Law News
Biafra: Court rules on FG’s witness protection application 2pm

Justice James Tsoho of a Federal High Court in Abuja will at 2pm today deliver his ruling on the application by the Federal Government seeking protection of its prosecution witnesses lined up to testify against the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra and Director of Radio Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu.
Kanu, and his two co-accused – David Nwawusi and Benjamin Madubugwu – are being prosecuted on six counts of treasonable felony, unlawful possession of firearms and other offences bordering on their agitation for secession ‎of the Republic of Biafra from Nigeria.
The prosecution, by its application, seeks an approval of the court for its witnesses to wear mask while testifying and an order barring members of the public apart from parties, lawyers and accredited journalists from attending the trial.
Justice Tsoho entertained arguments for and against the application on Friday and indicated to return to deliver his ruling by 2pm.
At the hearing of the application, prosecuting counsel, Mr. David Kaswe, told the court that government’s witness had expressed fear about their security and that they were unwilling to testify if they were not guaranteed any form of protection.
Kaswe said, “Our application before this honourable court is to allow our witnesses most of whom are civilians residing in the geographical entity of the defendants.
“Our submission is that our witnesses that we intend to call have already expressed fear of insecurity.
“They categorically informed us that unless, they can be guaranteed some form of protection by this honourable court they are unwilling to come and testify.
“We submit with greatest respect that the case of the prosecution will be greatly frustrated in the event that the witnesses are not protected and they cannot come to court.
“The court is to do justice and there will be no justice of prosecution witnesses cannot come to court.
“We are very unambiguous in our application that accredited members of the press should be allowed to come in. They can be allowed to cover the proceedings. That simple application before the honourable court.”
While acknowledging that the there was the need for the judge to watch the demeanour of the witnesses while testifying, Kaswe said that could still be achieved without the judge seeing the face of the witnesses.
But in opposing the application, defence counsel, Mr. Chuks Muoma (SAN), said that granting the application was tantamount to allowing “masquerades” to testify in court.
He said, “But Section 36(4) of the Constitution referred to in paragraph 2.07 of our written makes no provision for masquerades to testify as witnesses in a trial.
“An accused person under our jurisprudence and justice administration, must be confronted with his accusers eyeballs to eyeballs.
“It is consistent with common sense and jurisprudence that you cannot accuse someone in the street and try him in the bedroom.
“I must confess that in my 45 years of legal practice, I have not witnessed this.
“You malign a man in the public and you seek to try him in the bedroom and have masquerades to testify against him.”
Muoma also argued the prosecution could only have brought such application if the accused persons were charged with terrorism offences.
But the Federal Government’s counsel in his response on points of law, said the submission by the defence was erroneous, arguing that section 232(4) paragraph (e) of the ACJ Act gave the court the discretion to grant protection to prosecution witnesses‎.
Ruling on the application has been fixed for 2pm.

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