Law News
Biafra secessionists oppose FG’s bid for ‘secret trial’

Members of a pro-Biafra secessionist group, the Biafra Zionist Federation, who are being tried for treason before an Enugu Federal High Court, on Tuesday opposed moves by the Federal Government to conduct the trial in ‘secret’.

The accused persons are the Leader of the BZF, Benjamin Onwuka, Kelvin Eke, Samson Ijaga, Uduma Uduma, Bethrand Obiekwe, Abraham Ugwu, Paulinus Uzoegbu, Fidelis Nwaanu, Nnamchi Ndubuisi, Michael Olennya, Jeophet Nwaodo and Aloysius Chukwuma.

The suspects were arrested after they attempted to declare the secession of the Republic of Biafra in the studio of Enugu State Broadcasting Service in June 2014.

At the continuation of their trial before the Enugu FHC, the Federal Government, in an application, asked the presiding judge, Justice Agishi, to exempt members of the public from the trial.

While moving the application, prosecution counsel, D.E. Kaswe, SAN, submitted that section 36 (4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, bars members of the public, with the exception of accredited journalists, from courtrooms during terrorism trials.

Kaswe cited the case involving Kabiru Sokoto, a commander of the Boko Haram sect to justify the application.

“In that case (FRN versus Kabiru Sokoto), the prosecution insisted that Federal High Court, Abuja, exempt members of the public for the purposes of hearing the testimony of witnesses,” Kaswe said.

The application was opposed by counsel to the secessionists, Olu Omotayo.

Omotayo argued that the suspects have a constitutional right to be tried in the open.

He said the accused persons could be denied fair hearing if they are to be tried in secret.

Objecting to the application, the defence counsel said, “They want to bring witnesses and they don’t want to expose them to members of the public.

“Although the constitution recognizes that members of the public can be denied access to the courtroom in some instances, it must be in public interest.

“The Constitution in section 36 (4) 2 stated that the application must come from a minister or commissioner in a state.

“You must come and satisfy the court that there is a public interest or public danger that warrants you to make that application.

“It is not just an application that a lawyer must make over the bar, demanding that there must be a secret trial.”

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