At the resumption of hearing of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu at the Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday, counsel to the Department of State Service, DSS, explained why it prevented the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, from appearing in new clothes.
The trial judge, Justice Binta Nyako, had during earlier sittings, insisted that the defendant must be allowed to wear new clothes while appearing in court.
The DSS had, while addressing the learned judge, hinged their refusal to allow Mazi Nnamdi Court attend court in new clothes, on Wednesday, on the point that the clothes brought by Kanu’s younger brother had a lion’s head insignia,
The DSS official told the court that the clothes were rejected because it contained an insignia that is associated with the IPOB.
“My lord, I have been on the issue of his clothing for quite some time now. The issue was that they brought clothes with lion’s head.
“We looked at the clothes and said no. That this is why we are in court and it offends our standard of operation,” DSS said.
Clothing with the lion head insignia, popularly called “Ishiagu,” is a traditional attire of Ndigbo, the Igbo people, and is usually worn on special occasions.
Kanu’s lead counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), argued against this infringement on a basic right of his client, stating that he, Ozekhome, was dressed in the same attire, and could not see any cogent reason why Kanu can’t wear it.
Justice Nyako, while admitting that she equally owns the type of wear, insisted that Kanu would not be permitted to wear it for his trial.
“The Defendant will not wear it in this my court. He can wear it to any other place, but not inside this my court,” Justice Nyako ruled.
Speaking to Kanu, who was in the dock, Justice Nyako asked him the type of clothes he would want.
“I want to wear the clothes of my people which is ‘Ishi-Agu’,” Kanu replied.
“No, you will not wear it,” the judge countered him.
“But I can’t understand why I cannot wear it,” Kanu fired back.
Justice Nyako said he would allow Kanu to wear plain-coloured clothes or retain the one he has been wearing, if that was his wish.
“I do want to change, but they refused,” Kanu explained.
“Yes, because you want to wear something with insignia,” Justice Nyako noted.
Kanu had through his counsel, Ozekhome, complained that despite an express order of the court, he was still not allowed a change of clothing since he was re-arrested in June 2021. He wore the same Fendi designer jump suit to court.
Disagreeing with the learned judge, some commentators of the Igbo ethnic stock have described the ruling as a cultural war against Ndigbo.
Describing the stance of the court as a national disgrace, Mazi Ukonu Eleanya stated that the “Ishi Agu” is not just an Igbo dress, but a Nigerian national dress also.
In context, he said that during the trial of Chief MKO Abiola, the culture of the Yoruba was not subjected to any judicial violence. Never in the history of high profile cases in Nigeria – whether the trial of Obafemi Awolowo or that of Al Mustapha – has the cultural dress of the defendant been subjected to such abuse and ridicule, not just by security agencies, but also by a trial judge.