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Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe has told the Court of Appeal in Abuja that his standing surety for the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, is illegal. He therefore urged the court to relieve him of the suretyship for Kanu.
Abaribe also asked the court to set aside the November 14, 2018 order of the Federal High Court in Abuja which gave him and two others a two-month ultimatum to, each pay N100m bond for their inability to produce the Biafran activist.
Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court in Abuja, had in her November 14, 2018 ruling, held that Abaribe and the two other sureties owed the court the duty of producing Kanu, whose absence since 2017 has halted his trial on charges of treasonable felony.
But the senator, through his lawyer, Mr Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume (SAN), had on January 3, 2018, filed an amended seven grounds notice of appeal and a brief of argument to challenge the Federal High Court’s decisions.
Relying on sections 55, 165(3), 167(3) and 488 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, and other provisions of the constitution, Ume argued that a public officer such as a senator was legally exempted from standing surety for a suspect.
He blamed the Federal High Court for making a senator to be part of the sureties Kanu must present in April 2017. Ume said, “The honourable trial court failed and or refused to take judicial notice” of the relevant provisions of the ACJA and the Nigerian constitution.
“Thus the honourable trial court had not done the needful under the law, otherwise it would have found that by law, the appellant (a senator) is legally exempted, ab initio from giving security for the good conduct or behaviour of a suspect.
“It is trite law that where a valid Act or law clearly states something, it is not within the powers of the court to go contrary to it. “We therefore can see that the involvement of Senator Abaribe in the whole bail and surety quagmire was invalid, ab initio.”
Kanu slipped out of Nigeria after soldiers deployed under the Operation ‘Python Dance II’ in the South-East to quell agitation for a Biafra republic, invaded his home in Afara-Ukwu, Umuahia, Abia in September 2017.
Abaribe and two others had stood as sureties for Kanu before he was granted bail by the Federal High Court in Abuja on April 25, 2017. They are now grappling with the burden to produce him to enable his trial to continue.
The three sureties’ inability to produce Kanu, made the judge, Justice Binta Nyako, to order them on November 14, 2018, to each pay into the court’s account the N100m bond within two months. The two-month ultimatum lapses on January 14.
But before the ultimatum expires, Abaribe and the two other sureties – Emmanuel Shallom-Ben and Tochukwu Uchendu – had filed separate appeals against the November 14, 2018 order.
Abaribe canvassed among other grounds of appeal that the Federal High Court on its own made “an order of interim forfeiture without considering or evaluating” all the applications filed before it by the sureties.
He added that the trial court acted without jurisdiction when it suo moto (on its own) made an interlocutory order that in substance rendered nugatory the core issue in the substantive matter.
Meanwhile, the Federal High Court has fixed March 28 for the sureties to return for hearing.
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