The failure of the hierarchy of the nation’s Federal High Court to defend her independence from the stranglehold of the Executive arm of government represented by the Department of State Services (DSS) that has kept barring Journalists, stakeholders and Human Rights activists from accessing the courtroom for the trial of detained leader of the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (Ipob) Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, is disastrous message to the World that the judiciary in Nigeria is in chains and is being controlled by the Presidency.
This position was expressed by the prominent Civil society and pro-democracy group- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) which carpeted the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court justice John T. Tsoho for abdication his authority and thereby allowing the operatives of the Department of State Services to dictate who should have access to the publicly funded Federal High Court Complex which contravenes the CONSTITUTIONAL PRINCIPLE OF SEPARATION OF POWERS as encapsulated in sections 4, 5 and 6 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
Besides, the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) said the denial of access to the courtroom of the respected Igbo leader and former governor of Anambra State His Excellency Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife shows the lack of equity in the administration of the Daura Katsina State born President Muhammadu Buhari and his entire internal security team headed by Northern Moslems with little or no respect for traditional, societal, prominent leaders of other Ethnicities such as the Igbo speaking Ethnicity because if the person of Chukwuemeka Ezeife was one of the prominent Northern Fulani leaders, the Department of State Services won’t subject him to the public opium of letting him sit on the barefloor outside of the Courtroom of the Federal High Court even when it is a notorious knowledge that he was nominated officially by the Igbo Ethnicity to stand in for the race to witness and observe the prosecution of one of the respected Sons of Igboland- Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
HURIWA protested the ugly scenario whereby access to the courtrooms built by the contributions and resources of taxpayers is now out temporarily under the control of the executive arm of government under President Muhammadu Buhari which is the plaintiff in the same matter of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and the government of Muhammadu Buhari just as the Rights group said this singular act of cowardice on the part of the Nigerian judiciary which ceded the authority to let Nigerians have access to the Courtroom to the control of the Department of State Services headed by a Northern Moslem has open the judicial process to critical doubts regarding the independence and objectivity of the process before the Federal High Court just as the Rights group has asked the Chief Judge to take back the control of the Court Complex.
HURIWA lamented that the hierarchy of the Federal High Court out of fear refused to accredit representatives of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA to observe the judicial trial of the detained leader of the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) just as the Rights group accused the chief judge of the Federal High Court of failing to even reply to the written request it sent to his office over two weeks back. HURIWA recalled that in its application titled: “REQUEST TO MONITOR LEGAL PROCEEDING ON MAZI NNAMDI KANU”, it wrote as follows:
“We write to convey our readiness and intention to be offered access to the Court room to monitor the legal proceedings of global importance which involves the leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB).
As members of the organized Civil Rights Community of Nigeria, we feel obliged to attend and watch the proceedings in this specific matter given the groundswell of claims that the management of the Court does not feel comfortable allowing members of the public to attend the proceedings. There’s also the suspicion that the Federal High Court has denied Nigerians access to the trial of Nnamdi Kanu for the reason that the process won’t be transparent and accountable and therefore violate section 36(5) of the Nigerian Constitution which complete categorises all accused persons as innocent in the eye of the law. The refusal of access to the venue of the trial is therefore not in tandem with Democratic principles of checks and balances.
No doubt Sir, that Nigeria practices Presidential system of government even as Country is governed by a grund norm which states unambiguously that the people are the owners of the sovereignty of Nigeria as enshrined in section 14 (2) thus “ It is hereby, accordingly, declared that: (a) sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority; (b) the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government: and (c) the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution”.
Sir, we remind your good offices that the public and the press have qualified First Amendment Right of access to Court proceedings and records.
Although the first amendment does not explicitly mention the right of access say Emilies S. Kraft, the United States of America’s supreme Court has held that the right to attend criminal proceedings is implicit in freedom of speech and serves an important function in a democratic society by enhancing trial fairness and appearance.
We thereby write you this request so two officers from our organization will be given regular access to monitor Nnamdi Kanu’s trial because of its Human Rights related implications.
Whilst awaiting your rapid response, accept our highest consideration and regards.”
HURIWA regretted that the office of the CJ of the Federal High Court which acknowledged HURIWA’s letter however failed to respond either in the negative or positive even as the Rights group said it was disgraceful that Lawyers, Journalists and activists were never allowed access to a public Court Complex.
HURIWA recalled that journalists were barred from courtroom as the trial of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, resumed on Thursday at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS) barred journalists and some court officials from gaining access to the premises.
The frustrated court workers and journalists were seen milling around and wearing heavy frowns.
The media according to HURIWA were not told the reason for the denial because it was not made known by government officials, though a handful of reporters from a list produced by the stern looking DSS operatives were allowed into the premises.
DSS officials had set up a barricade at the entrance of the Court and prevented reporters and officials from entering, resulting in angry scenes and arguments. HURIWA described the behaviour of the operatives of the executive controlled DSS as a primitive recourse to self help effirt by the central government which will inevitably undermine fairness and fair trial.
Most of the DSS operatives were masked as they were clad in their all black ensemble, reports the media quoted by HURIWA.
Gathered outside were frustrated family members, supporters, civil rights groups, lawyers, journalists and other members of the public, who were not allowed near the court.
Nnamdi Kanu’s Special Counsel, Alloy Ejimakor while addressing journalists said the lawyers who accompanied him were also denied access.
HURIWA recalled that Mazi namdi Kanu is facing charges bordering on terrorism and treasonable felony charges brought against him by the Federal Government.
The Federal Government had filed seven amended charges bordering on treasonable felony and acts of terrorism against Kanu on Monday.
Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, filed the charges on behalf of the government.
HURIWA has therefore advocated the take over of control of the Federal High Court Complex Abuja from the stranglehold of the operatives of Department of State Services by the hierarchy of the Nigerian Court system or it will drag the CJ of Federal High Court to the National Judicial Council for ceding independence of the Federal High Court to the Department of State Services which is unlawful and unconstitutional. “The DSS is under the control and command of the President. The President is behind the ordeals of Nnamdi Kanu and if there will be justice or semblance of justice the least physical evidence of it is the guarantee that the facilities of the Nigerian courts are controlled by staff of the Federal High Court who are judicial staff under the Judicial arm of government and not the same arm of government that has brought a citizen to court under some charges”.