Journalists covering the ongoing trial of the suspended DCP Abba Kyari and others were, on Tuesday, restrained from coming into Court 10 of the Federal High Court, Abuja, venue of the proceeding.
Justice Emeka Nwite gave the order following an application to the effect by Sunday Joseph, counsel for the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency.
Joseph, a director of the Legal and Prosecution Department of the NDLEA, had applied for the protection of the next witness listed to give evidence in the trial.
The lawyer prayed the court that other lawyers, litigants, and visitors, including journalists, who were in the court should not be allowed to be in the courtroom while the hearing lasted.
Justice Nwite then stood down the matter to allow non-parties in the anti-narcotic suit against the suspended police officers to move out.
However, when the judge came in for the matter, a lawyer, Emmanuel Oluwabiyi, whose case was number 11 on the cause list, told Nwite that he was in 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 the courtroom.
“I am embarrassed by the application my lord,” he said.
Justice Nwite then pleaded with lawyers who were not in 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 meantime 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 throughout the whole day. Please bear with us,” the judge responded.
Another lawyer, Ramiah Imhanaede, also aligned with Oluwabiyi’s submission.
However, when the newsmen asked the NDLEA’s lawyer on the reason for the application, he said it was to give protection to the witnesses, who are intelligent officers, in the matter.
When asked about his reaction to the opinions of other lawyers in court, Joseph said “There is a doctrine of state privilege in the interest of national security.”
He said it had been observed that members of the Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team, who were loyal to 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.
The hearing is still ongoing as at the time of filing the report.
Justice Nwite had, on March 22, dismissed an application filed by Kyari and others seeking an order dismissing the NDLEA’s charge against them.
Kyari and three other co-defendants in the suit bordering on drug offence had filed the application.
The applicants are Kyari, ACP Sunday Ubia, Inspector Simon Agirigba and Inspector John Nuhu.
They had prayed the court to quash the criminal charge against them, in fresh motions on notice filed by their lawyers on the grounds that the suit was incompetent.
They urged the court to stop their trial because they had not been subjected to the internal disciplinary action of the Nigeria Police Council and the Police Service Commission, as provided by the constitution.
They said that the failure of the complainant await the disciplinary action against them rendered the charge incompetent and deprived the court of jurisdiction to entertain the charge. NAN