A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Friday refused to give bail to leader of the separatist Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, whose detention has sparked protests in parts of the country.
Justice John Tsoho in his ruling also denied bail to two other pro-Biafra agitators, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi, who are facing trial with Kanu.
Kanu’s lawyer says he has been illegally detained since the Department of State Service (DSS) arrested him in Lagos on October 17.
Two other courts had ordered Kanu’s unconditional release but the government refused, escalating charges against him to terrorism.
Justice Tsoho maintained that the charge against the defendants “is a grave one that will attract severe punishment upon conviction”.
The court noted that the offence that was allegedly committed by the defendants, which borders on treasonable felony, attracts life imprisonment.
It held that the right to personal liberty of any individual takes secondary place once the issue of national security is involved.
Besides, Justice Tsoho observed that the defendants had in an affidavit they deposed in support of their bail application, insisted that they have a right to agitate for self determination.
“The situation as perceived by this court is that there is conflict of interest between the applicants who insist that they have a right to agitate and the respondent (Federal Government) which argues that it has the responsibility to maintain peace and order.
“Personal liberty of an individual within the contemplation of section 35 of the 1999 Constitution is a qualified right that is not absolute. It can be curtailed in other to prevent a person from committing further offence.
“Section 35 cannot be used as a canopy to escape lawful detention by persons suspected to have committed serious crime,” the Judge held.
While ordering that the defendants should remain at Kuje prison, the Judge fixed February 9 to commence their trial.
The trio are answering to a six-count treason charge that was preferred against him by the Federal Government.
The court had on January 20, remanded them in prison custody shortly after they pleaded not guilty to the charge against them.
Abuja alleges that the accused persons were the ones managing the affairs of the IPOB which it described as “an unlawful society”.
Kanu who is also the Director of Radio Biafra and Television, was specifically alleged to have illegally smuggled radio transmitters into Nigeria.
The IPOB leader has been in detention since his arrest.
Dutch lawyer, Goran Sluiter, on Friday asked the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate President Muhammadu Buhari, charging he bears criminal responsibility for crimes against Biafran separatist protesters including murder, torture, enforced disappearance and arbitrary arrest and detention.
Sluiter says violence against Biafrans in Nigeria has intensified since Buhari’s election last year.