Posted by News Express | 10 March 2016 | 2,716 times
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has described as a monumental travesty of justice the decision by the Federal High Court, Abuja Division, to allow masked witnesses by the Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, to testify against the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Director of Europe-based Radio Biafra, Prince Nnamdi Kanu.
HURIWA said: “The ill-advised and illegal decision by the Federal High Court to allow masked witnesses is tantamount to allowing ghost witnesses. This constitutes a grave abuse of natural justice, and represents disservice to the principles, letters and tenets of the constitutionally-guaranteed fundamental human rights as enshrined in chapter four of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended ). It clearly spells out that an accused person must be afforded all rights to interrogate genuine witnesses so as to present his side of the matter, to enable the judicial forum exercise its authority in a transparent and accountable manner in line with Section 36 (5) of the Constitution that guarantees fair hearings to all accused persons.
This reaction was contained in statement signed jointly by the National Coordinator of the association, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director, Miss Zainab Yusuf. HURIWA said the prayer by the Federal Government to bring in masked witnesses is a clear demonstration of the fact that the government has not come to equity with clean hands: the basic ethical principle of transparency says that he who must come to equity must do so with clean hands, not with distorted and contrived trepidation.
According to HURIWA, “If the government claims that Kanu has committed those outrageous charges being paraded in the Federal High Court, then why the apprehension to present clean witnesses rather than invite false witnesses with the predetermined purpose of misguiding the court of law? We are disappointed that the court system in Nigeria could, in this 21st century, capitulate to the overwhelming blackmail of Federal Government officials by granting a prayer for masked witnesses that by all intents and purposes are manifestly unconstitutional and illegal? This same Federal High Court granted an earlier bail order in favour of Kanu, which President Muhammadu Buhari failed to respect and openly gave flimsy excuses for this clear disrespect for the authority of the court system but this same court system has failed to sanction the Federal Government for this violations, but has decided to behave like sycophantic disciples of the Executive arm of government.”
The statement recalled that a Federal High Court in Abuja had recently granted an order seeking the protection of witnesses during Kanu’s trial
Earlier in February, the court refused the Federal Government’s application to mask its witnesses in Mr Kanu’s trial. But Justice John Tsoho gave the new ruling after hearing the arguments of both counsels for and against government’s application to produce witnesses protected “by a screen.”
Mr Kanu and two others, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi, are standing trial for treason and maintaining an unlawful society, among other charges.
The lead defence counsel, Chuks Muoma, who recounted the various stages of the case since it started in October 2015, accused the prosecution of unwittingly prolonging the matter.
HURIWA condemned the way the same court did a 360-degree turn-around to probate and reprobate on the illegal prayer tabled by government to present masked witnesses against Kanu.
•Photo shows Nnamdi Kanu.
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