The Federal High Court, Abuja on Tuesday barred journalists from the trial of suspended Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari, who is being tried for drug offences.
The embattled former Head of the Intelligence Response Team of the Nigerian Police Force is being prosecuted alongside four others.
His co-defendants are ACP Sunday Ubia, ASP Bawa James, Inspector Simon Agirigba and Inspector John Nuhu.
Among other things, they were alleged to have unlawfully tampered with 21.25 kilogramme worth of cocaine that they seized from two drug traffickers and dealing in cocaine worth 17.55kg.
During resumed proceedings on the matter on Tuesday, Justice Emeka Nwite ordered journalists, other litigants’ lawyers and persons who were present to exit the courtroom before the commencement of proceedings.
Justice Nwite issued the order upon an application by the lead prosecuting counsel for the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Sunday Joseph, who urged the court to protect the identity of his next set of witnesses who were to give evidence in the trial.
Although other lawyers who had cases in the court protested the court’s decision, Justice Nwite appealed for their understanding.
The judge assured them that their cases would also be heard later, adding, “You can hang around. We are not going to take the matter throughout the whole day.”
After granting Joseph’s application the lawyers and other litigants left the courtroom.
Responding to journalists on why he made the application, Joseph said it was made to protect the witnesses, who are intelligent officers adding that “there is a doctrine of state privilege in the interest of national security.”
He said though the prosecution had been calling witnesses before now, the need to protect the current set of witnesses was because their identities could not be exposed to the public.
“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 said.