Egechukwu Obetta is lawyer to Nnamdi Kanu, Director of Radio Biafra and leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). In this interview with Tim Tochukwu he tells how far the trial of his client has gone. He equally exposed how the Department of State Security (DSS) succeeded in lying to Federal High Court in Abuja, thereby obtaining a “Kangaroo” ex-parte motion against his client.
Egechukwu Obetta; We just heard that the DSS secretly obtained a court order to detain Nnamdi Kanu for 90 days in order to investigate his case. Are you aware of this development? Is it true?
Yes, I am aware. I was the one that broke the news, because yesterday in the court the prosecutor served me a counter affidavit, and in that counter affidavit was an annexure, and that annexure was an order of Federal High Court, which he got through an ex-parte motion. It was an ex-parte motion permitting the DSS to detain Nnamdi Kanu for the next three months, to enable it to conclude what they said was an investigation of terrorism and terrorism financing. (The DSS obtained the ex-parte motion from Alfa Ademola’s court).
So what are your thoughts concerning the new DSS move?
We have already filed contempt proceedings against the DSS. We have already filed it because the fact remains that we had three court orders which the DSS refused to obey. All those orders I got them personally. They were orders from the magistrate court, and we got them earlier before they (DSS) went to the Federal High Court to get their order.
So the logical reasoning there is that they went and deceived the Federal High Court. They didn’t tell the Federal High Court the truth concerning the case. They didn’t bring before the Federal High Court the fact that there was already a Court Order already in existence. So they hid it and got that 90 days order. So we have already resumed the process of setting it aside.
Many Biafrans are troubled that your client was not brought to court yesterday. Others are even sad and pained, and I don’t know what you can say to that?
Anyway it is not just Biafrans alone that are troubled, Nigerians are waging tongues as to why Nnamdi Kanu was not brought to court yesterday. Maybe because it goes against the rule of natural justice and also offends the rule of law as well, which presupposes that everybody is equal before the law? So the reaction of members of IPOB is also not different from the reaction of ordinary Nigerians, because the law is so clear as to when somebody is being put on trial. The new Administrative of Criminal Justice (ACJ) Act of 2015, stipulates in section 2: 66 that at all material times an accused person being tried in court must be present in court to witness his trial.
Although the law says there are exceptions. The exceptions could come in this form: If in a previous trial, the accused person had conducted himself in an unruly manner, then the court can say “don’t bring him, you can leave him and let’s go on”. But in Nnamdi’s case, he has not been to court. He has just been brought to court only the day he was granted bail; and he has not conducted himself in any manner that could be described as misconduct. So in that bases, we brought to the attention of the court that the court cannot continue with any trial unless Nnamdi Kanu is brought to court.
It is a legal matter, it is not a sentimental matter. It is a condition; a precedence that a court must observe. When an accused is being tried, he (the accused) must be there to witness his trial. Once it is not there, and it does not fall under the two exceptions of ACJ, then court cannot go on. So when we brought that to the judge, he said the trial cannot go on unless he is brought to court.
Some people are really expressing fears, afraid that he might even not be alive right now; that they have killed him. Well I know that there is no speculation in law, but then many of these people are not lawyers. What can you say to that?
Well, the truth remains that I was with Nnamdi Kanu last Wednesday (November 11) and he was hail and healthy. Then I also spoke with the prosecution in court yesterday (November 18). Remember what we are doing is legal matter, we are not quarreling; we are not fighting. So the prosecution spoke with me yesterday. We exchanged pleasantries, and he never gave me any impression or inkling that Nnamdi Kanu is dead or sick.
This evening also, (November 19) just about 20 minutes ago, I also spoke with the Director of Legal SSS, that is the head of the prosecution, I was talking to him about my client and he gave me all the answers I needed. He did not give me any idea that my client, Nnamdi Kanu is either sick or dead. So, to the extent of my knowledge, Nnamdi Kanu is healthy and is bouncing very well. He is not dead.
What is your greatest challenge so far in handling this case? Are you experiencing any challenge at all?
The challenge I have is that as a lawyer, what I was taught and what I have practiced over the years is that once there is a particular situation, and you found a solution that applies to that situation, the judge will give you your judgment.
The challenge I have now is that I have applied the law to the situation at hand, and the judge has given me three judgments. But executive have not been able to implement it, simply because the implementing agency is the one that is disobeying the law. We have asked the court to do something for us, and the court, in applying the law, gave us judgment – it made the first order, the second order, and the third order. Three orders, and it is supposed to be implemented by the DSS, but the DSS has flagrantly disobeyed these orders. So that is the only challenge I have.
I don’t have issues with the judiciary because the judiciary has been applying the law the way it is. The problem we have is with the prosecution that has refused to apply or obey the law. They have obeyed the law in breach, contrary to the rule of law, and then the rule of natural justice.
We got this information that there was a disagreement between you and another lawyer on who is Nnamdi Kanu’s lawyer. Do you have any comment on that?
My comment on that is that I was surprised to see the kind of drama that played out in court yesterday. The surprise I got is that the same lawyer knows that I have been briefed and he saw the letter that was given to me by the Deputy Director of IPOB (Uche Mefor), who gave me letter on behalf of IPOB people. In addition to that, and to cap it up with the confidence they reposed in me, father of the accused, His Royal Highness Okwu Kanu, also used his palace letter-head to give me appointment, thereby supporting the retainer-ship that was given to me by the IPOB.
So, when that colleague came out and reacted, I did not want to go into it because I saw it as a professional affair. I want to assure you that it is going to be resolved amicably. But the problem here is that people do not understand the way this thing is going. Why I don’t need to quarrel with any lawyer about this case because I am doing it Pro Bono – that is I am giving my legal services free! So even if we have hundred lawyers joining us, we do it together because I am not threatened that somebody is coming to share the money I am going to get. I should not be bothered because I didn’t charge any legal fee. I am doing it as a human right activist. I am doing it in defence of democracy and in defence of the rule of law. So I want to get it clear; to let the world to know that I am doing this job Pro Bono, so I don’t need to quarrel with any lawyer because that lawyer is not coming to do anything that will affect me.
However, I am doing so in the spirit that anybody that is coming to work with me, or that wants to join me, would be a man that has integrity – somebody who I can also trust. This is because this matter is a sensitive matter that if I bring somebody that I do not trust and begins to leak things, it will affect my own integrity. There are lots of pressures coming from different interest groups, including the group that my client comes from, trying to puncture what we are doing. So if you bring in somebody you don’t trust and the person gets to sale-out, you won’t know what to do because all of you will be counted as one of those who have sabotaged the effort.
That is why I am very careful in doing what I am doing. I am not against him because I want to make money, because I didn’t charge money; I am doing it free of charge.
We are going to resolve the issue as professionals. This is not the first time this kind of issue has arisen. It has happened in the case of Abiola, when he was incarcerated in 1993. GOK Ajayi came and fronted himself as the man to represent Abiola. Then FRA Williams, of blessed memory, also came to say that he had been briefed by Abiola. Then the matter was resolved when Abiola came to court on that fateful day and said that his lawyer was GOK Ajayi. Chief FRA Williams took his wig and left. It has happened in so many cases in history. Sometimes, when cases like this come up you could have many family interests at work that when one family is projecting one another family is projecting another. But all these things are family affairs that would be resolved before the next adjournment.
Do you have any other issue you want to mention?
What I want to say now is to enjoin all the supporters of my client to continue in the way they are going. They have had protests in Enugu, Asaba, Owerri, Port Harcout, Aba, and different other cities without the molestation of other members of society. I want to enjoin them to remain law abiding. What we are seeing is to be expected. Judiciary is a very slow wheel, it moves slowly but it will finally get to its destination. So they should remain law abiding and respect both those who believe in what they are doing and those who do not. Thank you.
Souce: Onyeukwu Chimezie