Legal Nigeria

Nnamdi Kanu: A metaphor for political exclusion, marginalization —Catholic Bishops

By Chidi Nkwopara, Dennis Agbo & Ugochukwu Alaribe

Bishops of the Catholic Ecclesiastical Province of Owerri, Imo State, have described leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, as a metaphor for political exclusion and marginalisation

Meanwhile, as the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, today resumes the trial of  Nnamdi Kanu, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, has cautioned against any form of intimidation, oppression and arrest of members of the Biafra separatist group or their sympathizers.

Also, special counsel to Nnamdi Kanu, Mr Aloy Ejimakor has advised security agents not to restrict or molest Kanu’s supporters expected to throng the Federal High Court, Abuja, today in a show of solidarity as Kanu’s trial resumes.

The Bishops, meanwhile, also advised the Federal Government to handle the growing issue of agitation with care, because the world is keenly watching the happenings.

A communiqué at the end of their meeting at Ahiara, Mbaise, Imo State by the Metropolitan Archbishop of Owerri, Most Rev. Anthony Obinna, Chairman, and Most Rev. Augustine Echema, Secretary, said: “His (Kanu) recent arrest is an opportunity for the government to initiate dialogues on the issues of justice, equity and fairness that underpin the agitation of his group and the agitation of other groups, like the one led by Sunday Adeyemo, popularly called Igboho, for the Yoruba nation, calling for self-determination and restructuring.

“It is worthy of note that the re-arrest of Nnamdi Kanu, will not end such agitations. The mismanagement of his case and any other will trigger avoidable unrest.

“We wish to state that the world is watching how the Federal Government is handling the case of the leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, who stands as a metaphor for political exclusion and marginalization.

“The government will be enhancing security and peace by facilitating youth empowerment, ensuring regular payment of salaries and pensions, and putting in place basic physical and social infrastructures. When most of the people in society fall below the poverty index, tensions, conflicts and restiveness are bound to arise.

“Likewise, when the will of the electorate is frustrated through rigged elections, violence naturally erupts. We, therefore, state loud and clear that by passing a bill recently against the transmission of the results of elections by electronic means, both chambers of the National Assembly have created room for the manipulation of electoral votes and laid the foundation for bloody conflicts in the future general elections.”

Addressing the issue of freedom of expression, which the Bishops termed “indispensable element of a true democracy”, the clerics said: “The media, whether electronic, print or the modern social communication technologies like the social media are important tools for freedom of expression.”

Further, they said: “However, abuse does not destroy us. The media remain the Fourth Estate of the Realm and an indispensable element of a true and peaceful democracy. We are aware of the anxiety that led the government to propose two Bills before the National Assembly: the Nigerian Press Council Bill and the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission Bill.

“Without being preemptive, it is apposite to remind the National Assembly that the right to freedom of the press and the right to freedom of expression, are primary constituents of the Bill of Human Rights. Access to information, feedback to the government and accountability by the government, are strengthened by the Independence of the media, and the right to exercise the freedom of expression and information. Nothing should be done to stifle these freedoms.”

They noted that the responsible exercise of freedom of information and expression means that the media should be used with caution and maturity.

Don’t oppress IPOB supporters, Ohanaeze tells FG

In a statement, yesterday, by Secretary-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, said: “We have been informed that there will be attempts to resist the massive crowd that will flood the court to witness the trial.

“We also wish to categorically warn that at no time had the two apex organs in Ohanaeze Ndigbo; “Ime Obi and General Assembly”, authorized anyone to act on behalf of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, either to observe or interfere and infiltrate in the legal proceedings and retrial of Nnamdi Kanu. Anyone who is harmed while on such an evil voyage by angry IPOB members will have himself or herself to blame.

“We are calling for the quick political intervention of South-East Governors and Igbo politicians to persuade President Muhammadu Buhari to an out-of-court settlement in the court case of Nnamdi Kanu. IPOB members should desist from any form of protest as such will jeopardize the backstage activities to give Nnamdi Kanu a soft landing.

“There is no doubt that any protest would expose the lives of IPOB members to danger as security agents have been positioned to ruthlessly deal with any Biafra agitators on protests. We also have it on credible information that some shameless Igbo elders have been sponsored on a legal jamboree by a certain Fulani billionaire to legitimize Nnamdi Kanu’s abduction. The affected leaders must desist from the legal jamboree or face our wrath.”

Don’t molest supporters attending Kanu’s trial —Ejimakor

Ejimakor in a statement, yesterday, said that Kanu’s trial is an open trial and not a secret one and since Kanu is presumed innocent until proven guilty, anyone wishing to be associated with his trial by being present in Abuja is protected by his Constitutional right to freedom of association and movement.

“So, my message to all supporters of Kanu and even to Nigerian government is simple and that is: Everybody should be strictly guided by the rule of law pertinent to why Nnamdi Kanu is facing these tribulations and trials.

“That pertinent rule of law is codified by CAP A9, Laws of Federation of Nigeria, where it is stated at Article 20 that: ‘All peoples shall have the right to existence. They shall have the unquestionable and inalienable right to self-determination. They shall freely determine their political status and shall pursue their economic and social development according to the policy they have freely chosen.

“I am saying this because the same law that legalizes self-determination also requires the government to accommodate it. Article 1 of that Law provides that Nigeria ‘shall recognise the rights, duties and freedoms enshrined in the Charter and shall undertake to adopt legislative or other measures to give effect to them.’

“Further, subjecting Kanu to any trial under the circumstances of his extraordinary rendition will face lots of legal challenges. So, what is expected on Monday is not a trial but what lawyers call ‘taking a plea’ or a re-arraignment on the amended Charges that might be brought.

“Should that happen, the procedure permits taking an adjournment to study the new charges to advise the defendant on the next steps. So, there’s nothing significant that will happen on Monday that warrants anybody, including the government, to be jittery,” Ejimakor said

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