Hearing of the case of alleged fundamental rights violation brought before the ECOWAS Court of Justice by the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, was on Tuesday stalled following the absence of the respondent’s counsel in court.
The lead counsel to the Nigerian government, Dayo Akpata, was reportedly having a meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and subsequently unable to make it to Tuesday’s court session, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
The applicant, Mr. Kanu had approached the court through his lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, with a motion against the Nigerian government on an alleged violation of his rights. He demanded that the ECOWAS Court order the Nigerian government to pay him $800 million as damages for the violation.
The matter had been adjourned for further hearing of the substantive suit and inclusion of fresh motions by Mr. Ejiofor on Tuesday, but was further adjourned following the inability of the prosecution counsel to attend the hearing.
A counsel representing the Attorney General at the court, Abdullahi Abubakar, asked for an adjournment on Tuesday, at the instance of the prosecution.
Mr. Abubakar earlier told the court that Mr. Akpata was at the Supreme Court for a different matter and asked for a short postponement of the hearing.
Following Mr. Abubakar’s application, the case was stood down for two hours.
After the court resumed session on the matter, Mr. Abubakar again approached the court with another request for an adjournment on the grounds that Mr. Akpata who is also the Solicitor General of the Federation, was having a meeting with the Vice President.
Mr. Abubakar further told the court that his team had not gotten some of the documents from a previous ruling in the ECOWAS Court.
Responding, Mr. Ejiofor accused the Nigerian government of ”deliberately delaying the matter.”
Mr. Ejiofor asked the court to compel the respondent to pay a cost of N2 million for what he described as a deliberate frustration of the matter.
Reacting to the submission of Mr. Ejiofor, however, Mr. Abubakar said the previous adjournment on the matter was not at the instance of the respondent but based on a request from the court.
The three-member panel, led by the judge, Hemeye Mahdmadane, consented to the submissions of Mr. Abubakar regarding the facts resulting from the last adjournment.
The court also postponed the matter till November 21, for a hearing of all the applications and determination of Mr. Ejiofor’s motion for an award of cost against the respondents.
Reacting to questions from journalists as to the reason for his client’s absence in court, Mr. Ejiofor reiterated his earlier stance that ”only the Nigerian army can speak on Mr. Kanu’s current location.”
“The military and federal government are in a position to tell me where my client is. We are going to settle it in court,” he said.
Mr. Kanu has not been seen in public since September 14, after the Nigerian army of invaded his residence. His lawyer has asked the army to produce his client accusing it of ‘possibly killing or abducting Mr. Kanu.’
Mr. Kanu is facing trial for alleged treasonable offences against the Nigerian state.
His group, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, who are struggling for separation from Nigeria was recently proscribed as a terrorist group by the Nigerian government.
The Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, has asked the Federal High Court, Abuja, to dismiss a suit, seeking to compel him to produce the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu.
Mr. Kanu’s lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, on Thursday brought an application before the court, asking the court to order Mr. Buratai to produce Mr. Kanu dead or alive.
Mr. Ejiofor told court that his client was last seen with the Nigerian Army on September 14 and that neither he (Ejiofor) nor Mr. Kanu’s family had seen or heard from Mr. Kanu since then.
Opposing the motion, however, Mr. Buratai through his counsel, Akinlolu Kehinde, told the court that Mr.
Kanu was not and had never been in the custody of the Nigerian Army.
“The Nigerian Army did not at any time arrest or take Kanu into its custody within the period the military operation lasted in the South-east.”
The lawyer argued that there was no document before the court to prove that Mr. Kanu was in the custody of the army, noting that the onus was on Mr. Kanu to prove that he was taken by the army.
Mr. Kehinde urged the court to dismiss the application on the ground that it was laden with speculations, conjecture and assumptions which, he said, were not admissible in law.
A counter-affidavit deposed to by a colonel, A. Yusuf, also claimed that the alleged invasion of Mr. Kanu’s house during the period of the operation was false.
After hearing arguments from both counsel, Justice Binta Nyako adjourned the matter until December 13 to give her ruling.