Against Nnamdi Kanu’s Echoing Detention 

1 week ago
5 mins read

Maazi Nnamdi Kanu, supposed leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), has been facing a second wave of court cases since 2021 for his part in the activities of IPOB, a group seeking to achieve the secession of the South-east region from Nigeria.

In March 2015, he was charged in an Abuja Magistrate Court for the first time for “criminal conspiracy, intimidation and membership of an illegal organisation” by Nigeria’s Department of State Services (DSS). The charges violate “Section 97, 97B and 397” of Nigeria’s penal code. The Federal Government had refused to release Kanu in December 2015 against a court order. In 2017, he was eventually released on bail on medical grounds after 18 months.

Kanu had to flee the country when security operatives invaded his home in Afara-Ukwu, Abia State amidst heavy gunfire and alleged fatal shooting of some residents. Kanu was subsequently re-arrested in Kenya, according to his lawyers, and brought to Nigeria on 27 June 2021. He has been in detention since then, “accused of engaging in subversive activities that include inciting violence through television, radio and online broadcasts against the Nigerian state and institutions.”

IPOB’s Curious Proscription

Kanu and IPOB shot to fame in 2009, when he formed Radio Biafra, based in London, from where the station rained diatribes on the Nigerian system. For many years, IPOB had claimed to be peaceful in its agitations, though this became questionable after a series of attacks targeted at security agencies and government institutions (e.g., INEC) through an alleged armed wing of IPOB, the Eastern Security Network (ESN).

READ ALSO: IPOB Leader, Kanu, Condemns Killings In Southeast

IPOB was proscribed and tagged terrorist in 2017 by former President Buhari to the surprise of local and international organisations and countries. IPOB has denied all allegations of terrorism and instead said the Nigerian government was behind the attacks, which it (FG) used as a pretext to militarize the South-east, and upend IPOB’s peaceful agitations. Many concerned groups, including the media, have since been calling on the federal government to show keen interest in ending youth unemployment, food inflation, kidnapping, banditry, farmer-herder-conflicts and similar accusations of ethnic cleansing, which are the bedrock of insecurity and secessionist agitations.

 

A Stunning Deaf Ear

Since June 2021, more than 50 different appeals have gone out to the Federal Government from civil society groups, international bodies, the clergy, youth groups, governors, and influential politicians, asking for the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. One of the vociferous calls for Kanu’s release recently came from Concerned Igbo Citizens Council (CICC) through its interim National Coordinator, and interim National Secretary, Comrade Ukachukwu Obioha and Mazi James Okorie respectively. According to the CICC, the continued incarceration of Kanu and scores of Igbo youths gives “an unsavory ethnic and sectional coloration” to Federal Government’s action. The group praised the reprieve granted to Yoruba agitators such as Sunday Igboho and Omoyele Sowore by President Tinubu’s government, adding that same should be accorded Nnamdi Kanu.

READ ALSO: South-east Govs Resolve To Tackle Insecurity, Meet Tinubu For Kanu’s Freedom 

The FG has so far rebuffed all the calls to release Kanu, including court orders. Like similar moves in the past, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, has told those calling for Kanu’s release that the charges against him would be resolved by a competent court of law.

Yet, a competent court cleared Maazi Kanu of all terrorism charges on 13 October 2022. First, the Court of Appeal, Abuja, ruled that Kanu was extra-ordinarily re-arrested and brought back to Nigeria from Kenya in flagrant violation of Nigeria’s extradition treaty, and that the rendition (bringing Kanu to Nigeria) also breached Kanu’s fundamental human rights. Based on this, the court held that Kanu should be released from the facility of the State Security Service.

Following the quashing of terrorism charges against Kanu, the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation at the time obtained an order at the Supreme Court staying the execution of the judgment. On 15 December 2023, the Supreme Court ruled that Mr Kanu’s trial on terrorism would continue in Abuja.

READ ALSO: Optimism, Fears Trail FG’s Insistence On LG Autonomy

To date, Mr Kanu has resisted attempts to put him back on trial, arguing that he had not been given a fair trial before, and has been blocked from accessing facilities to prepare for his trial. On 28 March 2024, Kanu’s lawyers led by Aloy Ejimakor, prayed the Court of Appeal, Abuja, to allow his appeal against the decision of a Federal High Court in Abuja, which objected to his trial continuation.

 

Growing Violence in South-east

The main argument of the FG has been that Kanu’s release would cause insecurity in the South-east, and that his cases would be tried in court. However, this idea has since proved wrong, because it is the detention of Nnamdi Kanu against court order that is causing insecurity in the region. This is in addition to growing cases of farmer-herder conflicts, kidnappings, and bandit attacks in the farms.

Since June 2021, the five states of the South-east observe sit-at-home orders every Monday during which banks, markets, schools, even roads are closed, leading to multibillion naira losses in economic activities. Estimates by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Small and Medium Enterprise Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) have put the economic cost of the sit-at-home at N4.618 trillion ($10.495 billion) for micro businesses alone. About six months of class lessons have been lost by schools.

The cry of marginalization from the South-east, which led to a bitter civil war in 1967 continues to ring out in the region and beyond. It has been difficult for the rest of the country to deny this cry for inclusion, equality and mutual respect. While calling on Tinubu to release Kanu in July 2023, the Igede tribe in Benue State described Kanu’s continued detention, against court orders, as “a stain on Nigeria’s democracy.” Condemning the marginalization of the South-east, the Igede said: “A man unjustly silenced during civil proceedings is an affront to the very essence of justice. A region relegated to the background in the national dialogue is a testament to the height of inequality. Witnessing the violation of human rights by the very institutions meant to protect them is the epitome of unfairness.”

 

For Peace and for Equity

In the past, the Nigerian government had settled such cases with amnesty, dialogue, and rehabilitation of agitators. Sunday Igboho, a pro-Odua Republic agitator and Omoyele Sowore have been released, leading to great surprises about the continued detention of Kanu.

The Presidential Amnesty Programme for Niger Delta militant started by former President Umaru Yar’Adua, has been popular since 2009. The 2018 budgetary allocation for the Niger Delta Amnesty programme was N65 billion, with 21,615 trained beneficiaries. As of April 2024, over 100 former Niger Delta warlords had become government contractors. Some of the former agitators have been known to threaten the life of a sitting president in Nigeria, and later given a N13 billion contract for their troubles. Thousands had been enrolled in UK and US universities after gory tales of bloodletting, and devastations to Nigeria’s oil industry.

In 2016, President Buhari started the De-radicalization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration Camp in Gombe State. In September 2021, the Nigerian Army received 8000 repentant Boko Haram fighters. In March 2023, nearly 600 former Boko Haram fighters graduated from the camp and re-integrated into the society. In September 2023, the rehab centre produced 2,168 repentant fighters.

Recall that in 2021, then Borno State governor, Babagana Zulum, had called for a review of the programme, insisting that ex-Boko Haram members spy on communities and rejoin the group. Government instead considered the gains to be higher than the dangers. Recently in April 2024, the Nigerian Army denied allegations that it had recruited repentant Boko Haram fighters.

Against the belief of the FG that Kanu’s release would lead to insecurity in the South-east, many international human rights groups have argued that his release would lead to peace in the region, restore Kanu’s rights to freedom, and foster judicial fairness. His release could also be a path to addressing the rising trend of attacks by non-state actors across the country. Tinubu’s government can also earn itself a lot of trust, confidence and respect from a highly resentful South-east. Some political commentators have said that Tinubu may not care about the agitations in the South-east because it does not matter to his political fortunes. Yet, once a president, everyone is your rightful subject to care for. It is time to give Nnamdi Kanu’s case a more human face, especially now that the governors and Kanu himself are keen on a peaceful (out-of-court) resolution of the matter.

 

 

Dr Mbamalu, a Jefferson Fellow and Member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), is a Publisher and Communications/Media Consultant. His extensive research works on Renewable Energy and Health Communication are published in several international journals, including SAGE. 

SMS/WhatsApp: 08094000017

Follow on X: @marcelmbamalu

Dr. Marcel Mbamalu is a communication scholar, journalist and entrepreneur. He holds a Ph.D in Mass Communication from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and is the Chief Executive Officer Newstide Publications, the publishers of Prime Business Africa.

A seasoned journalist, he horned his journalism skills at The Guardian Newspaper, rising to the position of News Editor at the flagship of the Nigerian press. He has garnered multidisciplinary experience in marketing communication, public relations and media research, helping clients to deliver bespoke campaigns within Nigeria and across Africa.

He has built an expansive network in the media and has served as a media trainer for World Health Organisation (WHO) at various times in Northeast Nigeria. He has attended numerous media trainings, including the Bloomberg Financial Journalism Training and Reuters/AfDB training on Effective Coverage of Infrastructural Development of Africa.

A versatile media expert, he won the Jefferson Fellowship in 2023 as the sole Africa representative on the program. Dr Mbamalu was part of a global media team that covered the 2020 United State’s Presidential election. As Africa's sole representative in the 2023 Jefferson Fellowships, Dr Mbamalu was selected to tour the United States and Asia (Japan and Hong Kong) as part of a 12-man global team of journalists on a travel grant to report on inclusion, income gaps and migration issues between the US and Asia.

Dr. Marcel Mbamalu is a communication scholar, journalist and entrepreneur. He holds a Ph.D in Mass Communication from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and is the Chief Executive Officer Newstide Publications, the publishers of Prime Business Africa.

A seasoned journalist, he horned his journalism skills at The Guardian Newspaper, rising to the position of News Editor at the flagship of the Nigerian press. He has garnered multidisciplinary experience in marketing communication, public relations and media research, helping clients to deliver bespoke campaigns within Nigeria and across Africa.

He has built an expansive network in the media and has served as a media trainer for World Health Organisation (WHO) at various times in Northeast Nigeria. He has attended numerous media trainings, including the Bloomberg Financial Journalism Training and Reuters/AfDB training on Effective Coverage of Infrastructural Development of Africa.

A versatile media expert, he won the Jefferson Fellowship in 2023 as the sole Africa representative on the program. Dr Mbamalu was part of a global media team that covered the 2020 United State’s Presidential election. As Africa's sole representative in the 2023 Jefferson Fellowships, Dr Mbamalu was selected to tour the United States and Asia (Japan and Hong Kong) as part of a 12-man global team of journalists on a travel grant to report on inclusion, income gaps and migration issues between the US and Asia.

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