From: Godwin Tsa, Abuja
After almost two years in detention, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, yesterday breathed the air of freedom as he was released from Kuje prison, Abuja.
He was brought from Kuje prison to the Federal High Court at 6:30pm in a black Mercedes GL 550 4Matic Jeep with registration number ABC 46 MUL to sign the necessary bail papers.
The process, which took barely 10 minutes saw Kanu emerging with smiles from the court in company with his sureties and his relatives.
After a group photographs with his relatives and well wishers at the court complex, Kanu declined to grant any interview in line with the conditions attached to his bail.
The way to freedom began early morning and progressed till about 3:44pm, when his lawyer, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, accompanied by Kanu ‘s younger brother, Prince Kanu, former Aviation Minister, Chief Chidoka Osita and other relations, left the Federal High Court complex together with an official of the Nigerian Prison Service (NPS), Inspector Idris M.S for Kuje prison to effect his release.
This was after meeting the conditions attached to his bail by Justice Binta Nyako of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court.
Those who stood as sureties for the pro-Biafra agitator were the Chairman, South East Senate caucus and former Deputy Governor of Abia State, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, a Jewish High Chief Priest, Immanuu-El Shalom and a Chartered Accountant residing in Abuja, Tochukwu Uchendu.
After two years in detention, Justice Binta Nyako of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court, had on Tuesday April 25, 2017, granted Kanu bail on health grounds.
Kanu and three other pro- Biafra agitators; Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi are standing trial for charges bordering on treasonable felony.
In her ruling, Justice Nyako said he must produce three sureties, including a “highly respected and recognised jewish leader”.
Besides the production of a Jewish leader, the court also asked Kanu to produce a “highly placed person of Igbo extraction such as a Senator”, as well as “a highly respected person who is resident and owns landed property in Abuja”. Justice Nyako ruled that each of the sureties are to deposit N100million each.
In addition to the above bail conditions, Kanu was barred from attending any rally or granting any form of interview.
“I must stress it here that the defendant must not attend any rally. He must not be in a crowd exceeding 10 persons”, the Judge warned.
The court equally held that Kanu who has been in detention since October 14, 2015, when he was arrested by security operatives upon his arrival in Nigeria from the United Kingdom, must sign an undertaking to make himself available for trial at all times.
Kanu was further ordered to surrender his Nigerian and British international passports, even as the court compelled FG to return to him, his wedding ring and reading glasses.
According to the judge, “Count one of the charge upon which the defendants are standing trial is a count alleging treasonable felony; that is even a more serious charge.
“However, as it relates to the 1st defendant (that is Nnamdi Kanu), the applicant has deposed extensively on his health and appeals to the court on health grounds to allow him bail on any condition.”
The court further held that, “overtime that the defendants have appeared in court, the 1st defendant maybe having some health issues as he (Kanu) always sits down and sweats profusely.
“I am of the opinion that the 1st defendant needs a better health attention that the prisons service is unable to provide. I hereby use my discretion and grant the 1st defendant bail.”
Justice Nyako while granting the bail requested for a monthly medical report on Kanu’s health status that must be filed before the court, adding that the 1st defendant shall not grant press interviews nor attend public rallies.
In a related development, the court struck out an application that sought to prevent the federal government from shielding the identities of prosecution witnesses in the suit.
It was a different fate for the three other pro Biafra agitators; Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi, as they were denied bail by the court which fixed July 11 and 12 to commence their trial.
Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State and former Aviation Minister, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode witnessed the proceedings. Also, the immediate past Aviation Minister, Chief Chidoke Osita was among dignitaries that attended the court proceedings.
Meanwhile, the South East Caucus of the Senate, Thursday met and agreed to take Nnamdi Kanu on bail. The emergency meeting, which held at the Apo Quarters residence of the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, according to reliable sources privy to the meeting, was essentially to discuss the stringent bail conditions granted Kanu by Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court, Abuja on Tuesday.
“First, the Caucus agreed to work as a team to secure Kanu’s release. It was agreed that the leader of the Caucus and Senator representing Abia South Senatorial District, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe or the Senator representing the IPOB leader’s Abia Central Senatorial District, Senator Theodore Orji, should take him on bail.”
The source said the South East Senate Caucus had also made contact with Nnamdi’s lawyers on the decision to ensure that his bail is perfected.
…Road to freedom
Some 15 months ago, before his visit to Nigeria and his arrest by operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS) at a hotel in Lagos, the name, Nnamdi Kanu hardly rings a bell. The acclaimed leader of IPOB and director of Radio Biafra was ignored by the outside world. Nobody really took him serious.
But the Nigerian government took him serious, and arrested him on October 14, 2015 when he visited Nigeria and charged with treasonable felony. He was not to regain his freedom until April 28, 2017.
The Kuje Prison where he was incarcerated became a Mecca of sort for political leaders. The most prominent of the early visitors was former Abia State governor, Orji Uzor Kalu who on December 16, 2016, visited him and had a lengthy discussion with the IPOB leader. After the visit, Kalu declared, “It is therefore my utmost concern to see him regain his freedom,” and announced he was spearheading of a planned talk with the government.
Thereafter, visits to Kuje Prison gained momentum. It was the turn of Igbo leaders under the umbrella of Alaig-bo Development Founda-tion (ADF) in the first week of February 2017. The ADF group affirmed they were contemplating a political resolution of the matter with the federal authorities. Its president, Professor Uzodinma Nwala, led the group.
By the end of the month, a more respectable delegate knocked on the prison door at Kuje. Men of timber and caliber, like former Central Bank Governor, Professor Chukwuma Soludo and renowned economist, Dr. Pat Utomi, led the visit under the umbrella of Nzuko Umuna, a coalition of Igbo group that cuts across all the major groups in the South-east including those in diaspora.
On April 4, it was the turn of Nigerian music artistes and Nollywood actors under the umbrella of United Nigerian Artists for Peace and Justice (UNAPJ). Chinaka Greatson, who led the group he described as “a collaboration of artists from the movie and music industry” hailed the visit as homage to Kanu and a show of solidarity to his cause.
The historic importance of the incarceration of the IPOB leader was not lost to former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode while he was also an inmate of the Kuje Prison for 21 days. Fani-Kayode, detained in November 2016, did not let the opportunity pass him by to visit a man he described as “great and brilliant freedom fighter,” and “easily the most courageous, powerful and credible Igbo leader in Nigeria today.”
British government too played a part. An email originating from Joe Abuku, spokesman for the British High Commission, affirmed: “We have provided assistance to Mr. Kanu since his arrest in October last year, including visiting him regularly in prison and attending court appearances in an observation capacity.”
Eventually, freedom came when Justice Binta Nyako, at the Federal High Court, Abuja, on April 25, granted him bail on health grounds, which took three more days to be perfected.
Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, and former Minister of Aviation, Osita Chidoka, put up appearance at the court to show solidarity with Kanu.
After over 500 days in detention, the little-known South London Jockey who used to run the Radio Biafra walked out and breathed free air.
By then he has become a man of the people and a totem of a struggle.