Emmanuel Ugwu-Nwogo in Umuahia
An Abia State high court in Umuahia Wednesday ordered the Federal Government and the Army high command to pay a sum of N1 billiin compensation to the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) over the invasion of his home in 2017.
Justice Benson Anya gave the order in the judgement he delivered in the suit filed by Kanu against the Federal Government, Attorney General of the Federation, Chief of Army Staff(COAS)and five other respondents.
The court also ordered the Federal Government to issue a written apology to the IPOB leader for violating his fundamental human rights and destroying his home during the military operation code named Python Dance II.
However the Court declined jurisdiction over the issue of the abduction and extradition of the IPOB leader from Kenya, saying that such powers resides with the federal high court.
Kanu had in August 2021 filed the suit through his special counsel, Mr. Aloy Ejimakor, challenging his “rendition from Kenya, unlawful detention and subsequent trial by the Federal Government”.
He had asked the court to grant him eight relief, including “a declaration that the military invasion of the Applicant’s building and premises at Isiama, Afaraukwu Ibeku, Abia State on 10th September, 2017 by the respondents or their agents is illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional and amount to infringement of the applicant’s fundamental right to life, dignity of his person, his personal liberty and fair hearing” as guaranteed under the Nigerian Constitution.
The separatist leader also asked the court to make “an order mandating and compelling the respondents to pay the sum of N5 billion to the applicant” as damages.
But Justice Anya said that in awarding N1billon to the applicant, the Court took cognisant of the “examplary and compensatory damages” done to the applicant by the respondents.
He held that the military invasion of Kanu’s home in September 2017 was “unlawful and a violation of his fundamental human rights” hence “the applicant deserves an apology” as well as compensation from the Federal Government.
Anya faulted the claims by the federal authorities and its security agencies that they did not invade the IPOB leader’s home, describing the denial as “flimsy and ineffectual” as the military operation was notorious and could not escape judicial notice.
He added that even the Federal Government was not responsible for the invasion of Kanu’s home it should have taken steps to investigate it and punish those found culpable.
The judge stated that Nigeria being an integral part of the democratic world has a responsibility to respect the rights of its citizens, adding that Nigeria should not only borrow a leaf from democratic nations but aspire to be a shinning example for others to follow.
He warned that torture, abductions, killings, and other forms of violence “do not resolve conflicts but fertilise them”.
Justice Anya therefore advised the Federal Government to apply wisdom and dialogue in its handling of the case of Kanu and separatist agitations in the interest of peace, harmony and national cohesion.
Speaking with journalists after the court session, Kanu’s special counsel, Ejimakor said that the verdict had vindicated the IPOB leader, who was accused of jumping bail when he fled Nigeria following the invasion of his home.
He said that the court had now established that there was actual invasion by the army and threat to his life hence he could not have jumped bail by running away to save his own life which was under serious threat.
Counsel to the Army, Mr. Amos Tori in his reaction to the judgment said that the army authorities would study the court verdict and respond appropriately.