Nnamdi Kanu: From extradition to release
Written by Ossy on October 14, 2022
By Sharon Osaji
On Tuesday, June 29, 2021, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, announced in a press conference in Abuja that the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, had been arrested and extradited to Nigeria from Kenya, after being intercepted in the East African country on Sunday, June 26, 2021, by Interpol.
He said Kanu was extradited to face trial in Nigeria for charges bordering on treasonable felony instituted against him at the Federal High Court in Abuja, in response to years of separatist agitation for an independent Republic of Biafra through IPOB.
Background to the extradition
Kanu, a British-Nigerian activist, in 2014 founded IPOB, with the sole aim of restoring the state of Biafra which existed in Nigeria’s eastern region during the Nigerian Civil War of 1967–1970.
Kanu was born September 25, 1967, the year the Nigerian Civil War began.
He also owned a United Kingdom-registered radio station, Radio Biafra, where he deployed to propagate his Biafran separatist agenda.
On October 14, 2015, Kanu was arrested in Lagos and detained for more than a year, despite various court orders calling for his release.
On April 28, 2017, Kanu was released from prison on bail for health reasons.
He however did not meet the conditions for bail, instead he jumped bail and fled abroad. He was on the run when IPOB was later declared a terrorist group by the defence headquarters and the court, following the approval of the South-East governors at the time.
While abroad, he continued campaigns for the actualisation of the state of Biafra.
Although Kanu had maintained that IPOB was interested only in a peaceful approach in achieving Biafran independence without violence, the reality was not in complete conformity.
The Orlu Crisis
The Orlu-Orsu area of Imo State became a flashpoint around December 2020, after the nationwide #EndSARS protests. No sooner had the protests ended had the Orlu-Orsu area turned into a war zone.
In December 2020, Kanu announced that IPOB had formed an armed wing, the Eastern Security Network, to defend southeastern Nigerians from bandits and armed Fulani herders who had been terrorising the region. Kanu later gave all the governors of South-East Nigeria a 14-day ultimatum to ban open grazing in the region, threatening to deploy the ESN to enforce the ban if the authorities failed to comply.
The peaceful atmosphere enjoyed by the people of Orlu Local Government Area of the state turned to tension and apprehension after security agents from the Nigerian Army invaded the LGA with a bid to crushing the ESN.
The ESN militants allegedly shot and killed four soldiers while six civilians died in the ensuing crisis that drew local and international attention. While the state government tried to nip the situation in the bud, the Federal Government mobilised security forces to the troubled area, for many weeks afterwards.
Many families were thrown into mourning at the time and in a bid to curtail the situation, the state governor, Hope Uzodinma, on January 25, 2021, declared a dusk-to-dawn curfew in 10 out of the 12 local council areas making up Imo West senatorial district.
The security agencies further mobilised more men and equipment in the area including airstrikes in search of the fleeing ESN members said to have struck from a forest in Orsu LGA, a border town to Anambra State.
An escapade that some had described as an abduction, because the process failed to follow the due order of the law, particularly the Nigerian Extradition Act, Cap E25, Laws of the Federation 2004.
An extradition is generally the transfer of an accused from one state or country to another state or country that seeks to place the accused on trial. It could be defined as the official process by which one nation or state requests and obtains from another nation or state the surrender of a suspected or convicted criminal.
Where extradition is required between sub-national regions/states, it is usually known as rendition.
Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, claimed that both national and international laws were flagrantly flouted by the Federal Government in the action and consequently accused FG of terrorism.
Questions as to why Kanu had not been subjected to extradition proceedings before a court of law in Kenya before he was sent to Nigeria began to raise eyebrows, since the suspended Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari, was afforded the privilege.
Furthermore, questions as to why Kanu was not extradited to the UK instead of Nigeria remain unanswered, since he traveled to Kenya with a British passport not a Nigerian passport. It is important to note also that Kanu had renounced his Nigerian citizenship since 2015 and he had since sued the Kenyan government for his extradition to Nigeria.
Following the issues and irregularities surrounding Kanu’s rendition and arrest, The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory on Thursday, October 13, 2022, termed the rendition illegal and dropped all terrorism charges leveled against Kanu by the Federal Government, after series of court appearances since the rearrest.
Justice Oludotun Adebola, upheld the appeal of the detained IPOB leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and discharged and acquitted him, adding that his abduction was unlawful.
However, the AGF, Malami had since the announcement, declared that Kanu was only discharged but not acquitted.
He added that there were other issues predating Kanu’s rendition “on the basis of which Kanu jumped bail” which remained “valid issues for judicial determination.”
However, mixed reactions, mostly jubilations, have trailed Kanu’s release especially from people in the southeastern parts of the country. They have suffered weekly sit-at-home orders from IPOB, as a result of Kanu’s detention and were glad that his release could bring an end to the sit-at-home orders and restore normalcy to the region.
Others have feared whether the FG would honour the judgement of the court, since the government on more than one occasion, had disregarded court orders. They fear the response of IPOB if the FG decides it would not honour the judgement.
For now, however, Nnamdi Kanu is a free man.