Outspoken Catholic priest, Ejike Mbaka, has demanded the immediate release of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Mr Mbaka stated this on Sunday during a service at the Adoration Ministry Ground, Enugu.
A video clip of the cleric speaking during the service has been circulating on Facebook and other social media platforms.
“Please, I ask in the name of God and that by the power of God, our leaders should quickly release Nnamdi Kanu,” he said.
IPOB, in August 2021, introduced a sit-at-home order every Monday across the South-east to put pressure on the Nigerian government to release Mr Kanu, who is standing trial in Abuja for alleged terrorism.
The separatist group later suspended the order, in preference for it (the order) to be implemented only the days Mr Kanu appears in court.
But despite its suspension, residents of the five South-east states – Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo, Abia and Anambra- have been observing the Monday sit-at-home order, mostly out of fear.
Some residents and motorists, including commuters, have been attacked by gunmen for stepping out of their homes on Monday and other days declared as sit-at-home.
Mr Mbaka bemoaned the suffering of the South-east residents over the sit-at-home.
He said the Nigerian government by not releasing Mr Kanu had “shown no concern” about the situation.
“Igbos have been suffering. Students wouldn’t go to school on Mondays, civil servants wouldn’t go to work. Every Monday would be a lockdown. Our leaders don’t care,” Mr Mbaka said.
IPOB is leading the agitation for an independent state of Biafra, which it wants to be carved out from the South-east and some parts of the South-south.
Mr Kanu was first arrested in 2015 but was granted bail in April 2017. He fled the country after an invasion of his home in Afara-Ukwu, near Umuahia, Abia State, by the Nigerian military in September of that year.
He was re-arrested in Kenya and brought back to Nigeria in June 2021, about four years after he fled the country.
The Court of Appeal, Abuja, in October last year, held that the IPOB leader was extra-ordinarily extradited 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 State Security Service.
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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.
The government, through the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, appealed the court ruling and obtained a Supreme Court order staying execution of the court judgement.
‘Judiciary is dying’
Mr Mbaka said the refusal by the government to release the IPOB leader after being acquitted by the court was an affront against the judiciary.
“There is a problem. The judiciary is dying. If the court can acquit somebody and somebody else will say no, then the country is gone. It’s a coup d’etat against the judiciary. And as a man of God, I stand up to say, release him (Kanu). Do the needful,” he said.
The Catholic priest said he was speaking out because “calamity could befall” the leaders behind Mr Kanu’s continued detention after his court acquittal.
He said those keeping quiet should speak out because they could be the next victim of the interference of the executive arm of the government against the judiciary.
He added that the IPOB leader should be released because his continued detention can cripple the country.
“Nnamdi Kanu’s case is like a trigger in the gun. You must be careful how you touch the trigger when the gun is loaded,” Mr Mbaka said
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