From Okey Sampson, Umuahia
An Abia High Court sitting in Umuahia, presided over by Justice Benson Anya, yesterday, ordered the Federal Government to pay N1 billion to Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), over infringement on his fundamental human rights by the military even as it ordered government to apologise to him.
Kanu, through his counsel, Aloy Ejimakor, had instituted a suit on August 27, 2021 seeking among other declarations, that military invasion of his home in Abia State in September 2017 was illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional and infringement on his fundamental rights to life, dignity of his person, his personal liberty and fair hearing as guaranteed under the Nigerian Constitution and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
Those listed in the suit were Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation (AGF), Department of State Services (DSS), the Federal Government of Nigeria (first), Chief of Army Staff (third), Inspector-General of Police (fifth) and three others.
In the suit marked HIH/FR14/2021, Kanu asked the court to compel the respondents to pay him N5 billion in damages as monetary compensation for the “physical, mental, emotional, psychological and other damages” suffered as a result of the alleged infringement on his fundamental rights.
The suit also sought an order of injunction restraining the Federal Government from taking any further step in the prosecution of Nnamdi Kanu in Charge No: FHC/ABJ/CR/383/2015 (Federal Republic of Nigeria v. Nnamdi Kanu) pursuant to his unlawful expulsion from Kenya to Nigeria.
“An order mandating and compelling the Nigerian government to forthwith release Nnamdi Kanu from detention and to restore him to his liberty, same being his state of being as of 19th June, 2021 and to thereupon repatriate him to Britain, his country of domicile and citizenship.An order mandating and compelling the Nigerian government to issue an official letter of apology to Nnamdi Kanu for the infringement of his fundamental rights, and publication of said letter of apology in three national dailies.”
After the suit was heard and concluded on December 10 last year, Justice Anya fixed yesterday for judgment. In a judgment that lasted for an hour, the judge said his court lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate in the applicant’s reliefs Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 6. Justice Anya said the court was not vested with the powers to adjudicate on matters that took place in a foreign land, far away outside its jurisdiction.
On the applicant’s prayer for the court to order his release from detention and repatriate him back to Britain, his country of domicile before his arrest, the judge held that the court also lacked the jurisdiction to entertain matters relating to extradition.
Turning to relief No.1, Justice Anya said it was wrong for the military to have invaded Nnamdi Kanu’s home in Afaraukwu, which made him to flee the country, saying by so doing, his fundamental human rights were seriously violated.
While saying that brutality, torture, abductions and other forms of killings do not resolve conflicts, rather they fertilise it, Justice Anya advised the Federal Government to apply political solution to the Kanu problem.
The court, therefore, ordered the Federal Government to apologise to Nnamdi Kanu for infringing on his human rights and awarded N1billion as exemplary damages.
Speaking to journalists after the judgment, Ejimakor said: “With the Umuahia judgment, the bench warrant issued in Abuja may have to be vacated. That he is in detention today was because they said he jumped bail, but with the court’s ruling, that issue will be put to rest.”
Ejimakor said he may approach another court, or the Appeal Court, in respect of the rendition matter which the Abia High Court declined jurisdiction.