• Kanu discharged not acquitted, FG to explore other options
• Court: FG’s abduction, rendition of Kanu breached all local, international laws
• Kanu’s freedom positive step towards Biafra restoration – MASSOB
• Ohanaeze Ndigbo: FG should not appeal Kanu’s victory, it’s time for dialogue
The Court of Appeal in Abuja, yesterday, declared as illegal and unlawful, the abduction and rendition of the Biafra nation agitator and leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, from Kenya to Nigeria and quashed the entire terrorism charges brought against him by the Federal Government.
Striking out the charges against him, the court held that the Federal Government breached all local and international laws in the forceful rendition of Kanu to Nigeria in June 2021, thereby, making the terrorism charges against him incompetent and unlawful.
In a judgment of the three-member panel read by the lead judge, Justice Oludotun Adefope-Okojie, the criminal charges by the Federal Government against Kanu were voided and set aside.
On October 2015, Kanu was arrested by Nigerian authorities on an 11-count charge bordering on terrorism, treasonable felony, managing an unlawful society, publication of defamatory matter, illegal possession of firearms and improper importation of goods, among others. He was granted bail on April 2017 for medical reasons.
However, Kanu fled the country in September 2017 after an invasion of his home by the military in Afara-Ukwu, near Umuahia, Abia State. He was then sighted in Israel and later continued to rally his supporters in Nigeria to employ violence in achieving secession.
“He has, upon jumping bail, been accused of engaging in subversive activities that include inciting violence through television, radio and online broadcasts against Nigeria and Nigerian State and institutions,” Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said after Kanu was rearrested and brought back to Nigeria in June 2021.
Kanu was also accused of “instigating violence, especially in Southeastern Nigeria that resulted in the loss of life and property of civilians, military, para-military, police force and destruction of civil institutions and symbols of authorities.”
Kanu was re-arraigned on an amended 15-count charge bordering on treasonable felony preferred against him by the Federal Government. However, on April 8, the judge struck out eight of the 15 counts in the charge.
But Kanu, through his team of lawyers, led by Mike Ozekhome (SAN), filed an appeal marked CA/ABJ/CR/625/2022, praying the court to quash the remaining seven counts for being devoid of merit. The court was also asked to order the immediate release of Kanu should the charges be quashed.
Moving the application at the court session on September 13, Ozekhome alleged that his client was forcefully abducted from Kenya and illegally brought back to the country.
The senior lawyer argued that under the ‘doctrine of speciality’ as provided for in Section 15 of the Extradition Act, the Federal Government ought to have proceeded to try Kanu on the initial five-count charge on which he was re-arraigned before he fled the country.
He argued that Kenya, being the country from where Kanu was arrested and extraordinarily renditioned to Nigeria, ought to have authorised his extradition and the new charges he is facing.
But David Kaswe, counsel to the Federal Government, had asked the court to dismiss the appeal for want of merit. In its judgment yesterday, the appellate court held that the respondent, by not responding to the appellant’s submissions, conceded to the allegation that Kanu was forcefully renditioned from Kenya to Nigeria.
The court held that it was necessary for the country to prove the legality of Kanu’s arrival in Nigeria. The court also held that the respondent flouted the Terrorism Act and was also in violation of all known international conventions and treaties guiding extradition process, thus, breaching the rights of the respondent.
The court further held that having illegally and forcefully renditioned the appellant, the trial court is stripped of jurisdiction to continue to try Kanu.
Kanu is being prosecuted at the Federal High Court in Abuja for 15 count charges bordering on treasonable felony, terrorism and offences he allegedly committed in the course of his separatist campaigns.
The court held that the 15-count charge did not disclose the place, date, time and nature of the alleged offences before being unlawfully extradited to Nigeria in clear violation of international treaties. It added that the manner in which Kanu was procured and brought before the court was not evaluated by the lower court, before assuming jurisdiction to try him.
The lower court having failed to address the preliminary objection challenging its jurisdiction, particularly the issue of abduction and extraordinary rendition from Kenya to Nigeria, the lower court failed to take cognisance of the fact that a warrant of arrest can only be executed anywhere within Nigeria, the appeal court judgment said.
The African Charter on Human and People’s rights are part of the laws of Nigeria and courts must abide by the laws without pandering to the whims of the Executive, the appeal court noted.
Justice Adebola held that failure of government to follow due process by way of extradition process as prescribed by law was fatal to the charges against Kanu.
“By engaging in utter unlawful and illegal act and in breach of its own laws in the instant matter, the Federal Government did not come to equity in clean hands and must be called to order. With appalling disregard to local and international laws, the Federal Government has lost the right to put the appellant on trial for any offence.
“Treaties and protocols are meant to be obeyed. No government in the world is permitted to abduct anybody without following due process of extradition. Nigeria is not an exception or excused. Nigeria must obey her own laws and that of international treaties so as to avoid anarchy,” the court held.
MEMBERS of IPOB, yesterday, went into wild jubilation in the Southeast following the discharge and acquittal of their leader. IPOB members who had besieged newsstands along the Edinburgh road, Enugu, where offices of national newspapers are located in the state, erupted moments after the news was broken.
Reacting to the development, IPOB said the ruling has shown that some judges are good and they know the law. IPOB’s spokesman, Emma Powerful, said the judges know that Kanu did not commit the crime.
According to Powerful: “We are happy to hear that our leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, has been acquitted and discharged. That is to show that some judges are good and know the law and understand that Nnamdi Kanu did not commit crimes and his extraordinary rendition was very illegal.
“Biafrans, both home and abroad, including our friends should rejoice because Almighty Chukwu Okike Abiama has done it again. Biafra realisation is the next target and nothing will stop IPOB from achieving Biafra freedom. If you know you are a criminal terrorising our people, just run because you are going to meet your Waterloo.”
The Ohanaeze Ndigbo worldwide has appealed to the Federal Government to resist the temptation of appealing to the Court of Appeal’s verdict on the illegality associated with the abduction of Kanu in Kenya and illegitimate extradition to Nigeria.
In a statement, Secretary-General of the body, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, said: “FG should be mature enough to know that Kanu’s victory is no victor no vanquished status quo, the best way for FG to reconcile with Biafra agitators should be through dialogue, they will kick off the process of reconciliation by not appealing Kanu’s victory. This should be the guarantee’s offer for IPOB to dialogue with FG. This is the rarest chance in history to end insecurity challenges in the Southeast.”
Ohanaeze also advised FG to extend the hands of fellowship to Southern agitators in line with President Buhari’s commitment to end insecurity and handover a more united Nigeria in 2023.
“Dialogue should be the next phase and option for the Federal Government to achieve peace in Southeast. Igbo leaders are ready to accompany Kanu to Buhari for genuine dialogue, it’s up to Federal Government to do the needful,” he said.
Leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of Biafra (MASSOB), Uchenna Madu, said the decision of the court was “ progress towards Biafra actualisation and restoration”, adding that it is a triumph of light over darkness.
Madu said: “His release has opened a new dimension to Biafra struggle, which must continue to be anchored on non-violence, mutual understanding and unity of purpose. As Kanu is being discharged from DSS detention, MASSOB will continue with other progressive groups and individuals to press further for the release of other pro-Biafra detainees across Nigeria prisons.
“Though the people of Biafra are celebrating all over the world, our most desired joy is attainment of Biafra sovereignty from Nigeria State,” he said. MASSOB warned the DSS to quickly obey the order of the appellate court.
WHEN contacted for reaction, Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations to Malami, Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, was unavailable for comments as his mobile phone was switched off, but FG’s lawyer, Kasuwe, said when the Ministry gets the Certified True Copy of the judgment, they will then determine the next line of action.
However, earlier before the court ruling, Gwandu had in a statement, said Malami remains a true democrat who believes in the rule of law and tenets of democracy and Constitutional order.
The statement reads: “The attention of the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice has been drawn to a false and fictitious report alleging that there was a secret memo emanating from the Office to the Presidency. Members of the public are hereby asked to disregard the report as fabrications of anti-Constitutional democratic stability in Nigeria.
“Malami remains a true democrat who believes in rules of law and tenant of democracy and Constitutional order. The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice is a constitutionally recognised one with its role and responsibilities embedded in the Constitution.
“It is antithetical to common sense to think that the holder of such coveted office will stoop to what was printed by the media. The government does not operate in secrecy, as it is not a clandestine operation. Hence, Malami discharges his constitutionally recognised mandate in compliance with principles of transparency, openness and accountability.”