We add our voice to those of many concerned Nigerians who have appealed to the Federal Government to urgently release Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), who has been incarcerated since October 2015 in spite of several court orders that he be released on bail.
The latest calls for Kanu’s release have come from former Senate President, Mr. Ken Nnamani, and the Nzuko Umunna, a Pan-Igbo organisation under whose aegis Professor Charles Soludo, former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, and Professor Pat Utomi, a political economist and social critic, spoke on the need for the Federal Government to obey court orders, even when such orders are unpalatable.
Other calls have come from the Deputy Senate President, Dr. Ike Ekweremadu, and former Abia State Governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu. Inter Society, an international society for civil liberties and rule of law, has written an open letter to world leaders in Europe, America, Canada, and their parliaments, and to international multilateral organisations, drawing attention to the grave injustice of the continued incarceration of Mr. Nnamdi Kanu.
That this administration has to be reminded to obey court orders dents its progressive credentials. Disobedience of court orders is antithetical to democratic ethos. It is also universally acknowledged as the most visible and potent threat to democracy. There can be no rule of law where court orders are routinely ignored and treated with disdain.
We believe that Nigeria is a democracy and the Nigerian Constitution is the grund norm which must be respected at all times. Any disrespect of a constitutional order is tantamount to a subversion of the legal system and a breach of the democratic ideals on which the present dispensation rests.
Chapter 4, Section 35 of the Constitution spells out in unequivocal terms how Nigerian citizens must be treated when they are suspected of having committed an offence. Section 35 (4) specifies that “any person who is arrested or detained in accordance with subsection (1) (c) of this section shall be brought before a court of law within a reasonable time and if he is not tried within a period of (a) two months from the date of his arrest or detention in the case of a person who is in custody or is not entitled to bail; or (b) three months from the date of his arrest or detention in the case of a person who has been released on bail, he shall be released (without prejudice to any further proceedings that may be brought against him) either unconditionally or upon such conditions as are reasonably necessary to ensure he appears for trial at a later date.”
The continued detention of Nnamdi Kanu cannot be supported by law, policy or politics. Each day he is held in detention is an extra day he garners more support, he grows in stature as a prisoner of conscience and as a freedom fighter. The longer he is held, the more he is seen as bearing the cross of the Igbo people, and the more the persecution perception of the Igbo takes on greater reality.
The continued incarceration of Nnamdi Kanu will continue to be an issue for concern. The most reasonable way to end the IPOB protests is to release Nnamdi Kanu and ultimately halt the circle of violence and bloodletting occasioned by the frequent clashes between security agencies and the group.