…As Supreme Court slates May 11 for definite hearing.
The Federal Government, on Thursday, secured permission from the Supreme Court to file nine fresh grounds of appeal to oppose the release of the embattled leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, from detention.
The apex court granted FG’s request to include the fresh grounds in its amended notice of appeal dated October 28, 2022.
The ruling followed an application that was moved by a government lawyer, Mr Tijani Gadzali, SAN, who equally sought an adjournment to respond to Kanu’s request to be transferred from the detention facility of the Department of State Services, DSS, to the Kuje Correctional Center.
Gazzali, SAN, told the court that he would need time to file a counter-affidavit to oppose Kanu’s request.
Consequently, a five-member panel of the Supreme Court led by Justice Inyang Okoro adjourned the case till May 11 for definite hearing.
It will be recalled that the Court of Appeal in Abuja had in a judgement it delivered on October 13, 2022, ordered Kanu’s release from detention.
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In a unanimous decision by a three-member panel, the appellate court equally quashed a 15-count terrorism charge that FG entered against the detained IPOB leader, before the Federal High Court in Abuja.
The court said it was satisfied that FG flagrantly violated all known laws, when it forcefully rendered Kanu from Kenya to the country for the continuation of his trial.
It held that such arbitrary use of power by the Nigerian government, divested the trial court of the jurisdiction to continue with Kanu’s trial.
However, dissatisfied with the judgement, FG took the matter before the Supreme Court.
It further persuaded the appellate court to suspend the execution of the judgement, pending the determination of its appeal.
Meanwhile, at the resumed proceedings in the matter on Thursday, Kanu’s legal team, led by Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, and Mr Ifeanyi Ejiofor, drew the attention of the apex court to an application seeking the release of their client on bail, pending the conclusion of the hearing of the appeal.
Ozekhome, SAN, said there was a need to also transfer his client from the custody of the DSS to where he could get proper medical attention in view of his deteriorating health.
He, therefore, applied for an accelerated hearing of all the pending applications as well as the substantive appeal.
Kanu had earlier asked the apex court to strike out FG’s appeal against his release.
Specifically, he applied for an order of the apex court, “striking out and/or dismissing the Respondent’s Appeal No: SC/CR/1361/2022, for want of diligent prosecution”.
As well as an order setting down his own cross-appeal for hearing.
The IPOB leader contended that going by Section 6 (1) of the Supreme Court (Criminal Appeals) Practice Direction 2013, FG had only 10 days within which to file and serve him with its brief of argument, upon the service of record of appeal.
He further argued that Order 2 Rule 29 (1) & (2) and Order 6 Rule 9 of the Supreme Court Rules, as amended in 2014, empowered him to seek the striking out of FG’s appeal for want of diligent prosecution.
According to him, “Parties were served with the record of appeal since the 2nd November 2022.
“The ten (10) days stipulated under the Fast Track Rules of this Honourable Court for the Respondent to file its Appellant’s Brief has since elapsed.
“The Respondent is not diligent in prosecuting its appeal.
“The purpose of this Honourable Court’s Rules and Practice Directions is to provide fair, impartial and expeditious administration of criminal appeals, especially in relation to offences of terrorism, rape, kidnapping, corruption, money laundering and human trafficking.
“On the 28th day of October 2022, the lower court while relying on the Notice of Appeal filed by the Respondent, granted the Respondent’s application for stay of execution of the judgment of the lower court, and consequently stayed the execution of its judgement delivered on the 13th October, 2022, which discharged the Applicant and prohibited his further detention.
“The Respondent, which obtained an order of stay of execution of the judgment of the lower court, on the basis of this appeal, has not demonstrated any good faith in prosecuting the said appeal.
“Owing to the pendency of the instant appeal, the Applicant who was discharged by the lower court since the 13th October, 2022, is still in the custody of the Appellant/Respondent’s State Security Service (SSS), where he has been held in solitary confinement since the 29th day of June, 2021.
“Striking out and/or dismissing the Respondent’s appeal will serve the best interest of justice and fair trial, having particular regards to the fact that the Applicant’s right to liberty was stayed by the lower court on account of the pendency of the Respondent’s abandoned appeal.
“The Applicant has filed his Cross-Appellant’s brief and same has been duly served on the Respondent.
“It is in the interest of justice and fair trial to set the Applicant’s cross-appeal down for hearing.
“The Respondent which is not desirous of prosecuting its appeal, will not be prejudiced by the grant of the instant application”, Kanu added.