appeal court frees kanu

…refuses to rule on IPOB proscription

A three-person panel of Appeal Court judges today 13 October 2022 frees separatist agitator, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, of terrorism charges.

Kanu is facing eight count charges treasonable felony preferred against him by Nigeria’s Federal Government.

The panel of judges, led by Jummai Hannatu, ruled that government violated international laws by forcibly extraditing Kanu from Kenya.

Consequently, the panel quashed seven of eight charges for which Kanu stands trial at the Federal High Court in Abuja.

Because government did not contest the claim, the judges allowed the appeal that authorities illegally repatriated Kanu from Kenya.

The panel said extraordinary renditions grossly violates “international conventions, protocols and guidelines that Nigeria is signatory to.”

The judges also found that this breached Nnamdi Kanu’s fundamental human rights.

They noted that government failed to deny the allegation that it abducted and repatriated Kanu without extradition application and hearing.

They wondered why the federal government was “ominously silent on the issue” which was “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 (government).

“Where a party fails to controvert a deposition by an opponent, the issue not contested is deemed conceded. The onus is on FG to prove the legality of the Appellant’s arrest and return from Kenya,” the judges said.

The panel also agreed with Kanu’s lawyer, Mr. Mike Ozekhome, that the extradition violated international law and conventions. These include the OAU Convention ratified by government on 28 April 2022, and the Charter of Human and Peoples Right.

The charter and convention prescribe that extradition request must be in writing, with a statement indicating a person’s offences.

By not following the rules, government tainted the entire proceedings, “an abuse of criminal prosecution in general,” the judges said.

It described the Federal Government action as a “serious abuse of power.”

“The court will never shy away from calling the Executive to order when it tilts towards Executive recklessness.”

Kanu leads the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra movement, a proscribed separatist organisation fighting for the restoration of the defunct Biafra.

Nigerian forces defeated the breakaway Republic during the three-year Nigerian Civil War fought between 1967 and 1970.

The Appeal judges however declined to rule on a part of the appeal that questioned the legality of IPOB’s proscription.

The judges said it is prejudicial to rule on IPOB’s proscription since the matter is undergoing a different appeal process.

Genesis of a trial

Attorney General Malami announced that Government arrested Kanu on the 27 June 2021 to continue with his trial.

Kanu was returned to a federal high court on 29 June to continue with his treasonable felony trial.

He faced five-count treasonable felony charges before jumping bail and escaping from the country.

Kanu fled the country to avoid a military detachment that stormed his home and killed several persons,, his lawyers said. His goal was to escape the shootings that followed.

At his resumed trial, the federal government multiplied the charges by three to 15. However, they also had them reduced to eight charges on 8 April.

Judge Binta Nyako rejected an application to strike out the charges for lack of merit. Kanu subsequently reinforced his legal team by bringing in senior advocate Mike Ozekhome who filed the appeal.

It is this appeal (marked CA/ABJ/CR/625/2022) that the Court sustained today.

Ozekhome had asked the court to throw out seven of the eight counts because they lacked merit. He based his argument on the extraordinary circumstances that brought Kanu into court a second time.

Specifically, Ozekhome said on September 13 that Nigeria forcibly abducted Kanu from Kenya and illegally transported him out of Kenya.

This was an act of illegality, he said, because it violated the Extradition Act in many ways.

The Act required government, under the doctrine of specialty, to continue with the five-count charge that Kanu previously faced.

Additionally, Ozekhome said it was illegal to arrest and extraordinarily rendition anyone to another country without following due process.

This process involved getting Kenyan authorities to speed up Kanu’s repatriation to Nigeria to continue with the trial, he said.