Tuesday marked the resumption of the trial of suspended Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Abba Kyari and three others at a Federal High Court in Abuja.
This time, however, the proceedings took place behind closed doors. Previously, there were no restrictions on who was permitted to attend the trial.
The presiding Judge, Justice Emeka Nwite, issued an order for journalists, lawyers involved in other cases, and other litigants to leave the courtroom prior to the start of the proceedings. The order was issued in response to a request from Sunday Joseph, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency’s (NDLEA) chief prosecuting attorney.
To protect the identities of upcoming witnesses scheduled to testify in the trial, Joseph requested that lawyers from other cases, litigants, visitors, and journalists be excluded from observing the proceedings. After granting Joseph’s request, Justice Nwite temporarily halted the proceedings so that non-parties to the case could exit the courtroom.
Sunday In the interest of national security, Joseph explained that it was necessary to protect the witnesses, who are top intelligence officers, under the doctrine of state privilege. In addition, he stated that unidentified members of the Inspector-General (IG) of the Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT) who are loyal to Abba Kyari have been attending court sessions. Thus, witness protection was crucial.
Joseph acknowledged the accusations of witch-hunting but emphasised the need to protect the current set of witnesses due to the sensitivity of their identities, which could not be revealed to the general public.
Although some solicitors objected to their exclusion, Justice Nwite pleaded for their understanding. He reassured them that their cases would be heard in the future and urged them to be patient.
Despite the protests, the trial continued with subsequent proceedings occurring in private. Uncertain as to when the next hearing will occur, this case is certainly one to follow.