From Magnus Eze, Enugu
Special counsel to Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Aloysius Ejimakor, yesterday, asserted that the Federal Government has no cause to continue keeping the self-determination activist in custody. The Court of Appeal on Thursday discharged and acquitted Kanu of terrorism charges.
This is as the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF), Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), and several other groups, applauded the Court of Appeal for its boldness and courage in setting Kanu free.
But in a quick reaction, the Federal Government through the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said the court merely discharged the appellant but did not acquit him. He indicated that the Federal Government was exploring other legal options, adding that Kanu was not yet a free man.
Faulting Malami’s position, Ejimakor said that the AGF was wrong, noting that it would amount to illegality and abuse of legal process if the government failed to set the IPOB leader free. According to him, since the extraordinary rendition of Kanu has been declared unconstitutional by the court, any other action taken against him, including preferring new charges, without releasing him from detention would be illegal.
Ejimakor, who declined to disclose what Kanu’s legal team would do should the Federal Government refuse to release him, added that doing so would amount to giving the government advice.
“The AGF is wrong. If the FG refuses or stalls on releasing Kanu merely because it desires to initiate further or new charges, it will amount to a holding charge situation which has been held as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Further, no new charge can stick against Kanu because, in the present circumstance, the extraordinary rendition is an abiding factor that has created a permanent barrier to his prosecution, at least for now. The judgment of the Court of Appeal has grandfathered a continuing lack of prosecutorial jurisdiction, which can only be overcome by a few things…Before any further charge can have a toga of legality or constitutionality, Kanu has to be released first.”
Also speaking, another counsel to Kanu, Ifeanyi Ejiofor called on the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, (AGF), Abubakar Malami, SAN, to comply with the order of the Court of Appeal and resign voluntarily for exposing the Federal Government to international embarrassment and ridicule.
Ejiofor said the order made by the Learned Justices of the Court of Appeal is sacrosanct and must be obeyed immediately without further ado.
While employing the AGF to be properly guided in law, Ejiofor said, “I implore him to meticulously read the full judgment of the Court of Appeal, immediately comply with orders made therein and possibly consider the most appropriate option of voluntarily resigning, for exposing the Federal Government to this international embarrassment and ridicule.”
Eminent lawyer and Chairman of Igbo Lawyers Association (ILA), Chief Chuks Muoma shares the same view with Ejimakor. According to him, the case for which the IPOB leader was taken to court, had no basis in law because he was only expressing himself in line with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as Amended. The elder statesman then stated: “It is a political problem that required a political solution. He shouldn’t have been prosecuted because his prosecution was wrong, oppressive, and vindictive. His release is worth celebrating. They have come to the realisation that he was wrongly being prosecuted.”
Muoma who linked Kanu’s incarceration to his Igbo origin, argued that the pro-Biafra agitator should be fully compensated for wrongful confinement due to the federal government’s vindictiveness.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo said Kanu’s release signalled the end of an era in the history of the Igbo and Nigeria. In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Dr. Alex Ogbonnia, it said that since the world watched Kanu’s trial with keenness, the judgment therefore, was a major boost to the image of Nigeria among the comity of nations. He said: “This is a plus to the Nigerian democracy and a sign that brighter days lie ahead. What occurred today is a sign of bright light at the end of the tunnel.”
The statement added that the body’s President General, Prof. George Obiozor, had maintained that Kanu is a phenomenon that expresses the injustice, orchestrated alienation and inequity against the Igbo.
He said Obiozor had repeatedly reminded the Federal Government that Kanu’s incarceration was an ill-wind that blew nobody any good, noting that his fate had caused tremendous apprehensions including the Monday sit-at-home, its enforcements by “unknown” gunmen, the roadblocks on the major roads in many parts of Igbo land and ultimately the monumental loss of goods, especially in the South East.
In his own remarks, President General of Coalition of South East Youth Leaders (COSEYL), Goodluck Ibem said the era marks an end to the endless Monday sit-at-home observed in the zone since September last year. Ibem said: “Security men who have been committing atrocities will have no option than to vacate Igboland immediately. Their illegal business has come to an end.
“All economic activities will commence fully in the region. No more threats and counter threats from various agitation groups. Normalcy will be finally restored.” The ADF believed that Kanu’s victory is also for the progressive Nigerian youths who have stood stoutly in condemnation of old decadent political order and are fervently working for its elimination from the nation’s political fabric. In a statement by its President, Prof. Uzodinma Nwala, Acting Secretary, Abia Onyike and Chairman, Enugu State Chapter, Dr. J.C. Chukwuokolo, the group urged the IPOB leader to key into the current political revolution in Nigeria and ignore those who would want him to push for election boycott.