Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court Abuja on Tuesday barred journalists , lawyers and public from ongoing trial of the suspended DCP Abba Kyari and four other police officers who are standing trial for alleged drug trafficking as under cover witnesses testified.
The court chased away public from the trial as under cover witnesses testified. This followed an application brought by Mr Sunday Joseph the prosecution counsel for the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).
Joseph, a director of Legal and Prosecution Department of the NDLEA, had applied for the protection of the next witness listed to give evidence in the trial.
In his application,the counsel prayed the court not to allow lawyers not involved in the matter , litigants, visitors, including journalists in the courtroom while the hearing lasted.
The judge granted the request and then stood down the matter to allow non-parties in the anti-narcotic suit against the suspended police officers move out.
However, when the judge came in for the matter, a lawyer, Emmanuel Oluwabiyi, whose case was on number 11 on the cause list, told the judge that he was in the court for another matter.
Oluwabiyi said he observed that before the judge rose, counsel for the NDLEA made an application.
“I understand that it was directed that everybody in the courtroom should step out because of the instant matter. The bar is also meant to be vacated.
“The feedback I am getting is that when this matter is going to be made, no lawyer should be in
“I am embarrassed by the application my lord,” he said.
Justice Nwite then pleaded with lawyers who were not in the Kyari’s matter to bear with the court in the interim.
He said their matters too would be heard as soon as hearing was over.
“In the mean time sir, I want to know when to come back my lord,” Oluwabiyi asked.
“You can hang around. We are not going to take the matter through out the whole day. Please bear with, the court” the judge responded.
Another lawyer, Mr Ramiah Imhanaede, also aligned with Oluwabiyi’s submission but they complied with the court order.
When court rose after the secret testimony, NDLEA’s lawyer told journalists that he made the application to protect the witnesses, who are intelligent officers. He added that “there is a doctrine of state privilege in the interest of national security” in the application.
He said it had been observed that members of the Inspector-General (I-G) of Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT) who were loyal to Mr Kyari, were still coming to court
“And you don’t know who is who; so, it is for the witness’ protection
“We are now going into the nitty gritty of the matter and there have been allegations that we are just witch-hunting them,” he alleged.
Joseph said though the agency had been calling witnesses, the present witnesses cannot be exposed to the public. He said lawyers in the matter agreed on secret testimony because of security concern as they are “class of witnesses that needed to be protected, they are under cover witnesses.”
He said the witnesses testified he wanted to tender exhibits and then there was an objection . The Court adjourned the matter to June 9, that was what transpired, he said.