Treason: FG Wants Secret Trial For 11 Biafran Activists | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Treason: FG Wants Secret Trial For 11 Biafran Activists

Posted: May 21, 2015 at 4:55 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Emmanuel Nzomiwu Enugu


The Federal Government on Tuesday asked the Federal High Court Enugu to exempt members of the public from its ongoing trial of 11 members of Biafra Zionist Federation (BZF) for treasonable offences.

Prosecution counsel, D.E. Kaswe, moved the application for exemption of members of the public towards the end of yesterday’s session of the trial.

Kaswe, who is a Senior State Counsel in the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, submitted that Section 36 (4) of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, exempts members of the public, with the exception of accredited press members, to participate in the proceedings on certain grounds.

Citing the case of FRN and Kabiru Sokoto, a notorious commander of dreaded Boko Haram sect, he said members of the public could be exempted on grounds of public policy, security and safety.

“In that case (FRN and Kabiru Sokoto) the prosecution insisted that Federal High Court Abuja exempted the public for the purposes of hearing the testimony of witnesses. In that case, it was even official witnesses. In this case, these are civil witnesses. That was why we put up this application” Kaswe said.

But, the defence counsel, Olu Omotayo objected to the application for secret trial of the accused persons, saying it is their constitutional right to be tried in the open.

Omotayo said the accused persons could be denied fair hearing if the accused persons were tried in secret.

“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, but it must be in public interest.

“The Constitution in Section 36 (4) 2 stated that the application must come from Minister or Commissioner in a State. You must come and satisfy the court that there is a public interest or public danger that makes you to do that application. It is not just an application that a lawyer must make over the bar demanding that there must be secret trial” Omotayo said.

Omotayo further argued that in the case of Kabiru Sokoto, he was tried through secret trial, but this trial commenced long ago, only for the prosecution to come at this stage and ask for secret trial.

Reacting on behalf of the prosecution, Kaswe submitted that exempting members of the public will not violate the rights of accused persons to fair hearing “because it must not be done to one person.”