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Monday 24 October 2022

Federal Govt Appeal at Supreme Court Against Release of Kanu --- A Wrong Step

 Federal Govt Appeal at Supreme Court Against Release of Kanu --- A Wrong Step 

Federal government’s appeal at the Supreme Court challenging the judgment of the Court of Appeal which ordered the release of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra IPOB did not come as a surprise. But it holds questionable value for enduring resolution of all issues to the matter.

Before now, the posturing of officials of the government did not leave anyone in doubt about the discomfort of the government with the Appeal Court ruling.

The way the appeal was discretely filed, detracted substantially from promises by officials of the government that they will inform the public on what they intend doing with the appeal court ruling. That promise was not kept until scanty information crept in that the attorney general of the federation Abubakar Malami filed an appeal at the apex court challenging the discharge of Kanu by the Court of Appeal.

Malami is asking the Supreme Court to stay the execution of the judgment of the appellate court. He argued among others that the court of appeal erred when it struck out the pending charge against Kanu on the ground that the trial court no longer possessed the requisite jurisdiction to continue the trial because of the manner Kanu was returned to the country upon jumping bail.

The Court of Appeal had in its judgment discharged Kanu from the 15-count terrorism charge brought against him by the federal government. In a unanimous judgment, the appellate court faulted the process by which Kanu was brought before a federal high court to answer a 15-count terrorism charge.

The appellate court held that the federal government violated international convention on terrorism which it is signatory to when it illegally arrested Kanu in Kenya and extraordinarily brought him to Nigeria for trial. It further held that the warrant of arrest issued against him was not enough reason or excuse for the government to violate international convention and charters.

“Having resolved issue one in favour of the appellant, which deals with jurisdiction, the appeal succeeds, the order of Justice Binta Nyako which ordered appellant to answer to counts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8 and 15 is set aside, terminated and dismissed. Appellant is accordingly discharged”, the appellant court held.

But soon after the judgment, Malami in a statement said Kanu was only discharged and not acquitted-that appropriate legal options before the authorities will be exploited and communicated to the public accordingly.

His position was supported by the National Security Council which met thereafter. The minister of police affairs, Mohammed Dingyadi who briefed the media, said it was noted that Kanu was discharged but not acquitted. He said that the government is considering the appropriate action to be taken on the matter and that Nigerians will be notified of the position taken in due course.

So the decision of the government to appeal the ruling of the Court of Appeal was quite predictable. But the stance of the government came with mixed feelings given the undertone that it is only committed to the legal option in resolving the Kanu matter. This runs contrary to expectations especially from leaders of the southeast who saw the decision of the court of appeal as a veritable window for the government to explore the political option to a lasting resolution to all issues to the Kanu matter. 

The Southeast Council of Traditional Rulers, Archbishops and bishops had viewed the appeal court judgment as timely and unprecedented opportunity to overcome the challenges of trust that had obstructed the path to peace, and opens the window to winning the hearts and minds of the people.

They called for the unconditional release of Kanu to douse the current tension across the southeast and create an atmosphere of collaboration towards a constructive resolution of the issues.

 But events have shown scant regard for the cherished opinions of leaders of that zone. When it is recalled President Buhari had told a delegation led by elder statesman, Mbazulike Amechi who had asked him to release Kanu that he left that decision to the court, one is amazed that he failed to capitalize on this opportunity to demonstrate statesmanship and leadership.

The government has squandered another opportunity to demonstrate that it is genuinely committed to enduring solutions to all issues to the crisis in the southeast. But that is not entirely surprising as it bears the trade mark posturing of the current regime to affairs that concern that region.

The allure of the legal option is even more confounding given the report of the United Nations’ Working Group on arbitrary detention which in July described Kanu’s extraordinary rendition from Kenya as “illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional extradition”.

The UN group had also called for the immediate release of the IPOB leader and compensation by the Nigerian and Kenyan governments for the way he was treated. This dimension appeared lost on the government with the continued trial and detention of Kanu.

The case may have to run its full course thus foreclosing political solution to the matter. But does the court process really hold the solution to all there is to the Kanu case? It is very doubtful. It is doubtful that continued detention of Kanu or even his conviction holds the solution. It is difficult to wish away political resolution of the issues either now or thereafter. So why has Buhari continued to shy away from that dimension in contrast with his policies in crises areas in other zones?

 The Supreme Court is at liberty to grant or refuse the appeal for a stay of execution of the appeal court ruling. If it grants the request, then Kanu would have to continue staying in detention against the UN advisory and appeals from well-meaning people. Its import on Nigeria’s human rights record is better imagined

The apex court could also refuse the request for a stay of execution on the discharge of Kanu. Then, the federal government would be left with no other option than to release him. Then also, the government would have lost the opportunity to benefit from patriotic and genuine initiatives required to usher in lasting peace in the region. Does that say something?

The Nation

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