The Court of Appeal in Abuja, on Thursday, quashed the terrorism charge the Federal Government preferred against the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu.
It discharged and acquitted him of the seven-count charge pending against him before the Federal High Court in Abuja.
The appellate court, in a decision by a three-man panel led by Justice Jummai Hanatu, said it was satisfied that FG flagrantly violated the law, when it forcefully rendered 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, protocols and guidelines that Nigeria is signatory to, as well as a breach of the Appellant’s fundamental human rights.
The appellate court 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.
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“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 OAU Convention which it ratified on April 28, 2022, as well as the Charter of Human and Peoples Rights, which it said prescribed how a wanted person could be transferred from one country to the other.
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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”.
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.
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It held that the proscription order by the lower court would subsist until it is set-aside.
For months, Kanu faced numerous charges, including terrorism and treasonable felony, which Nigerian authorities had leveled against him in federal court. Authorities say the offenses were committed during his separatist campaigns.
An Imo state resident Susan Ifeoma said the news has been heartwarming.
“People are rejoicing here, [even] me,” she said. “I was just jumping and dancing. We’ve been praying, asking God to intervene. And he has.”
Discharged and not acquitted, argues Nigerian Govt.
Reacting, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN) says Mazi Nnamdi Kanu was not acquitted by the Court of Appeal.
Malami said the appellate court only decided on a single issue that borders on rendition, adding that Nnamdi Kanu has other pre-rendition cases to answer.
The Attorney-General of the Federation made the clarifications in a statement through his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu in reaction to the judgment of the Appeal Court on Thursday, October 13, 2022.
The statement reads: “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.
” 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 issue 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,” the statement added.
Kanu is leading decades-old agitation for the secession of Nigeria’s southeastern region, fueled by a feeling of marginalization among the residents. The separatists want to form a republic called Biafra.
In the late 1960s, the Biafran agitation snowballed into a civil war that killed an estimated 1 million people, mostly from famine.