Legal Nigeria

Disbelief, shock trail IPOB leader’s arrest, re-arraignment

By Bridget Chiedu Onochie, Leo Sobechi, Ameh Ochojila, Ernest Nzor (Abuja), Lawrence Njoku (Enugu), Saxone Akhaine (Kaduna), Seye Olumide, Rotimi Agboluaje (Ibadan) and Nnamdi Akpa (Abakaliki)

(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 26, 2017 Political activist and leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement, Nnamdi Kanu (L), wearing a Jewish prayer shawl, poses in the garden of his house in Umuahia, southeast Nigeria, before commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the war on May 30. – A Nigerian separatist leader, Nnamdi Kanu, whose whereabouts were unknown, has been arrested to face trial, the country’s justice minister said on June 29, 2021. (Photo by STEFAN HEUNIS / AFP)

• Court orders his remand in DSS’ custody, adjourns hearing till July 26
• Ohanaeze, Afenifere, Northern elders urge caution in prosecuting him
• Kanu’s arrest, elimination won’t quench agitation, says the group
• HURIWA: If you can arrest Kanu, nab all terrorists, bandits in the north

Four years after the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, jumped bail and fled the country, he was yesterday re-arraigned before the Federal High Court in Abuja after his re-arrest by security agents.null

Presenting him before the court, counsel to the Federal Government, Shuaib Labaran, said Kanu was arrested through intelligence and collaborative efforts of security agencies. He was, however, silent on where and how Kanu was arrested.

Following Labaran’s ex-parte application, Justice Binta Nyako ordered that Kanu, who was brought to court in handcuffs and hooded before the court’s sitting, be remanded in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS).

He granted an accelerated hearing by bringing the charge pending against him from the earlier adjourned date of October 20 to July 26 and 27.null

Speaking when he appeared in court on criminal charges of terrorism and treasonable felony, Kanu said he escaped from Nigeria after his house was unlawfully invaded by security men with his life seriously threatened. The separatist leader alleged that he would have been killed along with others on the day of the invasion if not for the wisdom he applied to jump bail and flee the country.

His reaction was provoked by the Federal Government’s information through its counsel, Labaran, that Kanu jumped bail granted by the court to escape trial by running out of the country.

Labaran had applied to the court for an order to remand Kanu in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS).

The counsel said the request became imperative because lawyers to Kanu were yet to be abreast of his re-arrest.null

After proceedings, the DSS operatives who brought him to court sneaked him away, using the judge’s access stairs. He was taken away in handcuffs through a special gate reserved for judges and highly placed persons from where he was moved to the DSS detention centre.

Hordes of photo-journalists and cameramen who had positioned themselves to take his photographs were disappointed upon discovery that Kanu had been taken away.

Earlier at a press conference, Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, disclosed that Kanu was arrested on Sunday, June 27. The joint press briefing had heads of the DSS and the police, where Malami said Kanu would be returned to court to continue with his trial.

Kanu is facing charges bordering on treasonable felony instituted against him in response to years of campaigning for the Independent Republic of Biafra through IPOB.

On October 14, 2015, Kanu was arrested in Lagos, and was detained for more than a year before he was arraigned by the Federal Government on an 11-count charge bordering on terrorism, treasonable felony, managing an unlawful society, publication of defamatory matter, illegal possession of firearms and improper importation of goods, among others.

He was granted bail in April 2017 for health reasons but skipped his bail after reportedly flouting all the conditions given to him by the court.

Owing to his absence in court, Binta Nyako, the judge, who granted him bail, revoked it on March 28, 2019 and ordered that he should be arrested.

But earlier in September 2017, five months after his bail, Kanu disappeared from public radar after his home was raided by the military in Afara-Ukwu near Umuahia, Abia State, during the military’s ‘Operation Python Dance II’ staged to quell agitation for Biafra Republic. Same month, the Federal Government obtained a court order to designate IPOB a terrorist group and proscribed it.

He was later sighted in Israel and has since then continued to rally his supporters in Nigeria to employ violence in achieving secession. In February 2020, the authorities had laid in wait for him during the burial of his parents, HRH Eze Israel Kanu and Mrs Sally Kanu but he failed to show up and pay his last respects.

Since founding IPOB in 2014, Kanu has been using his Radio Biafra station, which broadcasts from London, to call for an independent state for Igbo people.

In 1967, Igbo leaders declared independence for the state of Biafra, but after a three-year civil war, which led to deaths of up to a million people, the secessionist rebellion was defeated. But the idea of Biafra has never gone away despite many arrests of IPOB members.null

Last year, IPOB established an armed wing, the Eastern Security Network (ESN), which the authorities say has been responsible for a number of attacks on police stations and other public properties in Southeast Nigeria.
SHOCK and disbelief trailed Kanu’s arrest and repatriation yesterday. When contacted, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, Kanu’s lawyer, said: “I don’t think it is possible. It is not possible. Someone just called me to inform me about this.”

Also, IPOB insisted that it was not aware of the arrest. The group’s Media and Publicity Secretary, Comrade Emma Powerful, told The Guardian: “I am yet to confirm this story. The pictures they are parading on social media are photoshop to us. They said he was arrested in the United Kingdom, but I want to tell you that he (Kanu) was not there. I really hope they know whom they arrested because; it could be a ploy to want him to say something, since they had wanted him to talk in the last few weeks. The picture will be clearer by tomorrow (today).”

But in a volte-face, IPOB’s lawyer and Kanu’s lead counsel, Ejiofor, confirmed the development. In a press statement yesterday, he said: “We have just confirmed through a correspondence from the Federal High Court Abuja, about the arrest and the extradition of my client, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, by the Nigerian State.

“It is to be noted therefore, that no matter the gravity of the offences or charge preferred against him, Section 36(5) of the Constitution still presumes him innocent of the allegation. He was brought before the Federal High Court No 2 Abuja today on an 11-count charge, though without our knowledge.

“As it is in the public domain, the matter has been consequently adjourned to the July 26, for continuation of trial. The legal team ably led by my humble self will meet them in court on this date.”

While apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, refused to comment on the development, several other Igbo leaders contacted either preferred to be left “out of the matter” or “will prefer to speak when events of his arrest and subsequent trial becomes clearer.”

Ohanaeze Ndigbo later called for calm and cautioned Igbos to desist from any form of protests and processions that will bring more catastrophes for Southeastern Nigeria.

In a statement in Abakaliki, the Secretary General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, noted that the re-arrest of Kanu is the beginning of the end of violent agitations in Southeast.

He noted that it is a lesson to others that deviation from the nonviolent agitations and wasting of the innocent blood of Igbo youths contradicted what Igbos are known for, stressing that self-determination should not be used for purposes of fortune and fame-seeking.

Isiguzoro further noted that Kanu’s refusal to adhere to the advice of Igbo leaders is the outcome of what had befallen him, saying he made a lot of enemies, especially those that would have saved him.

But the Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF) thinks otherwise, as the group said, “the arrest or elimination of Nnamdi Kanu from the scene of the struggle would not smash the Igbo spirit and longing for freedom from the chaotic Nigerian federation.”

In a statement made available to The Guardian, which was signed by its President, Prof. Uzodimma Nwala, ADF noted that the development summarises the grave injustice in the Federal Government’s attempt to crush Kanu and his IPOB supporters, while the blood-sucking Boko Haram and other bandits are on the prowl in several states.

Prominent civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association Of Nigeria (HURIWA) in its reaction, charged the government to respect his constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights, including fair and unbiased trial as specified in section 36 (5) of the Constitution.

HURIWA in a statement by the National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, warned against propaganda by the Federal Government but to allow the court of law to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed judicial powers.

HURIWA said further: “If the government under Muhammadu Buhari can go as far as arresting the fugitive head of the proscribed IPOB, whose group has consistently denied embracing armed struggle to achieve self-determination, it is expected that President Buhari should focus also on arresting the real terrorists of ISWAP/Boko haram terrorists responsible for over 32,000 deaths of innocent citizens and the destruction of Northeast of Nigeria. 

“The Federal Government should stop pampering armed Fulani terrorists and kidnappers who are waging war against innocent school children of Northern Nigeria.”

Leader of the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, condemned the arrest, saying it was improper to hand him over to the Nigerian government since he is on political asylum. Adebanjo said anybody fighting for revolution must be ready for what happened to Kanu.

“I was also a victim. But he is on political asylum. It is improper to have released and handed him over to his enemy to arrest him. We have no government. The Federal Government has shown it is only for the Fulani. As an elected government, it is no longer doing the will of the people that elected him. President Buhari must give us the Constitution we want, to avoid breaking of this country.”

The Igbo National Council (INC) has urged the Federal Government to tread with caution. INC President, Chilos Godsent, said the IPOB leader’s arrest could spark protests if not well managed.

In same vein, Arewa elders urged the Federal Government to handle Kanu’s arrest and prosecution with caution. In a statement by the spokesman of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Emmanuel Yawe, it said that Kanu should be prosecuted because he is a threat to Nigeria’s stability as a nation, but urged the government to follow the rules of law.

“We know that the man has no respect for the country called Nigeria and has vowed to destroy the country. Sadly, he enjoys collaboration of some Nigerians who for some reasons want the country destroyed. He also enjoys the support of international arms dealers who know that he has the capacity to cause a war to break out in Africa’s most populous country and biggest economy. Given the complex issues involved, we call on the government to handle the matter with care. The best way out is to keep strictly to the rule of law.”

The Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) has commended the effort of government and security agencies in arresting Kanu. CNG spokesperson, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, in Abuja, said they received the news of the arrest and repatriation with mixed feelings.

He said: “On one hand, we commend the effort of the Federal Government and the agencies that made this possible, particularly the International Police. On another hand, we remain apprehensive until the full course of justice takes effect. Kanu as we all know, has a pending trial for treasonable felony and jumping bail. In addition, he must now face additional charges of incitement to violence and killings of people of other ethnic nationalities, particularly northerners, security personnel as a result of his open incitement.”

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