The Court of Appeal in Abuja, yesterday, rejected Federal Government’s application for adjournment of a hearing relating to the judgment that freed leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, from detention. The court also reserved judgment in an application filed by government.
A three-member panel of the Court of Appeal, led by Justice Oludotun Adefope-Okojie, had on October 13, dismissed the terrorism and treasonable felony charges against Kanu and ordered his release from detention after striking out a seven-count charge.
Instead of complying with the appellate court’s decision ordering Kanu’s unconditional release, the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) filed an appeal at the Supreme Court. In challenging the Court of Appeal’s decision, government applied to the Supreme Court for an order staying the execution of the former’s decision.
David Kaswe (SAN), representing the AGF, Abubakar Malami (SAN), filed an application for a stay of execution of the Court of Appeal’s verdict on the separatist leader. At yesterday’s proceedings, Kaswe sought an adjournment for the hearing of the stay of execution application.
However, the appellate court panel, led by Justice Haruna Tsanami, ordered Kaswe to open arguments in the pending application. Kaswe based his request for an adjournment on the grounds that Kanu’s lawyer, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), served him with a counter-affidavit to the application last Friday.
But Ozekhome opposed government lawyer’s request for an adjournment. He contended that government was in violation of the Court of Appeal’s order of October 13, which ordered Kanu’s unconditional release.
Explaining why government wanted a stay of execution of the Appeal Court’s judgment, Kaswe argued that the Biafra nation agitator is a huge threat to national security and must be kept in detention to have a relative peace.
Besides, government added that Kanu is a flight risk and would escape out of the country if the judgment that ordered his release was not stayed.
Kaswe insisted that it is in the interest of justice and the need to have relative peace in the Southeast and the whole Nigeria that Kanu be made to remain in detention pending the resolution of an appeal already filed at the Supreme Court.
Ozekhome dismissed the claim that Kanu jumped bail in his trial at the Federal High Court. Ozekhome said the military unjustly invaded Kanu’s ancestral home and it took God’s grace for his client to escape death.
The senior lawyer informed the court that the Federal Government was in contempt of court by not obeying the October 13 judgment and as such, has no moral and legal rights to make the request from the same court.
Contrary to government’s claim, Ozekhome said it is only the release of his client that will ensure peace and tranquility not only in the Southeast but the entire country.
After listening to the submissions of lawyers, the Court of Appeal reserved the ruling for a later date to be communicated to the parties.
Six Igbo traditional rulers were at the court to witness the hearing yesterday. The monarchs, who were all dressed in their regal attire, said they had come to support and demand Kanu’s release.
The monarchs include Innocent Nwaigwe, secretary of Umuahia North Council of Traditional Rulers; Nnamdi Ofoegbu, chairman of Ohuhu Council of Traditional Rulers; Iheanyichukwu Ezigbo, chairman of Ibeku Council; Philip Ajomiwe, immediate past chairman, Umuahia North Council; Eddy Ibeabuchi, former chairman, Umuahia North Council and Ben Oriaku of Ikwuano Council, all of Kanu’s home state of Abia.
THE Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), on Monday, told the hierarchy of the court system that they are destroying the judicial arm of government by letting the Federal Government impugn the integrity of the court in clear breach of Section 6 of the Nigerian Constitution.
The group cationed the apex court and the appellate court for even admitting the appeal filed by government, saying the application for stay of execution against a clearly binding verdict is disrespectful.
HURIWA, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, expressed disappointment that rather than mount pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari to honour his constitutional oath of office and obey a binding judgment of a competent court of jurisdiction, the apex Igbo cultural group, Ohanaeze is going cap-in-hand to Aso Rock Villa to beg for political solution as if the courts are no longer relevant.
HURIWA also carpeted the hierarchy of the appellate court for becoming political by sending on transfer from Abuja the justices that courageously determined the appeal by Kanu and quashed all charges initiated by Malami.
HURIWA recalled that President Buhari had in previous meetings with delegations of Igbo elders told them that he would not interfere with the judicial process, urging them to allow the court decide Kanu’s fate.
Also, an Igbo think-tank group, under the auspices of United Igbo Elders Forum, has said the continuous detention of Kanu, despite the order of the Appeal Court for his release, is an insult to Ndigbo. The group said for the Federal Government to ignore the voice of elders, the demand by the United Nations and the judgment of the Appeal Court by going ahead to prolong the case amounts to gross disregard for the people.
National Coordinator of the group, Justice Alpha Ikpeama, stated this in Onitsha, Anambra State, on Monday, shortly after their emergency meeting, according to a statement.
Ikpeama said: “It has a political undertone. Justice delayed is justice denied. FG has only two options to release Kanu. The two options are hinged on the Appeal Court verdict or a political solution. If FG can dialogue with bandits, why not with Ndigbo?”
Ikpeama insisted that the Federal Government has no option but to release Kanu without further delay.
Also commenting on the development, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) House of Representatives candidate for Arochukwu/Ohafia federal constituency in the 2023 election, Dr. Okuji Obinna Oreh, has pleaded with President Buhari to heed the growing appeals to release Kanu, in compliance with the Appeal Court judgment.
Oreh said releasing Kanu would greatly help to restore peace in the Southeast and make President Buhari a hero of the Igbo race. According to him, releasing Kanu is the surest way to guarantee massive participation of the zone in the forthcoming elections.
The APGA Reps hopeful said he was in the race because of the new hope and confidence in the Electoral Act, which is one of the legacies for which posterity would appreciate President Buhari’s administration.