Aloy Ejimakor, special counsel to Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), has said that releasing the IPOB leader would not be an “act of mercy”, but an obedience to various court orders which freed him.
Mr Ejimakor said this in a statement on Tuesday.
Mr Kanu has been detained at the facility of the State Security Service (SSS) since he was rearrested in Kenya and brought back to Nigeria in June 2021, after initially fleeing the country in 2017.
The Court of Appeal, Abuja, on 13 October 2022, held that the IPOB leader was extra-ordinarily renditioned to Nigeria and that the action was a flagrant violation of the country’s extradition treaty and also a breach of his fundamental human rights.
The court, therefore, struck out the terrorism charges filed against Mr Kanu by the Nigerian government and ordered his release from the custody of the SSS.
But the government refused to release the IPOB leader insisting that he (Kanu) could be unavailable in subsequent court proceedings if released and that his release would cause insecurity in the South-east, where he comes from.
The government, through the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, later appealed the court ruling and subsequently obtained an order staying execution of the court judgement at the Supreme Court.
Several concerned groups and Igbo leaders such as Governor Charles Soludo of Anambra State, his Enugu State counterpart, Peter Mbah, and President-General of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, have repeatedly asked the government to release the IPOB leader. But their requests were ignored.
But Mr Ejimakor argued that the Nigerian government’s possible heeding of the calls from various quarters for the release of Mr Kanu would not be an “act of mercy” given that different courts had already ordered his release.
“The matter of releasing Nnamdi Kanu is not an act of mercy, executive clemency or even amnesty. Instead, it’s an act of doing the right by simply complying with the subsisting municipal court order or the standing international tribunal decision that independently declared his detention illegal,” he said.
The lawyer argued that the continued detention of Mr Kanu after being freed by various courts was not only illegal “but is, in the present circumstance, manifestly extrajudicial and unconstitutional to boot.”
Continuing, Mr Ejimakor said, “Even the inception of his detention, following the rendition, was also not legal, because extraordinary rendition is an egregious state crime that destroys the legal capacity of the state (Nigeria) to detain the victim of the rendition, in addition to also complicating the prosecutorial powers of the state against such victim”.
The special counsel contended that the frequent calls for Mr Kanu’s release would have been needless if the Nigerian government obeyed the country’s constitution and the courts which had freed him.
He recalled that the Federal High Court in Umuahia had declared Mr Kanu’s extraordinary rendition and consequent detention as “flagrant violations” of the constitution.
“Thus, Nnamdi Kanu’s release from detention vested from the very day this judgment was given, and the days are still counting to this day because the judgment is extant and not stayed,” he said of the court ruling which faulted the IPOB leader’s extraordinary rendition.
Mr Ejimakor said the Supreme Court does not have the “exclusive” power to free Mr Kanu despite a pending appeal at the court filed by the IPOB leader.
“The narrative that freeing him (Kanu) lies exclusively in the hands of the Supreme Court is fundamentally false. It is also malicious, prejudicial and profoundly injurious to Nnamdi Kanu’s legal interest, especially as it offers the authorities the umbrage and easy political cover to persist in the illegal detention of Nnamdi Kanu,” he said.
The Nigerian government in September 2017 proscribed IPOB and tagged the group a terrorist organisation.
But Mr Ejimakor said he had, in March 2018, secured a ruling from a ‘continental’ tribunal which reversed the proscription and directed the government to desist from any further law enforcement actions against Mr Kanu and IPOB members.
“Thus, the subsequent rendition of Nnamdi Kanu, the arrests, the detentions, the tortures, the disappearances and the widespread extrajudicial killings of IPOB members should not have happened had the authorities complied with this landmark continental decision,” he stated.
The lawyer recalled that the UN, in July 2022, called for the unconditional release of Mr Kanu and asked that the IPOB leader be compensated for his extraordinary rendition
He stressed that Nigeria, as a member of the UN, was bound by treaty and customary international law to comply with the directive
“Failing to do so stigmatises Nigeria as a nation that lacks respect for the United Nations – the same institution that passed the historic resolution that legalised self-determination and thus saw to Nigeria’s independence,” he argued.
Mr Ejimakor faulted Mr Kanu’s continued detention given that he was not currently facing any trial or having any charges against him.
He described the IPOB leader’s continued detention as “an imprisonment without conviction” adding that, “in plain terms, he is a victim of false imprisonment” by the Nigerian government.
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