•It’s landmark judgment —Ohanaeze
•IPOB happy over acquittal •Kanu’s discharge triumph of light over darkness —MASSOB
By Anayo Okoli, Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Chimaobi Nwaiwu & Steve Oko
ABUJA—the court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, yesterday, quashed the 15-count terrorism charge the Federal Government preferred against the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu.
The appellate court, in a unanimous decision by a three-man panel led by Justice Jummai Hanatu, discharged and acquitted the IPOB leader of all the allegations against him, even as it ordered his release from detention.
The court said it was satisfied that FG flagrantly violated all known laws, when it forcefully renditioned Kanu from Kenya to the country for the continuation of his trial.
It held that such extra-ordinary rendition, without adherence to due process of the law, was a gross violation of all international conventions, treaties, protocols and guidelines that Nigeria is signatory to, as well as a breach of the appellant’s fundamental human rights.
The appellate court, in the lead judgement that was delivered by Justice Oludotun Adetope-Okojie, noted that FG failed to refute the allegation that the IPOB leader was in Kenya and that he was abducted and brought back to the country without any extradition proceeding.
It held that FG was “ominously silent on the issue”, which it described as very pivotal in determining whether the trial court would still have the jurisdiction to continue with the criminal proceeding before it.
“In law, that is a costly failure and such failure is an admittance by the Respondent.
“Where a party fails to controvert a deposition by an opponent, the issue not contested is deemed conceded”, the court held, adding that the onus was on FG to prove the legality of the Appellant’s arrest and return from Kenya.
More so, the court noted that Nigeria is a signatory to the OAU Convention that it duly ratified, as well as the Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, which it said prescribed how a wanted person could be transferred from one country to the other.
It held that any extradition request must be in writing, with a statement indicating offences for which a person is wanted.
The appellate court held that FG’s action tainted the entire proceeding it initiated against Kanu and amounted to “an abuse of criminal prosecution in general.
“The court will never shy away from calling the Executive to order when it tilts towards Executive recklessness”, the appellate court held, even as it accused FG of engaging in “serious abuse of power”.
It further stressed that going by some ingredients of offence in the charge, the Federal High Court in Anambra State, was the appropriate court with the territorial jurisdiction to entertain the case.
Nevertheless, the appellate court said it would be pre-judicial for it to make an order on the proscription of IPOB since the issue is still on appeal.
It held that the proscription order by the lower court would subsist until it is set-aside.
“On the whole, this appeal succeeds and it is allowed. The ruling of trial Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court delivered on April 8 is hereby set-aside.
“The 15-count charge against the Appellant at the lower court is hereby struck out.
“The Appellant is hereby discharged and acquitted”, the appellate court held.
The IPOB leader, who has been in detention for over 14 months following his re-arrest in Kenya, had through his team of lawyers led by Mike Ozekhome, SAN, approached the appellate court to quash the charges against him.
Specifically, he prayed the appellate court to review the April 8 ruling of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which struck out only eight out of the 15-count charge FG preferred against him.
Kanu, in his appeal marked CA/ABJ/CR/625/2022, contended that the charge was legally defective and incompetent, even as he applied to be discharged and acquitted.
Arguing the appeal on September 13, Ozekhome, alleged that his client was forcefully abducted from Kenya by security operatives, blindfolded and illegally renditioned back to the country.
He told the court that his client was first arraigned on December 23, 2015 and was later granted bail on April 25, 2017.
“My lords, he was enjoying this bail without breaching the terms. However, he was in his ancestral home when agents of the Respondent invaded his home in September 2017. He barely escaped alive by sheer providence and found himself first in Isreal and later in London.
“When the Appellant travelled from London to Kenya, agents of the Respondents, on June 27, 2021, forcefully abducted the Appellant, tortured and renditioned him back to the country without following any extradition process”, Ozekhome submitted.
He argued that under the Doctrine of Speciality as provided for in section 15 of the Extradition Act, FG, ought to have proceeded to try Kanu on the five-count charge he was initially facing before he escaped from the country.
He further argued that Kenya, being the country from where Kanu was arrested and extraordinarily renditioned back to Nigeria, ought to have authorised his extradition.
However, the Federal Government, through its lawyer, Mr. David Kaswe, urged the court to dismiss the appeal for want of merit.
FG told the court that contrary to Kanu’s allegation, he was brought back to the country by due process of the law.
Kaswe argued that the charge was amended seven times owing to the conduct of the Appellant.
“My lords, it took four years and huge resources to get the Respondent arrested and brought back to face the charges against him.
“The Prosecution is ever willing and eager to proceed with trial of the Appellant.
“We are saying that the trial court was even wrong to have struck out the eight counts as it did.
“It is only after FG has produced all its witnesses and tendered its evidence that the Appellant could claim that no prima-facie case was established.
“Finally, we urge this court to dismiss the appeal for lacking in merit”, Kaswe added.
It will be recalled that trial Justice Nyako struck out eight counts of the charge on the premise that they were mere repetitions that did not disclose any offence that could be sustained by the proof of evidence before the court.
In the counts that were struck out, FG, alleged that Kanu, through his broadcasts, incited members of the public to not only stage a violent revolution, but to attack police officers and also destroy public facilities in Lagos State.
FG alleged that Kanu had in his broadcast that was received and heard in Nigeria, issued a deadly threat that anyone who flouted his sit-at home order should write his/her Will.
It told the court that as a result of the threat, Banks, Schools, Markets, Shopping Malls, Fuel Stations domiciled in the Eastern States of Nigeria, were not opened for businesses. Citizens and vehicular movements in the Eastern States of Nigeria were grounded.
It alleged that Kanu had on diverse dates between 2018 and 2021, made a broadcast received and heard in Nigeria, inciting members of the public to hunt and kill Nigerian security personnel and their family members, thereby committing an offence punishable under Section 1 (2) (h) of the Terrorism Prevention Amendment Act, 2013.
More so, FG, alleged that Kanu, directed members of the IPOB “to manufacture Bombs”.
It told the court that the defendant had between the month of March and April 2015, imported into Nigeria and kept in Ubulisiuzor in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State, a Radio Transmitter known as Tram 50L concealed in a container of used household items, which he allegedly declared as used household items, and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 47 (2) (a) of Criminal Code Act Cap, C45 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
Justice Nyako earlier suspended Kanu’s trial till November 14 to await the outcome of his appeal.
IPOB happy over Kanu’s acquittal
Reacting to the court ruling, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, yesterday, expressed joy over the discharge and acquittal of its Leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
IPOB Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, in a press statement said the judgment showed that some judges are still upright.
The statement read in part:”Yes, we are happy to hear that our leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu has been acquitted and discharged. That is to show that some judges are good and know the law and understand that Nnamdi Kanu did not commit crimes and his extraordinary rendition was very illegal.”
IPOB said that Biafrans all over the world are celebrating the landmark judgment.
“Biafrans both home and abroad including our friends should rejoice because Almighty Chukwu Okike Abiama has done it again. Biafra realisation is the next target and nothing will stop IPOB from achieving Biafra freedom.”
Kanu’s discharge triumph of light over darkness—MASSOB
Similarly, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, has described the Appeal Court’s discharge and acquittal as a triumph of light over darkness.
MASSOB also said that the discharge was a stepping progress towards Biafra actualization and restoration, adding that it has opened a new dimension to the Biafra struggle which must continue to be anchored on non- violence, mutual understanding and unity of purpose.
In a reaction the group swiftly made shortly after the court verdict, leader of MASSOB, Uchenna Madu said that as Nnamdi Kanu is being discharged from DSS detention, MASSOB will continue with other progressive groups and individuals to press further for the release of other pro-Biafra detainees across Nigerian prisons.
“Though the people of Biafra are celebrating all over the world, our most desired joy is independence of Biafra from Nigeria state. MASSOB warns the DSS to quickly obey the order of the appellate court,” Madu instructed.
In in its reaction, Ohanaeze Ndigbo expressed joy over the judgment.
“We receive the news with happiness, joy and jubilation. It’s jubilation galore across the entire South East and Nigeria in general because we are relieved by the Appeal court judgment. It’s a land mark and we are very much happy.
“We commend other persons who stand behind the Igbo race in this struggle and above all, we also commend Nnamdi Kanu because what he is fighting in IPOB is an expression of outcome, effect and not a cause. “The cause is the circumstances surrounding Nigeria: hardship, marginalisation, lopsidedness. So, what is happening in IPOB is expression of dissatisfaction with the Nigerian system of governance. Nnamdi Kanu is representing Igbo consciousness. We are very happy with the landmark. It’s one of the very best judgments ever delivered by the judiciary”, the spokesman, Dr. Alex Chidozie said.
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