The recent bail granted to the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, by Justice Binta Nyako of Federal High Court, Abuja, would have been a welcome development if the stringent bail conditions were not attached to it. More worrisome is the ethnic and religious colourations of the bail conditions. Remember that Kanu is being granted bail on health grounds.
Although this is not the first time that Kanu will be granted bail, the problem has always been a government that has consistently refused to obey its court orders, especially on the Kanu matter. Perhaps, to make it difficult for Kanu to regain his freedom, the bail conditions were made stringent enough. One of the conditions for bail is that Kanu must produce three sureties including a “highly respected and recognized Jewish religious leader in Nigeria.”
Other sureties Kanu should produce include “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 and verifiable Certificate of Occupancy.” Besides, Justice Binta Nyako ruled that each of the sureties should deposit N100 million each.
Apart from all these suffocating conditions, Justice Nyako barred Kanu from attending any rally or be in a crowd exceeding 10 people. He should not grant any form of interview. Kanu must make himself available for trial at all times. He should surrender his Nigerian and British international passports. Justice Nyako wants a monthly medical report on Kanu’s health status to be filed before the court. The court ordered the Federal Government to return to him his wedding ring and reading glasses.
There is no doubt that granting unconditional freedom for the detained IPOB leader is the best thing this government can do to douse the tension between it and the pro-Biafra groups. This government will not gain anything in its continued detention of the Biafran leader and the symbol of Biafran nationalism. The continued detention and trial of Kanu for whatever offences by the Federal Government cannot ensure peace between the government and the separatist groups that are championing the cause of independent Biafra.
The stringent bail conditions given to Kanu do not serve the course of justice administration and adjudication. The course of justice is vitiated when conditions that make bail impossible are given as in the case of Kanu. Assuming that Kanu fulfills the conditions for bail, and hopefully regains his freedom, the codes of conduct prescribed for him by the court are draconian in nature and they infringe on his fundamental human rights to freedom of speech and association.
Meeting those codes of conduct means that Kanu will be in another detention while on treatment. Such a situation does not bode well for our justice administration system. My idea of justice is that while the trial is on, it must be fair to all the parties to a dispute. It must be impartial and seen to be so.
It must respect the rights of the parties to the case for a fair hearing. The bail conditions given to Kanu are punitive and biased against his religion and ethnicity. Only gods can keep them. They are beyond human beings. The withdrawal of his international passports means that Kanu cannot access treatment abroad. What will happen if his health condition cannot be managed in our shores? Will he be allowed to travel abroad to get the best treatment or be allowed to deteriorate in Nigeria?
It is given that the judiciary is the last hope of the common man. But where is that hope if the court, the hallowed temple of justice, gives impossible bail conditions that the common man cannot meet? The ethnic and religious colourations of the bail conditions are indeed worrisome dimensions to our administration of justice system. The ethnic and religious biases of the bail conditions mock our nationhood and citizenship. Despite constitutional provisions that treat all of us as Nigerian citizens, bail conditions are tied to one’s religion and ethnicity.
Many questions are begging for answers over Kanu’s rigid bail conditions. Why must Kanu produce a surety who is a Jewish religious leader in Nigeria? Why must Kanu produce an Igbo senator for his bail? Why must the other surety be resident in Abuja and own a landed property with Certificate of Occupancy? Why must each of the sureties deposit the colossal sum of N100 million? How many common men can afford these stiff bail conditions? What is the government doing with Kanu’s wedding ring and reading glasses?
Our justice system must be tailored to serve the interest of all in the society. Bailing of people in detention or in police custody should not be restricted to money bags or men of affluence or even politicians. Our bail conditions as represented by Abuja High Court are in favour of the rich against the poor.
We should make justice available to the rich and the poor so that the judiciary should truly be the last hope of the common man. There is urgent need to reform our justice system. Our justice system should embrace some good aspects of our indigenous justice system as well as our cultural peculiarities. Our justice system must be reconciliatory to parties to a case. It should not be winner and loser all the time. If justice is to ensure peaceful and orderly society, it must toe the path of reconciliatory approach to adjudication of justice.
Like the Ohanaeze Ndigbo has suggested, the Kanu and Federal Government matter demands a political solution. No amount of detentions and prolonged trials will resolve it. The Federal Government should listen to Ohanaeze Ndigbo and some other leaders from the zone and other parts of the country that have intervened on the matter and release Nnamdi Kanu unconditionally. Releasing Kanu is very vital to resolving the matter. The Federal Government must dialogue with Kanu and other separatist agitators. Matters like this are usually resolved at round tables and not in the trenches or courts. This matter also brings into sharp focus the strident calls in some quarters for the restructuring of Nigeria.
Those running away from restructuring should have a rethink because it is only restructuring that will save this country from endless orgy of violence and destruction that we witness from time to time. Nigeria must embrace fiscal federalism as one of the conditions for its future growth and economic development.
Nigeria cannot witness fundamental economic and political progress without restructuring and true federalism. The earlier this is done, the better for the country and its citizens.