Leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, has sued the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court Of Nigeria, Hon. Justice John Tsoho and the chief registrar of the Federal High Court of Nigeria over the new practice directions on hearing of terrorism cases.
Some weeks ago, Justice Tsoho issued Practice Directions On Trial of Terrorism cases, noting that “the distance and size of perimeters to be secured for the trial shall be determined based on the recommendation of security agencies on a case-by-case basis.”
It means terrorism trials including the ongoing trial of Nnamdi Kanu and other related ones will be done secretly, even without journalists, except the judge rules otherwise.
Kanu’s trial by the Nigerian government which continued on April 8, was the first casualty of the new directive.
In an originating summon with suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/550/2022 which was filed on Monday, April 25, Kanu’s lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, sought answers to whether the powers conferred on the 1st defendant, Tsoho includes the power to make directions for regulating trials of terrorism offences in the Federal High Court considering the provisions of Sections 36(1) and 364)(a) & (b) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
Ejiofor argued that the said Practice Directions were issued without the approval of the Federal Executive Council (formerly the National Council of Ministers of the Federal Government of Nigeria).
The lawyer said the IPOB leader was not afforded any hearing before the said Directions were made by Justice Tsoho.
He further argued that his client, Kanu, against whose interest the said Directions were primarily made, has already been publicly tried and condemned by the Federal Government of Nigeria and her Attorney General.
“That I know as a fact that it is in the interest of justice and fair hearing that the Plaintiff who has been so tried and condemned publicly by his accusers, enjoys a public trial, devoid of the restrictions contained in the practice directions,” he added.
He also noted, “that the Practice Directions apply to and affect the proceedings in Charge No: FHC/AB/CR/383/2015 pending before Hon. Justice Binta Nyako of Court No 2, Federal High Court Abuja, in which the Plaintiff is being prosecuted under the Terrorism Prevention Amendment Act.”
Ejiofor further urged the court to restrain the Defendants and their agents from applying and enforcing the provisions of the Federal High Court Practice Directions on Trial of Terrorism Cases 2022.
Other reliefs sought include: “A declaration that the provisions of Order of the Federal High Court Practice Directions (On Trial of Terrorism Cases) 2022, are already the subject of Section 36(4)(a) & (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, and consequently, they are otiose, inoperative and outrightly ultra vires the 1st Defendant, invalid, null, void and of no effect whatsoever.
“A declaration that the failure of the 1st Defendant to first seek and obtain the approval of the Federal Executive Council (or the National Council of Ministers) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria prior to enacting the Federal High Court Practice Directions (on Trials of Terrorism Cases), 2022, as required by Section 44 of the Federal High Court Act renders the Federal High Court Practice Direction (On Trial of Terrorism Cases) 2022, ultra vires, null and void.
“A declaration that Order III Rules 3(b) and (d) of the Federal High Court Practice Directions (On Trials of Terrorism Cases) 2022, which respectively empower a Federal High Court trying terrorism cases ‘to receive evidence by video link, and to receive written deposition of expert witness’ are inconsistent with Items 23 and 68 of the Exclusive Legislative List as well as Paragraph 2(b) of Part III of the 2nd Schedule to the Constitution which confers on the National Assembly the exclusive power to make rules of evidence, both substantive and adjectival and are therefore ultra vires, null and void to the extent of the inconsistency
“A declaration that Order IV Rule 2 of the Federal High Court Practice Direction (on Trial of Terrorism Cases) 2022, which provides that a person who contravenes an order or direction made under these Directions shall be deemed to have committed an offence contrary to Section 34(5) of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011, (as amended) is otiose and inoperative, because the National Assembly had already covered the field vide Section 34(5) of the Terrorism Prevention Act 2011, as amended.
“A declaration that the rule-making powers of the 1st Defendant under Section 254 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended, are limited to the premises of the Federal High Court and do not extend to outside its perimeters, which are under the exclusive responsibility of law enforcement agencies such as the Police, DSS, etc.
“An order of this honourable court declaring the federal high court practice directions (on trial of terrorism cases) 2022, unconstitutional ultra vires, invalid, null, void, and of no effect.
“The defendants are expected to appear within 30 days after the service of the summons on them, ‘inclusive of the day of such service cause an appearance to be entered for them to this summons which is issued upon the application of the above-named Plaintiff for the determination of the following question.’
“It was further noted that the duo, both of the Federal High Court may appear by entering appearance personally or by a Legal Practitioner either by filing the appropriate processes (as in order 7) in response at the Registry of the Court where the summons was issued or sending them to that office by any of the methods allowed by these Rules.”