By Bolaji Ogundele, Abuja, Innocent Duru, Chris Njoku, Owerri, AbdulGafar Alabelewe, Kaduna and Friday Otabor, Akure
The National Security Council (NSC) rose from an emergency meeting yesterday with a declaration that the leader of the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, is not yet off the hook, the Thursday quashing by the Court of Appeal of the terrorism charges against him notwithstanding.
Kanu’s counsel, Aloy Ejimakor, differed with government, saying his client must first be released even if other charges would be filed against him.
The NSC, which advises the President on “matters relating to public security”, also directed the National Security Adviser and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) to investigate the oil theft in the Niger Delta.
The council, taking a cue from the initial reaction of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) to the Kanu matter, said the IPOB leader was not acquitted of the cases previously preferred against him.
It said government was considering the next step to take on the matter in due course as he has some other issues against him.
Addressing State House correspondents at the end of the Council meeting, Police Affairs Minister Maigari Dingyadi, with whom were Interior Minister Rauf Aregbesola and the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, said what would become of the case against Kanu would be decided in the coming days.
“The issue of Kanu was also raised and Council was briefed on the state of things on the matter and it was observed that Kanu was discharged, but he was not acquitted,” Dingyadi said.
He added: ”So, government is considering the appropriate action to be taken on the matter and Nigerians will be notified of the position that will finally be taken on the matter in due course.”
He said the Council only discussed the Appeal Court’s judgment, but noted that solutions to this kind of matters could be considered as long as they were not sub judice.
Besides, the NSC directed the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) and the Office of the Secretary to Government of the Federation (OSGF) to set up a high-powered investigation committee into the crude oil theft in the Niger Delta with a view to unraveling the extent of the theft and the brains behind it.
Aregbesola said: “The Council has decided that the National Security Adviser should put in place a strong team to investigate all issues relating to the discoveries of either abandoned oil pipelines or illegal crude oil pipelines, so as to determine, one, the extent of such illegalities and perpetrators of such, and put a report for the Council and the President.”
The Chief of Defense Staff vowed that the military would sustain its tempo in fighting oil theft.
“Activities of the Armed Forces and other security agencies within the oil and gas base were also commended, but with the directive to sustain the pressure. And it is our resolve to deal decisively with those who have been involved in those illegal acts,” he said
In addition, the Council directed immediate stoppage of all illegal mining activities across Nigeria.
“All security agencies have been ordered to check illegal mining all over the country. Illegal mining operations and activities in the country are ordered to be stopped and all security and intelligence agencies are to enforce this,” Aregbesola said.
He spoke of the Council’s commitment to a free and transparent electoral process next year, saying:”That is the decision of the council. We are committed to ensuring a transparent free and fair electoral process in the coming elections and all the processes leading to it.
“So we enjoin all political parties, individuals and Nigerians to pursue their democratic rights and interest with decorum. All security forces and agencies are advised to maintain the law,” he added.
Why 101 ex-terrorists were released – Irabor
Shedding light on the recent release from jail of 101 former Boko Haram and Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists, Irabor said they were merely moved from detention facilities for de-radicalization.
He said they were “taken to Operation Safe Corridor and are currently undergoing the process of de-radicalization at the centre.
Read Also: Nnamdi Kanu: Freed but not free
“These were people that have been in detention for several years, some of whom had served their jail terms. Others were awaiting trial, but because of the long time they had been detained and in line with the procedures for handling anyone who has been involved with terrorism, they had to be moved to the centre.”
Kanu’s lawyer to FG: Release first
Kanu’s counsel, Aloy Ejimakor, faulted the decision of the federal government to hold on to his client.
He said yesterday that the position of the Minister of Justice/Attorney General that Kanu still had other cases to answer was “flatly wrong and perverse to boot”.
He said: “If the federal government refuses or stalls on releasing Kanu solely because it desires to levy further or new charges, it will amount to a burgeoning holding charge which is impermissible in our jurisprudence.”
Fresh charges “cannot stick” against the IPOB leader, he claimed, because in the present circumstances, “the extraordinary rendition is an abiding factor that has created a permanent barrier to his prosecution.”
He was of the view that Kanu’s trial could not have proceeded if he had not been “illegally renditioned.”
He added: “So, it is not legally possible to lose jurisdiction in the extant charges and at once obtain jurisdiction in the next round of charges.”
Lawyers: Malami goofed on Kanu
Reactions have been trailing the Thursday statement by Justice Minister Malami that Kanu was only discharged of the cases preferred against him but not acquitted.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Mike Ahamba, said Malami should make the best use of the judicial order to restore peace to the Southeast.
“If he says discharge, that’s what the court wrote. I am not aware if the court said acquitted or not, but the important thing is that he was discharged. They said there was no case for terrorism,” Ahamba said.
He added: ”The Attorney General should be rational in dealing with the situation and make the best of it for the purpose of moving the nation forward not backward.
“If he was discharged, which, of course, is a judicial order as against what the people were expecting, President Buhari to do as a presidential order, Malami can use this to see whether peace will return to the Southeast.”
Ahamba said Kanu’s lawyers should find a judicial solution to the problem and stop asking Buhari to interfere in the judicial process because he would not do so.
Another legal practitioner in Imo State, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike, said the Attorney General goofed in law when he amended the charges against Kanu.
“The carpet on which the Attorney General was standing to prosecute Nnamdi Kanu was pulled out. That’s a layman’s description of what happened and there is no way forward because the court has made a far reaching pronouncement.
“The charges the AG filed before were amended, and in law, once you amend, the original does not stand anymore. So, when you amend, you throw away what was standing before. In the words of the court the only charges were those taken to the Court of Appeal and The Court of Appeal threw them out.
“So with all due respect, the Attorney General goofed in law and goofed badly.
“As I speak to you, I don’t think the Attorney General has realised what has happened. What the court is insisting on is that state gangsterism should not be tolerated anywhere or in any civilised world; and Nigeria is believed to be civilised, according to what the judges said.
“The way forward is that they don’t even need to detain him even one day longer. They were represented in court, and if Nnamdi Kanu wants, he will sue them for detention, for mental torture, making him to lie down on bare floor for more than one year. It has remedy in law and all those who took part in the rendition are actually liable to be taken to criminal court for gangsterism, including the Attorney General.”
But a Kaduna based Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Yunus Ustaz, expressed support for Malami.
Ustaz said Kanu still has case to answer despite his discharge by the Court of Appeal.
He said: “My comment on the matter will be limited because I have not read the Court of Appeal’s judgment. If he was just discharged like the Attorney General said, then discharge is not an acquittal.
“Discharge and acquittal are two different things. While an acquittal leaves you totally off the hook, that the case has not been proved, discharge is just to say maybe somebody did not come to court, but you can be re-arraigned later, depending on the wish of the body that is prosecuting the person.”
Speaking of solution to Nnamdi Kanu’s matter, Ustaz SAN said treason is a serious offence that should not be treated lightly.
According to him, “I think we should always be thinking of continuity of this country as one. Anybody who calls for treason, it is a serious issue. It affects you and I, it affects everybody. It is not a light offence and anybody who calls for treason should not be treated with kid gloves.
“Look at what is happening in the entire South-East today. On Mondays, you can’t go out to pursue you legitimate business. They are preventing children from going to school. You are preventing business people from doing their business, and that is affecting the whole region.
“It is not fair for a few rascals to be allowed to hold the entire South-East to ransom,” Ustaz SAN said.
Speaking in similar vein, another Kaduna based Lawyer, Idris Usman, said the Federal Government should re-arraign Nnamdi Kanu and allow his case to be settled legally as any attempt to apply political solution would be tantamount to setting a very dangerous example.
According to Usman, “I think the best way to handle his case is legal. Should the Federal Government settle for political solution, I am afraid government will be setting a very dangerous precedence. It means someday some other persons could terrorise the country and hope that a political solution would work for them. That means criminals will be getting away with their level of crimes in the hope that political solution will work for them.
“Nnamdi Kanu is charged with treasonable felony, which is a capital offence. Resolving the matter on political solution would mean that he should go unpunished despite the lives lost as a result of his instigation.
“Those calling for political solutions are somewhat saying he should be released so there will be peace in the South-East. But the question is: what lesson will government be passing to his likes?
“It will be much better to allow the wheel of justice roll. If he is found guilty, let him face the wrath of the law. If he is innocent, let him go home. Political solution is no doubt a dangerous precedence.”
Human rights lawyer and activist, Tope Tomekun, described the position of the federal government as executive rascality.
He said: “A few days ago the Academic Staff Union of Universities filed an application for leave to appeal the decision of the National Industrial Court ordering ASUU to resume first in obedience to the order of the NIC before it could exercise its constitutional right of appeal.
“The Court of Appeal decision has been hailed as a promotion of rule of law. As fate would have it, we have found ourselves in the same situation today but this time around, it’s the hunter who is being hunted.
“The Court of Appeal has discharged Nnamdi Kanu of the terrorism charges against him and the Federal Government is now in debt of rule of law. The government must release Kanu in obedience to the order of the Court of Appeal before Malami’s threat of exploiting legal options could be carried out.
“Failure to release Kanu would exemplify the decadent level of immoral double standard of the government and the desperate recklessness and total shameful disregard for the only institution that has been the lender of legitimacy to the government, the judiciary.”