Nnamdi Kanu is the leader of the indigenous people of Biafra. Meanwhile, the Federal Government, on Thursday, gave an indication that it will approach the Supreme Court to challenge the Court of Appeal judgment that quashed the terrorism charge it preferred against the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu.
Reacting to the judgment, FG, through the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, contended that Kanu was merely discharged by the appellate court and not acquitted
The aspects of Malami
Malami, SAN, while insisting that issues that predated Kanu’s rendition from Kenya, are yet to be determined by the court, said the government would exploit the appropriate legal options and also communicate the same to the public.
A statement the AGF made available to newsmen through his media aide, Dr. Umar Gwandu, read: “The Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice has received the news of the decision of the Court of Appeal concerning the trial of Nnamdi Kanu.
“For the avoidance of doubt and by the verdict of the Court, Kanu was only discharged and not acquitted.
“Consequently, the appropriate legal options before the authorities will be exploited and communicated accordingly to the public.
“The decision handed down by the court of appeal was on a single issue that borders on rendition.
“Let it be made clear to the general public that other issues that predate rendition on the basis of which Kanu jumped bail remain valid issues for judicial determination.
“The Federal Government will consider all available options open to us on the judgment on rendition while pursuing determination of pre-rendition issues”.
On Tuesday, June 29, 2021, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, announced in a press conference in Abuja that the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, had been arrested and extradited to Nigeria from Kenya, after being intercepted in the East African country on Sunday, June 26, 2021, by Interpol.
He said Kanu was extradited to face trial in Nigeria for charges bordering on treasonable felony instituted against him at the Federal High Court in Abuja, in response to years of separatist agitation for the independent Republic of Biafra through IPOB.
Background to the extradition
Kanu, a British-Nigerian activist, in 2014 founded IPOB, with the sole aim of restoring the state of Biafra which existed in Nigeria’s eastern region during the Nigerian Civil War of 1967–1970.
Kanu was born on September 25, 1967, the year the Nigerian Civil War began.
He also owned a United Kingdom-registered radio station, Radio Biafra, which he deployed to propagate his Biafran separatist agenda.
On October 14, 2015, Kanu was arrested in Lagos and detained for more than a year, despite various court orders calling for his release.
On April 28, 2017, Kanu was released from prison on bail for health reasons.
He however did not meet the conditions for bail, instead, he jumped bail and fled abroad. He was on the run when IPOB was later declared a terrorist group by the defense headquarters and the court, following the approval of the South-East governors at the time.
While abroad, he continued campaigns for the actualization of the state of Biafra.
Although Kanu had maintained that IPOB was interested only in a peaceful approach to achieving Biafran independence without violence, the reality was not in complete conformity.
The Orlu Crisis
The Orlu-Orsu area of Imo State became a flashpoint around December 2020, after the nationwide #EndSARS protests. No sooner had the protests ended had the Orlu-Orsu area turned into a war zone.
In December 2020, Kanu announced that IPOB had formed an armed wing, the Eastern Security Network, to defend southeastern Nigerians from bandits and armed Fulani herders who had been terrorizing the region. Kanu later gave all the governors of South-East Nigeria a 14-day ultimatum to ban open grazing in the region, threatening to deploy the ESN to enforce the ban if the authorities failed to comply.
The peaceful atmosphere enjoyed by the people of the Orlu Local Government Area of the state turned into tension and apprehension after security agents from the Nigerian Army invaded the LGA with a bid to crush the ESN.
The ESN militants allegedly shot and killed four soldiers while six civilians died in the ensuing crisis that drew local and international attention. While the state government tried to nip the situation in the bud, the Federal Government mobilized security forces to the troubled area, for many weeks afterward.
Many families were thrown into mourning at the time and in a bid to curtail the situation, the state governor, Hope Uzodinma, on January 25, 2021, declared a dusk-to-dawn curfew in 10 out of the 12 local council areas making up Imo West senatorial district.
The security agencies further mobilized more men and equipment in the area including airstrikes in search of the fleeing ESN members said to have struck from a forest in Orsu LGA, a border town to Anambra State.
Uzodimma admitted that he invited the military, including police, airforce, and other security agencies to help the state government combat the ESN members.
In June of 2021, Kanu was arrested by Interpol in Kenya and was immediately handed over to Nigerian authorities and detained in the DSS facility.
Some had described an escapade as an abduction because the process failed to follow the due order of the law, particularly the Nigerian Extradition Act, Cap E25, Laws of the Federation 2004.
Extradition is generally the transfer of an accused from one state or country to another state or country that seeks to place the accused on trial. It could be defined as the official process by which one nation or state requests and obtains from another nation or state the surrender of a suspected or convicted criminal.
Where extradition is required between sub-national regions/states, it is usually known as rendition.
Kanu’s lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, claimed that both national and international laws were flagrantly flouted by the Federal Government in the action and consequently accused FG of terrorism.
Questions as to why Kanu had not been subjected to extradition proceedings before a court of law in Kenya before he was sent to Nigeria began to raise eyebrows, since the suspended Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari, was afforded the privilege.
Furthermore, questions as to why Kanu was not extradited to the UK instead of Nigeria remain unanswered, since he traveled to Kenya with a British passport, not a Nigerian passport. It is important to note also that Kanu renounced his Nigerian citizenship in 2015 and he had since sued the Kenyan government for his extradition to Nigeria.
Following the issues and irregularities surrounding Kanu’s rendition and arrest, The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory on Thursday, October 13, 2022, termed the rendition illegal and dropped all terrorism charges leveled against Kanu by the Federal Government, after series of court appearances since the rearrest.
Justice Oludotun Adebola, upheld the appeal of the detained IPOB leader and discharged and acquitted him, adding that his abduction was unlawful.
However, the AGF, Malami had since the announcement, declared that Kanu was only discharged but not acquitted.
He added that there were other issues predating Kanu’s rendition “on the basis of which Kanu jumped bail” which remained “valid issues for judicial determination.”
However, mixed reactions, mostly jubilations, have trailed Kanu’s release, especially from people in the southeastern parts of the country. They have suffered weekly sit-at-home orders from IPOB, as a result of Kanu’s detention and were glad that his release could bring an end to the sit-at-home orders and restore normalcy to the region.
Others have feared whether the FG would honor the judgment of the court, since the government on more than one occasion, had disregarded court orders. They fear the response of IPOB if the FG decides it would not honor the judgment.
For now, however, Nnamdi Kanu is a free man.