All eyes on govt as Kanu faces fresh trial

July 4, 2021
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All eyes on govt as Kanu faces fresh trial

Posted by News Express | 4 July 2021 | 361 times

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After nearly four years of jumping bail, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, was arrested and extradited to Nigeria through the combined efforts of the Nigerian intelligence operatives and the International Police, commonly known as Interpol.

For years in his sojourn in London, the United Kingdom, where he is also a citizen, Kanu – through social media and Radio Biafra – dished out alleged provocative utterances against the Nigerian state, security agents, South-East governors and other leaders, and the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd).

As the director of Radio Biafra, a registered radio station in the UK, Kanu propagated Biafran separatism, a movement aiming to restore a separatist state that once existed in the then Eastern Region of Nigeria during the civil war of 1967-70.

From London, the IPOB leader commanded his supporters, and even non-supporters, to “sit at home” and boycott national elections – instructions that his supporters usually obeyed and forced others to observe.

IPOB supporters, exclusively Igbo, have always criticised the Federal Government for its alleged poor investment, inequitable resource distribution, ethnic marginalisation, and heavy military presence in the South-East.

The organisation, said to be the largest Biafran independence organisation by membership, has gained significant media attention for becoming a frequent target of political crackdowns by the government.

IPOB members had embarked on several protests, some of which turned deadly in the past as they clashed with Nigerian security agents. The clashes between the IPOB members and security agents had reportedly led to hundreds of deaths and injuries of members from both parties.

Kanu was first arrested in October 2015 and arraigned a month later at an Abuja Magistrates’ Court for criminal conspiracy, intimidation and membership of an illegal organisation – charges the Department of State Services said violated sections 97, 97B and 397 of the Penal Code. He was granted bail in 2017 and released on health grounds.

But after then, the IPOB leader failed to appear in court to answer to the charges against him by the Federal Government. He reportedly disappeared in September 2017 after a premeditated attack on his home village in Umuahia by the military, and later alleged through a Radio Biafra broadcast that his disappearance was because President Buhari sent the military to “execute” him in his home.

Meanwhile, this was in the same month when the Federal High Court in Abuja designated IPOB as a terrorist organisation under the Terrorism Act.

 The court eventually revoked Kanu’s bail in 2019 and the trial judge, Binta Nyako, ordered the IPOB leader’s immediate arrest.

Last Sunday, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), announced that Kanu had been rearrested.

The IPOB leader was subsequently charged to court again and remanded in the custody of the DSS.

Meanwhile, indications emerged that the IPOB leader was arrested in Kenya and not in London.

His brother, Kingsley Kanu, reportedly said, “My brother has been subject to extraordinary rendition by Kenya and Nigeria. They have violated the most basic principles of the rule of law.

“The British High Commission in Nigeria must insist upon my brother’s immediate release. They must guarantee his safety and security.

“Nnamdi Kanu must be returned home to the UK to his wife and his sons who live there. The Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, must make clear to the Nigerian authorities that they will not tolerate the unlawful detention of British citizens and that the UK Government condemns Nigeria and Kenya for undermining the rule of law.”

However, the Kenya government on Friday denied involvement in the arrest of the IPOB leader, saying “it does not want to be dragged into Nigeria’s internal affairs.”

The Kenyan government also challenged anyone with facts of its involvement in the arrest and extradition of Kanu to come forward.

The Kenyan High Commissioner to Nigeria, Amb Wilfred Machage, said, “The claim is nothing but fictional, imaginary and deliberately concocted to fuel antagonistic feelings among a certain section of the Nigerian people.”

The envoy also said his country enjoyed good diplomatic relations with Nigeria and wanted to sustain it. It, therefore, begged that his country wanted to be left out on issues that bordered on Nigeria’s internal affairs.

“We are also disturbed, dismayed, and astonished by the unfortunate statement on the alleged arrest in Kenya which was carried in the dailies. The government of Kenya is particularly appalled by the spurious, derogatory, and libelous mention of the name of our dear President on this matter.

“In conclusion, on the case of the alleged arrest in Kenya of Mr Kanu, I wish to categorically state that we are not happy at this ridiculous attempt of dragging the name of Kenya and HE. President Uhuru Kenyatta, on this matter of arrest and extradition of self-claimed IPOB leader,” Machage told journalists in Abuja.

Meanwhile, there have been fears that the IPOB leader’s arrest may escalate the unrest in the South-East – allegedly caused in part by the activities of IPOB’s military arm, Eastern Security Network.

However, while speaking with our correspondent, some analysts proffered the way out for the Federal Government – explaining that so long as the IPOB leader’s trial remained fair, there would be no cause for alarm.

A criminal lawyer and Coordinator, Coalition of Lawyers for Good Governance, Mr Joe Nwokedi, said if Kanu’s trial was free from the Presidency’s influence and there was a feeling that he was treated humanely, his supporters would see no reason to cause chaos in the country.

He said, “It’s for the prosecution team led by the Attorney General of the Federation, who is the chief law officer of the country, to be transparent and fair in conducting the prosecution, and for the judge to be fair and transparent in conducting the trial.

“His lawyers should be allowed to file any material they want to file and ask any questions they want to ask in court. They should also be allowed to call any witnesses they want to call. Also, any witnesses the prosecution calls should be allowed to be cross-examined by the defendant’s counsel in court.

“The court procedures should run freely and fairly – in such a manner that everyone will see that it is a free trial. The trial should not be predetermined, the judge shouldn’t have prejudiced mindset, and the trial should not be influenced by the Presidency.”

 Nwokedi said being a known figure, the manner of Kanu’s trial would decide the reaction it would elicit from his supporters, both home and abroad.

“Kanu has a cult following, including educated people. So the trial should be free so as not to escalate the situation in the South-East and even some parts of the South-South,” he said.

Nwokedi added, “The outcome of the trial by the prosecution, who is reasonably believed to have the backing of the Presidency, will determine the reaction that will emanate.

“My piece of advice for the government is that Kanu should not die in its hands. He shouldn’t die in detention because if he does, it will escalate the situation and he will become a sort of martyr or hero. And here we are still battling with the consequences of the death of (Mohammed) Yusuf [Boko Haram leader said to have died in police detention].”

However, a Conflict Resolution Researcher at the University of Calabar, Cross River State, Prof Felix Akpan, argued that IPOB lacked any structure to create any unrest following its leader’s rearrest.

Akpan also said Kanu lacked any political control in the South-East and floated IPOB only to make money.

Despite these, the don said the IPOB leader’s trial should be fair and transparent.

He said, “The government arrested Kanu based on treasonable crimes he allegedly committed against the state, so this is not enough to cause any crisis. The truth is Nnamdi Kanu does not have political control in the South-East. The governors and other leaders in the South-East are not behind him, but he was able to capture the minds of non-political actors.

“Moreover, the Federal Government should give him a fair trial. IPOB has no structure to instigate any crisis because of its leader’s arrest. The group is a one-man show; it has no ideology. Since his arrest, no leader of the group has stood up to speak, so IPOB is not a threat to the Nigerian state.”

Speaking further, Akpan said Kanu ought to have floated IPOB as a political party and contest elections to gain some sort of legitimacy for his movement.

The don said, “One thing Kanu failed to realise is that a revolution does not occur without a political mindset. If IPOB was organised, Kanu would have floated it as a political party and win elections to have whatever control he’s seeking. That’s how he would have shown the people that he’s in control.

“But IPOB is just an opportunistic organisation launched by Kanu to make money for himself. Kanu was employed by Ralph Uwazuruike, the leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, as a director to run Radio Biafra.

“Even MASSOB supporters are not in support of IPOB’s activities. Kanu doesn’t have the support of the elite in the South-East, unlike the MASSOB leader.

“MASSOB went about its activities as legally as possible, unlike IPOB. I think the Federal Government has been handling the situation well; Kanu has been charged to court. I think the trial is transparent. The only thing is that he may not be granted bail again because he previously jumped bail.”

Also speaking with our correspondent, a lawyer based in Owerri, Imo State, Mr Elias Ejiogu, said even though Kanu “went too far” calling for attacks on South-East leaders and security agents through social media and Radio Biafra, he should be given a fair trial.

He said, “Personally, I think Kanu went too far. He has the right to criticise government policies and demand justice and fairness for the South-East, but in the process, he incited many of his followers to cause violence in the South-East; he practically declared himself as a ruler in Nigeria, commanding the people to sit at home on some days, boycott elections, and attack South-East leaders.

 “I think he didn’t do well in that regard, and by his approach, he could become a dictator like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un if he ever tastes power. I see him as perpetrating some of the things he criticises Nigerian leaders for.

“However, the Federal Government should ensure his trial is free and fair. The Presidency shouldn’t interfere in his trial. The judge should also not have a biased mind. If the trial is transparent, I think it will go a long way in preventing any crisis sooner or later.”

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has said Kanu will not be denied a fair trial, even as the IPOB leader may now face additional charges, including alleged jumping of bail and incitement of violence.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said this at a press conference in Abuja on Thursday.

“It is interesting that many are suddenly calling for a fair trial for Kanu as if he didn’t get one before he decided to jump bail and flee,” Mohammed said.

“However, I can assure you that the fair deal that Kanu denied many of the victims of the violence which he wilfully instigated through his broadcasts and tweets will not be denied him,” Mohammed stated, adding that the proscribed IPOB leader’s collaborators would not be spared.

“They will all face the full wrath of the law for their activities that challenge our nation’s sovereignty and threaten its unity. No one, no matter how highly placed, is bigger than the country,” he said.

(The PUNCH)

Source: News Express


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