Two lawyers, Ezechukwu Obete and Gabriel Ebule, battled each other for the right to represent the Director of Radio Biafra, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, when the Federal Government’s case against him came up before a Magistrate’s Court in Wuse Zone 2, Abuja, on Wednesday.
Both lawyers flaunted different letters appointing them to defend the accused person.
Kanu was on October 19, 2015 arraigned on charges of criminal conspiracy, managing and belonging to an unlawful society as well as criminal intimidation, offences said to be contrary to sections 97 and 397 of the Penal Code.
The accused was not present in court on Wednesday but a number of his supporters were seen in the court premises throughout the period the proceedings lasted.
However, the dispute between the two lawyers over his legal representation made the presiding Chief Magistrate, Shuaibu Usman, to order the Department of State Services to produce him on Monday to enable him to identify his desired counsel.
Prosecuting counsel, Mr. Moses Idakwo, said the DSS did not produce the accused in court on Wednesday because the court’s business for the day was for the hearing of an application by the accused challenging the court’s jurisdiction to entertain the charges preferred against him.
But the magistrate reminded the prosecutor that he had on October 23, 2015 ordered that the accused person must always be present in court each time the matter came up regardless of what the proceedings were about.
He said the criminal proceedings could not continue in the absence of the accused person.
Usman, therefore, ordered the prosecutor to unfailingly produce the accused before the court on November 23, 2015.
Ebule, who first announced his appearance for the accused person on Wednesday, had informed the court that he represented the accused person on October 19, 2015 when he was arraigned.
Ebule produced a letter which he said was written by the wife of the accused person appointing him as the defence lawyer.
The prosecutor had also confirmed that the notice of preliminary objection scheduled for hearing on Wednesday was served on him by Ebule.
Obete, on his part, produced two letters one of which he said was written by the Indigenous People of Biafra, and signed by an official of the group, Alphonsus Mefor, appointing him as lawyer.
The second letter produced by Obete which he said appointed him to defend the accused was said to be dated October 16 and written by the father of the accused person, and the traditional ruler of Afara-Ukwu community in Abia State.
Obete, who said he was based in Enugu, noting that Ebule only capitalised on his absence from the previous proceedings.
He said he arrived in Abuja late on the day of the previous proceedings because he got the notice late.
The presiding magistrate recalled that the accused did not have any lawyer to represent him on the day he was arraigned on October 19.
He added that Ebule only volunteered to defend him (Kanu) after he inquired and confirmed that he had no counsel in court.
The magistrate then directed that the accused would be made to identify his desired lawyer on Monday.
The charges against the accused included an allegation that he formed an unlawful society with the purpose of bringing into being a Republic of Biafra.
He was also alleged to have proclaimed himself as the leader of the Republic of Biafra and established the Radio Biafra.
Kanu was also alleged to have appointed himself the Commander of the Loyal Forces of Biafra and was broadcasting to the whole world the dire consequences the government and people of Nigeria would surfer should they attempt to hinder the actualisation of the Republic of Biafra.