As Southeast Govs, Senators Move to Secure Kanu’s Release…


Governors of the five states in the Southeast region rose from a meeting in Enugu last Tuesday with a resolution to interface with President Bola Tinubu with a view to securing the release of the detained leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu. Gideon Arinze reports

This is not the first time that Governors of the South East geo-political zone and other leaders of the region are demanding the release of IPOB leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. However, it is the first time that the Governors of Abia State, Alex Otti; Enugu State, Peter Mbah and Ebonyi State, Francis Nwifuru, are taking part in making the demand since they assumed office on May 29, 2023. 

Before now, some governors had demanded the release of the detained IPOB leader. In January, 2023, Governor Charles Soludo appealed to the Nigerian government to “unconditionally and immediately” release Kanu. In June 2023, Mbah also asked Tinubu to release him. However, these requests were not granted. 

Kanu, who has been in the custody of the Department of the State Service (DSS) since he was rearrested in June, 2021 and repatriated to Nigeria from Kenya- is facing terrorism charges at the Federal High Court, Abuja which had ordered the IPOB leader’s arrest for jumping bail in 2017. He was first arrested in 2015 under the administration of former Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari.

It will be recalled that in October 2022, the Court of Appeal in Abuja, struck out the terrorism charges filed against Kanu by the federal government and ordered his release from the facility of the SSS after it held that the IPOB leader was extraordinarily renditioned to Nigeria, an action it described as a flagrant violation of Nigeria’s extradition treaty and also a breach of Kanu fundamental human rights. 

About one week later, the government, through the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, appealed the court ruling and subsequently obtained an order at the Supreme Court staying its execution. In its judgment on the appeal on 15 December 2023, the Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s acquittal granted to Mr Kanu and consequently ordered the continuation of his trial at the Federal High Court, Abuja.

Other resolutions 

Apart from demanding Kanu’s release, the governors also reached several resolutions at the end of their meeting. In a communique presented by the Chairman of the Southeast Governors’ Forum and the Governor of Imo State, Uzodimma, they also agreed to pursue regional security and economic integration of the region. 

The governors further deliberated on the reviewed report of the South East Security and Economic Summit held in Owerri on 28th September 2023 and agreed to implement the aspects of the report about security and economic integration and affirmed its desire to put actionable plans on the key issues agreed.

Visit by Obasanjo, other statesmen

Just before the meeting commenced at the Government House, Enugu, former President  Olusegun Obasanjo, former Commonwealth Secret General, Chief Emeka Anyoku, Obi of Onitsha, His Royal Majesty Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, and some elder statesmen met with the governors. 

While the reasons for the meeting were unclear, Obasanjo was quoted on Wednesday as saying that it had nothing to do with the release of Kanu.

A statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Kehinde Akinyemi, last Wednesday, said the regional development issues include that of security and infrastructure. 

Others were economic and cooperative/collaboration, which was meant to complement the national economic development agenda.

“The meeting with them was at my invitation and of Chief Emeka Anyaoku before their summit begins. The issue of Nnamdi Kanu was not on the agenda and was not discussed in my presence,” Obasanjo was quoted to have said.

After the meeting, the question remains whether or not the federal government will be willing to listen and let the IPOB leader go.

Southeast Senators follow suit 

Barely 24 hours after the governor met in Enugu, the Southeast caucus of the Senate also visited the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Prince Lateef Fagbemi to negotiate for the release of Kanu.

The Senators, who were led by Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, who represents Abia South Senatorial District told the AGF during the meeting that until Kanu is released from custody, peace will remain a mirage in the region.

Abaribe, who spoke on behalf of the caucus, shortly after their closed-door meeting with the AGF in his office in Abuja, was quoted as saying that the economy and social life in the Southeast had suffered a lot due to the continued incarceration of the Biafra nation agitator.

He spoke about the fact that the peaceful demands of the detained IPOB leader have been hijacked by hoodlums and hardened criminals leading to wanton killings of innocent people, including security operatives.

Abaribe disclosed that he had already met with Kanu at the headquarters of the Department of State Services (DSS) in Abuja last Monday, adding that Kanu had agreed to abide by any conditional release.

Kanu seeks out of court settlement 

At a court hearing in June, 2024, Kanu’s lawyer, Alloy Ejimakor, told a federal high court judge, Justice Binta Nyako, that his client was seeking to dialogue with the government to drop the treasonable felony charges against him. 

Ejimakor was quoted as saying “In any proceeding, the court may promote reconciliation among parties thereto and encourage and facilitate the amicable settlement thereof” while he referenced section 17 of the Federal High Court Act. 

The defence lawyer introduced the issue while moving an application objecting to the court’s jurisdiction to try the IPOB leader, who appeared in court from the State Security Service (SSS) custody in Abuja.

Ejimakor explained that his client would pursue an out-of-court settlement route if the court rejected his application challenging the court’s jurisdiction.

Responding, the federal government’s prosecuting lawyer, Mr Adegboyega Awomolo, told the court that he lacked the power to negotiate with the defendant on behalf of the government. Awomolo acknowledged that Mr Kanu’s lawyer earlier communicated his desire to seek an out-of-court settlement regarding the charges.

But he said he did not have the instruction of his client, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), to embark on any negotiation with the defendant over the charges. He said that, as a lawyer, he was only briefed to prosecute the matter. 

Reacting, the trial judge noted that she had no problem with parties exploring an out-of-court settlement if they decided to. The judge urged Mr Kanu to approach the AGF, who is the proper person to negotiate with.

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