The Appeal Court sitting in Abuja has discharged the embattled leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu.
Kanu is being prosecuted by the Federal Government at the Federal High Court in Abuja for 15 count charges bordering on treasonable felony, terrorism, and offences he allegedly committed in the course of his separatist campaigns.
A three-man panel of the Court of Appeal however said the Federal High Court lacks the jurisdiction to try him in view of his abduction and extraordinary rendition to Nigeria in flagrant violation of the OAU convention and protocol on extradition.
The court held that the 15-count charge preferred against Kanu did not disclose the place, date, time and nature of the alleged offences before being unlawfully extradited to Nigeria in clear violation of international treaties.
The court further held that the Federal Government failed to disclose where Nnamdi Kanu was arrested despite the grave allegations against him.
The court noted that the act of abduction and extraordinary rendition of Kanu from Kenya without due process is a violation of his right.
It added that the manner in which Nnamdi Kanu was procured and brought before the court was not evaluated by the lower court, before assuming jurisdiction to try him.
The lower court having failed to address the preliminary objection challenging its jurisdiction particularly the issue of abduction and extraordinary rendition from Kenya to Nigeria, the lower court failed to take cognizance of the fact that a warrant of arrest can only be executed anywhere within Nigeria, the appeal court judgement said.
The court further held that the trial judge was in grave error to have breached the right to fair hearing of Nnamdi Kanu
The African Charter on Human and People’s rights are part of the laws of Nigeria and courts must abide by the laws without pandering to the aim of the Executive, the appeal court said.
Mr Kanu has repeatedly called for the breakaway of a significant chunk of southern Nigeria to form the Republic of Biafra.
On October 2015, he was arrested by Nigerian authorities on an 11-count charge bordering on “terrorism, treasonable felony, managing an unlawful society, publication of defamatory matter, illegal possession of firearms and improper importation of goods, among others.”
He was granted bail on April 2017 for medical reasons.
However, Mr Kanu fled the country in September 2017 after an invasion of his home by the military in Afara-Ukwu, near Umuahia, Abia State.
He was then sighted in Israel and later continued to rally his supporters in Nigeria to employ violence in achieving secession.
“He has, upon jumping bail, been accused of engaging in subversive activities that include inciting violence through television, radio and online broadcasts against Nigeria and Nigerian State and institutions,” Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami said after Kanu was rearrested and brought back to Nigeria in June 2021.
“Kanu was also accused of instigating violence especially in the Southeastern Nigeria that resulted in the loss of lives and property of civilians, military, para military, police forces and destruction of civil institutions and symbols of authorities.”
Mr Kanu has denied any wrongdoing.
Reacting to the Appeal Court’s decision on Thursday, the Attorney-General, Mr Malami, said the decision of the court only discharged Kanu and did not acquit him.
In a statement signed by spokesperson, Dr. Umar Jibril Gwandu, Mr Malami said the Federal Government will explore all available options left to it.
“The Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice has received the news of the decision of the Court of Appeal concerning the trial of Nnamdi Kanu,” the statement said. “For the avoidance of doubt and by the verdict of the Court, Kanu was only discharged and not acquitted.
“Consequently, the appropriate legal options before the authorities will be exploited and communicated accordingly to the public.
“The decision handed down by the court of appeal was on a single issues that borders on rendition.
“Let it be made clear to the general public that other issues that predates rendition on the basis of which Kanu jumped bail remain valid issues for judicial determination.
“The Federal Government will consider all available options open to us on the judgment on rendition while pursuing determination of pre-rendition issues.”
‘Let my people go’
Meanwhile, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and counsel to Nnamdi Kanu, Mike Ozekhome has argued that Mr Kanu should be released immediately after his discharge.
Speaking on Channels Television’s News At 10, Mr Ozekhome said Mr Kanu should be released for peace to reign in the country.
— Channels Television (@channelstv) October 13, 2022
“What it (the ruling) means is that Nnamdi Kanu was discharged today,” Mr Ozekhome said. “That means he is a free man.
“And he should be allowed to go home tomorrow by the time we get a certified true copy of the judgment, we serve it to the Office of the Attorney-General and the DSS to allow Nnamdi Kanu go. Let my people go.”