UPDATED: Kanu pleads not guilty to fresh charges, court shifts trial to February

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UPDATED: Kanu pleads not guilty to fresh charges, court shifts trial to February

The Nigerian government recently filed amended charges against Nnamdi Kanu, the IPOB leader, increasing the number of counts from seven to 15.

The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Wednesday, adjourned the trial of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), until February, after the secessionist was re-arraigned on fresh charges filed against him by the Nigerian government.

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The federal government filed an amended 15-count charge against him on Monday.

Mr Kanu was accused of various offences, including treasonable felony and terrorism, offences he allegedly committed in the course of his separatist campaigns.

He was initially scheduled to be re-arraigned before the court on Tuesday, but the judge, Binta Nyako, had to adjourn the case after the defence team complained about the late service of the amended charges on them.

Mr Kanu pleaded not guilty to all 15 counts read to him on Wednesday.

After the plea taking, the prosecutor, Shuiabu Labaran, urged the trial judge, Mrs Nyako, to order the trial to commence.

The Nigerian government lawyer said there were two prosecution witnesses in court on Wednesday for the trial to begin immediately.

But Mr Kanu’s lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), objected to the commencement of trial, arguing that his client’s two pending applications challenging the validity of the charges must first be taken and determined.

“I am surprised that the prosecution was telling the court that it was ready to go on with the trial,” Mr Ozekhome said.

He argued further, “We have served the prosecution with two fundamental documents. We have generated a preliminary objection. We urge the court to discharge and acquit the defendant because there is no basis for the charge to stand.

“We cannot go into trial without addressing the pending applications.

“The very applications are fundamental and intrinsic to the hearing and determination of the 15-count charge.”

Responding, Mr Labaran said he had just been served on Wednesday with the applications seeking to quash the charges as well as the defendant’s bail.

“You cannot file a process on the same day and it will be heard. Constitutionally, we have a right to look at the court papers and see whether to reply or not,” the government lawyer argued.

But the judge was not disposed to entertaining Mr Kanu’s bail application, saying, “I can’t hear the bail application for now.”

Mrs Nyako, however, agreed with the defence lawyer that “his application must be heard and determined first, whether the charges are defective or not.”

She then adjourned the case until February 16.

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