The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho, has released a new practice direction for the trial of terrorism cases before the court.
The cases of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, bureau de change operators indicted over sponsorship of terrorism, and Boko Haram suspects are currently before the court.
Justice Tsoho said the new practice direction is in the exercise of his constitutional powers as enshrined in Section 254 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
Under the new arrangement, the court said media coverage of proceedings is strictly prohibited, “save as may be directed by the court.”
“A person who contravenes an order or direction made under these practice directions shall be deemed to have committed an offence contrary to section 34(5) of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 (as amended),” the direction states.
It further reads that “only the judges; other essential court staff and security agencies involved in the particular case and their vehicles shall have access to the court premises.”
He said in any proceedings the court deems necessary to ensure the safety and or to protect the identity of the victim or witness, may hold its proceedings at any place to be designated by the chief judge with the Code of Conduct Tribunal as the venue for the time being.
“The names, addresses, telephone numbers and identity of the victims of such offences or witnesses in the proceedings shall not be disclosed in any record or report of the proceedings and it shall be sufficient to designate the names of the victims or witnesses with a combination of alphabets,” he added.
The court listed other procedure to include evidence by video link; permit the witness to be screened or masked; receive written depositions of expert witnesses; and direct that all or any part of the proceedings of the court shall not be published in any manner.
Others are to exclude from the proceedings any person other than the parties and their legal representatives; make order as to any electronic devices that would be allowed during proceedings; and make order on any other measure that the court considers appropriate in the circumstances.