Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy and Development, FENRAD a pro-democracy and Human Rights advocacy group wishes to make its position clear in the light of the unanimous judgement handed down by the Appeal Court sitting in Abuja which ordered that Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the proscribed want-away Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB be discharged and acquitted.
Following the latest development, a mixed reaction has followed the unanimous judgement, from all parts of the nation, including from the Attorney General of the federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN. Kanu’s case need not be reviewed here, but for clarity sake, FENRAD wishes to highlight the same case, focusing on its diplomatic implications for the Nigerian state.
Kanu, who had been standing trial over allegations bordering on terrorism, treasonable felony, managing an unlawful society, publication of inciteful matter, importation of illegal implements and so many others was first arrested in 2015. Following this, an initial 11-count charge was preferred against him.
Upon grant of bail on medical grounds in 2017, Kanu disappeared from Nigeria following invasion of his compound by a team of the Nigeria Army during an infamous operation codenamed “Python Dance II.” Kanu had since alleged, through his legal team, that during the said invasion, lives where lost, including that of his dog.
Nigerian government, meanwhile, had maintained that Kanu violated his bail conditions and, to make matters worst, even jumped bail.
Kanu was later spotted in Israel, thence United Kingdom, his country of adoption. He was later “intercepted” and smuggled back to Nigeria to continue pleading his case with the charges amended from 7 to 15. In the intervening period before his “arrest” in Kenya and deportation to Nigeria, FENRAD recalls that Nigerian federal government did not formally institute the process of extradition known as “The London Extradition Scheme Within the Commonwealth” as a Commonwealth member state. If it ever did, such record is not known to FENRAD.
Going by diplomatic relations Nigeria has with the United Kingdom, a written statement to the Crown Prosecution Services establishing a prima facie case against Mazi Kanu is all that was required for the process of extradition to begin in accordance with The London Extradition Scheme Within the Commonwealth (known as “the Scheme”).
Unfortunately, Kanu was abducted while in the East African country of Kenya and forcefully renditioned to Nigeria without a warrant or arrest, in what the federal government claimed was “interception.”
Kanu, as the federal government (prosecution counsel) claimed in its prayers and petition, incited violence leading to loss of lives and property, the same federal government has even as of yet refused to explain where and how Kanu was “intercepted.”
This is happening when the same federal government could not protect a custodial centre in Abuja, the seat of power, leading to the worst jailbreak in Africa even after over 40 intelligence reports and signals were transmitted.
While Kanu’s approach in pursuing his cause may not be appropriate at all times, the cause itself is one of the provisions of virtually all the articles of rights, many international law instruments, even ones like Africa Charter on Human and People’s Rights, Banjul 1981, to which Nigeria is a signatory and state party.
We wish to state categorically that Nigeria is in violation of international law since Kanu does not identify as a Nigerian and was not travelling with Nigerian passport; so why did not a Kenyan court try him before his alleged torture and rendition?
It still beats our imagination that even with the subsisting verdict of the Appeal Court, the Attorney General went ahead to interpret an unequivocal judgement that said, “Discharged and acquitted” as meaning “Discharged only.” Even with his “Discharge only” interpretation, Malami had informed the world that Kanu’s, contrary to the verdict, will never be discharged.
This is a huge embarrassment for a nation that claims “The largest democracy in Africa.” What powers does Malami have under Nigerians laws, including the provisions of the constitution that created his office, to interpret a judgement by magistrate court, let alone that of Appeal Court.
Under Malami, Nigerian courts have suffered the worst form of flagrant disrespect. Malami has not only made the exalted office of the Attorney General disdainable, he has become a judge in his own case, issuing a parallel verdict whenever a court of the land hands down a judgement that does not suit his whims and caprices.
FENRAD recalls that President Buhari had stated for the umpteenth time he would not be interfering with the court decision in Kanu’s matter. But contrary to his own words, President Buhari’s National Defence Council affirmed that it stands with Malami on the “Discharge only” meaning of an otherwise verdict. Integrity should have been a better path.
FENRAD calls on the Attorney General to, as a matter of urgency, allow the court verdict to stand on its merit for now while he pursues and press on with the case up to the Supreme Court. In recent times, people like Omoyele Sowore, El Zakzaki, et al, have all suffered similar fate, even to a point where men of the DSS invaded the court to rearrest Sowore!
The current era represents the worst nightmare for our judiciary from its get-go when houses of judges were invaded and later that of Chief Justice Mary Odili added to the list of debacle. In all of these, history will remember that one man was the Attorney General of our great nation – Malami!
Having stated this, we ask that president Buhari adopts diplomacy in dealing with separatist agitations as kinetic approach has resulted in sit-at-home and economic boycotts that are not letting up in the East.
It is sad how Boko Haram, Ansaru, ISWAP and other terror groups are given different treatment while others who call for revolution or separation are treated like the real terrorists. President Buhari is standing on the verge of history.The president can still make the Southeast to feel among if indeed he “belongs to everybody.”
While Kanu’s case is appealable, we do not know why Malami issued his own verdict in what clearly is within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, going by court hierarchy. Let Kanu’s case be handled based on its own merit or otherwise, not based on primordial sentiments as we are yet to see stay of execution filed by the federal government on this matter
Finally, FENRAD urges the president to show patriotism and respect to the principles rule of law and separation of power in pursuit of the Kanu case.
This is an opportune moment for the president to reconcile or address decades-long separatist agitations in the Southeast. The world is watching!
Comrade Nelson Nnanna Nwafor
Executive Director FENRAD
Head Corporate Accountability & Human Rights Enforcement (FENRAD)
Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy & Development (FENRAD Nigeria)