Mr. Kanu said the president can intimidate court judges, but not him.
“The president can intimidate the judges, but he cannot do that to me. Tell him he has lied,” said Mr. Kanu.
A Federal High Court in Abuja ruled on Tuesday on an application seeking the protection of witnesses in the ongoing trial of Mr. Kanu and three others, David Nwawuisi, Benjamin Madubugwu and Chidiebere Onwudiwe, who are facing trial for alleged treasonable felony.
They were arraigned before Justice Binta Nyako after the first defendant said he had no confidence in the former judge, John Tsoho.
The court had adjourned the application for protection of witnesses to December 13.
Delivering the ruling, Mrs. Binta said the court would allow the witnesses some degree of protection.
“The counsels and the defendants will see the witnesses. The witnesses will have special entrances to and outside the court,” the judge said.
Mrs. Nyako also said the court would allow the witnesses to be shielded with screen-guards. She said the court would set aside two days for rehearsals on how the witnesses will come into the court and depart from the court.
After the ruling was given, Mr. Kanu said he would not allow himself to be given a secret trial in any way.
Raising his voice, Mr. Kanu said anything short of a public trial would not be allowed.
Mr. Kanu’s lawyer, Chux Muoma, warned his client to allow the counsel he employed to do his job without undue interference in court.
“Sit down! I am your counsel let me talk. I have not come all the way here to allow you speak for me in court,” said Mr. Muoma.
He apologised to the court afterwards. Counsel to the other defendants said they would make a formal application against the judgement. They said they were opposed to the ruling of the court.
Shortly after, the defendants began to clamour for an opportunity to speak to their lawyers.
The judge, Mrs. Nyako, warned the defendants to desist from making her court rowdy.
The judge said her ruling did not imply that the trial will be conducted in secret.
“It is not going to be a secret trial. The court will allow the defendants see the witnesses. The defendant counsel will also see the witnesses,” said Mrs. Nyako.
The defendants challenged that position again, drawing the judge’s warning.
“If you don’t stop talking in my court I will assume you are becoming a nuisance in my court. And if I assume so, I will continue this trial in your absence, so do not try my patience,” she said.
“When you are in my court you will do what I want. It’s like having a visitor in your house; you can serve the visitor food but if he wants to eat he will eat and if he doesn’t want to, he will not.”
After a brief recess, Mr. Kanu began to speak again.
“I will address this court! You cannot be killing my people and tell me that you will make me have a secret trial. That won’t happen! The president can intimidate the judges, but he cannot do that to me. Tell him he has lied,” said Mr. Kanu.
The other defendants soon joined in the voice of opposition against the court’s ruling and the session became rowdy.
The court clerks then told the people present in court that the session was over and that the matter would not continue again on Tuesday.
Outside the court, the IPOB supporters clashed with the security operatives while the latter tried to return Mr. Kanu and the other defendants to the vehicle that brought them.
They kept shouting chants in support of the Biafran State, after the vehicles carrying the defendants zoomed off on top speed.