About 72 hours after his release by the Court of Appeal in Abuja, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, is still in the custody of the Department of State Services.
However, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, senior counsel to Kanu and lead counsel to IPOB, said the legal team would formally approach the DSS headquarters on Monday and submit the court’s registered order and the judgment of the Court of Appeal, which could then be acted upon immediately.
Citing legal authorities, he said the freedom of Nnamdi Kanu, which is his fundamental and constitutionally guaranteed right, cannot be stopped.
If the government and its security agencies refuse to release Kanu, far-reaching legal remedies, including reporting Nigeria to international organisations, would be taken to ensure immediate compliance with the court order.
Ejiofor said this in an interview in Abuja.
The Court of Appeal (Abuja Division) had on Thursday acquitted Kanu of the federal government’s terrorism and treason charges.
The three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal, in its ruling, set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which had quashed eight of the 15 counts against Kanu.
The Court of Appeal, in its unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Oludotun Adefope-Okojie, declared Kanu’s abduction from Kenya to Nigeria illegal and unlawful and quashed all the seven counts the court had levelled against him on the grounds that the Federal Government violated all local and international laws in forcibly transferring Kanu to Nigeria, making the terrorism charges against him inadmissible and unlawful.
Ejiofor, who expressed optimism that Kanu would be released from prison today (Monday), advised the President, retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari, to do the needful by complying with the court order.
He said, “I take the position that the Federal Government has the right to approach the Supreme Court, which is a constitutionally guaranteed right. But the only impediment to the exercise of that right is that the Federal Government must first and foremost obey the order of the learned judges of the Court of Appeal exonerating Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and prohibiting further prosecution or filing of fresh criminal charges against him.
“It is settled case law of the Supreme Court in a number of cases, including the Supreme Court’s decision in Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu v. Lagos State Government, that it is not possible for an appellant to disregard an order of a lower court and approach the Supreme Court for a stay of execution. This is even more so since the Court of Appeal’s judgment, to which reference is made, set aside the lower court’s order and frivolous charge that had legitimised his detention since 29 June 2022 and lapsed on 13 October 2022.
“Furthermore, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s freedom, which is his fundamental and constitutionally guaranteed right, cannot be suspended.
“Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is yet to be released, although we will formally approach the State Security Service Headquarters on Monday with the registered court order and the Court of Appeal judgment which will be available on Monday for immediate implementation. We expect Mazi Nnamdi Kanu to be released today, October 17, 2022.
“The Federal Government is yet to appeal the judgment of the Court of Appeal till date. But as I have said earlier, the Federal Government must first comply with the order of the Court of Appeal and release Mazi Nnamdi Kanu who was acquitted by the Court of Appeal before it can appeal the judgment to the Supreme Court.
“It is our position that in the unlikely event that the Federal Government of Nigeria fails to comply with the order of the Court of Appeal to release Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, we will pursue wide-ranging remedies to ensure immediate compliance with the order, such remedies not being limited to recourse to domestic remedies but also extended to denouncing the heinous conduct of the Federal Government of Nigeria to relevant international organisations, foreign institutions and governments. Other remedies available to us will not be disclosed here.
“President Muhammadu Buhari has stated on various occasions that he will not interfere in the judicial process and that it is the court that will release Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. The Court of Appeal, the penultimate court, has released Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. It is now time for President Muhammadu Buhari to keep his word and ensure that Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is released without further ado.”
While releasing Kanu, the Appeal Court agreed with the IPOB leader’s lawyer, Dr Mike Ozekhome, SAN, that Kanu was illegally abducted and transferred from Kenya to Nigeria in contravention of both international and local law.
“By illegally abducting and extraordinarily transferring the plaintiff, the defendant clearly violated international treaties and conventions as well as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights,” the court said.
The Court of Appeal held that the federal government blatantly violated Kanu’s fundamental rights and lost the right to try him. It added that laws are there to be obeyed and that the federal government had no reason to take the laws into its own hands in the illegal and unlawful manner in which the matter of Kanu was handled.
He said Nigeria’s failure to follow due extradition procedure as required by law was fatal to the prosecution of Kanu and the failure of the Federal Government to disclose where and when the offences alleged against Kanu were committed was also fatal to the terrorism charge and rendered it expendable.
“By engaging in wholly unlawful and illegal acts in this matter and violating its own laws, the Federal Government has not come to justice with clean hands and must be called to order. By appallingly flouting local and international laws, the Federal Government has lost the right to try the complainant for any offence.
“Treaties and protocols are there to be upheld. No government in the world should kidnap anyone without following due extradition procedure. Nigeria is no exception or excuse. Nigeria must obey its own laws and those of the international community to avoid anarchy,” the court said.
The panel also held that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the charges against Kanu as he had not been properly arraigned before the court.
The panel, presided over by Justice Jummai Hanatu, also found that the offences Kanu was alleged to have committed were committed in Kenya and not in Nigeria.
Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court in Abuja had said in her ruling that counts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8 and 15 contained some allegations to which the IPOB leader must answer.
Kanu, through his legal team led by Mike Ozekhome, SAN, however, appealed (CA/ABJ/CR/625/2022), asking the court to strike out the remaining seven counts as unfounded.