Key issues as Supreme Court rules on federal govt’s appeal against Kanu’s release Friday

The Supreme Court will, on Friday, deliver judgment on the appeal by the Nigerian government challenging an order for the release of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

IPOB is a group seeking to carve out a sovereign state of Biafra from South-east and some parts of South-south Nigeria.

Mr Kanu, the IPOB leader, has been in detention since June 2021 when he was repatriated from Kenya to Nigeria.

He was first arrested in 2015 under the administration of former Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari.

The Court of Appeal, Abuja, on 13 October 2022, held that the IPOB leader was extra-ordinarily renditioned to Nigeria and that the action was a flagrant violation of the country’s extradition treaty and also a breach of his fundamental human rights.

The court, therefore, struck out the terrorism charges filed against Mr Kanu by the Nigerian government and ordered his release from the SSS facility.

But the government refused to release the IPOB leader insisting that he (Kanu) could be unavailable in subsequent court proceedings if released and that his release would cause insecurity in the South-east, where he comes from.

The government, through the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, later appealed the court ruling and subsequently obtained an order staying the execution of the court judgment at the Supreme Court.

The court, in October, slated 15 December for judgement on the appeal.

During the hearing of the appeal in October, a five-member panel of the court headed by Kudirat Kekere-Ekun adjourned the suit for judgement after taking arguments from lawyers to the parties.

Meanwhile, Mr Kanu had, on 3 November 2022, through one of his lawyers, Mike Ozekhome, filed a suit at the Supreme Court challenging his continued detention due to the stay of execution order.

Ms Kekere-Ekun, during the hearing, said the decision that would be reached in the federal government’s appeal would address issues raised by Mr Kanu’s suit challenging his continued detention.

Earlier in the hearing, the federal government’s lawyer, Tijjani Gazali, SAN, urged the Supreme Court to “allow the appeal” and set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal freeing Mr Kanu.

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Mr Gazali, who is the acting director of civil appeals at the Federal Ministry of Justice in Abuja, prayed the court to affirm the judgement of the Federal High Court in Abuja which sustained terrorism charges against the IPOB leader.

But, Mr Ozekhome, a law professor and SAN, prayed the apex court “to dismiss the appeal with punitive cost and respectfully uphold the cross-appeal to do substantial justice to this matter.”

He told the court that Mr Kanu had been languishing in detention since 29 June 2021, when he was brought back to Nigeria.

Key issues on ground

The Supreme Court is expected to take a decision on whether or not the federal government’s appeal against Mr Kanu’s release should stand.

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The court will also decide on whether or not the IPOB leader’s cross-appeal challenging his continued detention will be allowed.

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It will also determine whether or not Mr Kanu was extraordinarily renditioned to Nigeria from Kenya and if such an act constitutes a violation of his fundamental human rights.

Will the court free Kanu?

The judgement comes about three days after the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, asked President Bola Tinubu to release Mr Kanu.

“I hereby make a passionate appeal to our President, Sen. Bola Ahmed Tinubu to assist in procuring the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. This will be a highly prized Christmas gift to all Igbos of Nigeria and all other Nigerians who are committed to a peaceful and secure country,” Mr Iwuanyanwu had said.

Apart from Mr Iwuanyanwu, other Igbo leaders such as Governor Charles Soludo of Anambra State and his Enugu State counterpart, Peter Mbah, had separately asked the federal government to release the IPOB leader, but their requests were ignored.

Mr Kanu’s fate now hangs in the much-awaited judgement of the Supreme Court.

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