By John Ikani
A federal judge ruled on Thursday that all trials of terrorism cases in Nigeria will henceforth be held in secret.
According to a statement from the Nigerian Federal High Court, titled “new practice directions on hearing of terrorism cases”, the ruling include a ban on media coverage of court proceedings unless ordered by the trial judge.
The statement signed by Justice John Terhemba Tsoho added that only judges, lawyers and parties to a case are to be allowed into courtrooms.
It went on to note that there will be tight security during such trials, with members of the public barred from accessing the perimeter distance around the court building, adding that identities and contact details of victims and witnesses shall not be disclosed for their safety.
While noting that the measures announced on Thursday take immediate effect, the statement warned that any person who violates the guidelines “shall be deemed to have committed an offence contrary to the country’s anti-terrorism law”.
The new guidelines came a day before the trail of Nnamdi Kanu – the leader of the outlawed separatist movement known as the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (Ipob) – resumes.
A ruling on charges filed against him by the Nigerian government – relating to treason and terrorism – is expected on Friday in Abuja.
Mr Kanu’s group is agitating for a breakaway state of Biafra in south-east Nigeria.