BusinessDay

Nnamdi Kalu: Cautious jubilation in South-East over court victory

...Hope for end to Sit-At-Home excites many …IPOB leader’s freedom not in sight as National Security Council rules otherwise

Mostly, ordinary people in the South-East and parts of South-South went into jubilation, believing that Nnamdi Kanu had regained freedom.

They were reacting to the Federal Appeal Court in Abuja judgment that discharged the leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB).

News of the victory caused instant jubilation mostly from markets around the region. There were also mixed reactions in South East geo-political zone over the Court of Appeal’s favourable judgment for Kanu, who was standing terrorism charges.

Investigations showed spontaneous reactions in major towns across the five states of the South-East, particularly among the perceived Kanu’s diehard supporters celebrating the positive court verdict.

In parts of Anambra, including Amawbia and UNIZIK junction in Awka, there was wild jubilation among some residents of the area, over the news of the discharge and acquittal of the IPOB leader.

In a motor park at UNIZIK junction, Awka, some motor park operators and drivers were in jubilation, celebrating with alcoholic beverages over the good news.

Goodness Offor, a businessman, described the verdict as a good decision which he said has lowered the anxiety in the state, the country in general. “The judgment is a relief to the tension in the land. It also signals a new feeling in the country,” he said.

Offor commended the judiciary for maintaining its independence, noting that the decision “presents Nigeria better among the comity of nations.”

Another, who was identified by his nickname as Jay-Jay said: “This is the best news of the year. This Nnamdi Kanu deserved his freedom. All he said about Nigeria have come to pass. He has proven that he knows what he is doing.

“Upon all the things the Nigerian government has done to keep him trapped, he has been defeating them in all of them. Maybe, now we can have peace in Igboland.”

It is the same situation in other cities, including Enugu, Ebonyi, Abia and Imo states, residents erupted in wild jubilation.

Residents are seen gathered in clusters discussing in a happy mood what they described as the most cheering news that would de-escalate tension in the South-East zone.

The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory had on Thursday upheld the appeal of the detained leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu.

The court also discharged and acquitted him of terrorism charges, maintaining that his forceful and illegal rendition made the Federal Government incompetent to try him of terrorism.

Meanwhile, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has said that Nnamdi Kanu still have case to answer.

A three-man appeal panel led by Justice Jummai Sankey had on Thursday discharged Mr. Kanu on issues of rendition.

But a statement by the minister’s spokesman, Umar Gwandu, said the appellate court only discharged Mr. Kanu on case of rendition not other pre-rendition issues.

The minister said the case, during which the IPOB leader jumped bail, is awaiting judicial determination and predates the one decided on Thursday.

“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 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 predate 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 said.

But a human rights group, International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) has reacted that Malami is pushing Nigeria into international abyss of mockery and charlatanism.

The group made its position known in a statement on Thursday by the Principal Officers, Emeka Umeagbalasi and Chidinma Udegbunam.

“The Attorney General of the Federation and Justice Minister, Abubakar Malami, SAN is gravely pushing Nigeria into regional and international abyss of mockery and charlatanism with far-reaching consequences on the country’s socio-economic development, regional and international human rights, rule of law and democracy ratings and trade and investment policies including foreign direct investments (FDI),” it stated.

The group strongly condemned Nigerian government’s total disregard and disobedience to the landmark judgment of the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal quashing the entire criminal trial of Mazi Kanu.

“The Nigerian government disregard and disobedience to the unanimous verdict of the three Justices of the Court of Appeal was expressly contained in a press release from the Office of Attorney General of the Federation.

“The arrogation of the ‘interpretative power’ by the Attorney General including “what to obey and what not to obey” in the landmark judgment is also tyrannical, vexatious and democratically calamitous.

“It must be clearly and strongly stated that the only option available to Nigeria’s Attorney General as the Law Officer of Nigeria is to fully consent to the landmark judgment or go on appeal within the stipulated timeframe.

“Consenting or not consenting to the landmark judgment is however immaterial to the order of the three Justices-led Court of Appeal,” it added.

Also, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) has hailed the release of Kanu.

The leader of MASSOB, Uchenna Madu, a comrade, in a statement described the order of the court as a “stepping progress towards Biafra actualization and restoration,” and “a triumph of light over darkness.”

Madu urged the Department of State Services (DSS) to “quickly” obey the order of the appellate court and release Kanu without delays.

Igbo Lawyers Association (ILA) on Friday said that the view of Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, to the judgment of the Court of Appeal quashing the charges against the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Mazi Nnamdi Kanu could amount to contempt of the court.

Malami In a statement signed and released by his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Umar Gwandu, said the court’s decision was on a single issue that bordered on rendition, adding that other issues were predating Kanu’s rendition which remained “valid issues for judicial determination.”

The AGF said that the Federal Government would continue to pursue the determination of pre-rendition issues while considering all available options on the judgment on rendition.

Reacting to Malami’s views, Victor Onweremmadu, the Coordinator of ILA and immediate past Vice Chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association, Aba branch said that the Attorney General is completely wrong to hold such a view.

Onweremmadu who is also a member of the General Council of the Bar said that the AGF’s view is shocking to most lawyers.

“Some of us marvel sometimes about what Abubakar Malami usually says as an Attorney General. He is supposed to be the Chief Law Officer here but things get says sometimes marvels many of us.

“From the beginning, the Nigerian government had already flouted the law. There’s nothing to go back to as far as this case is concerned. They’ve already messed things up for themselves. It’s all over. The Nigerian government has already committed a foul, crime,” he said.

Onweremmadu stressed that it will be contemptuous for the AGF to neglect the judgment of the Appeal Court, adding that the judgment of the court is even above the president that appointed him as Attorney General.

“How can you say you’re a law officer but you don’t want to operate by the law? Is Nigeria a Banana Republic? This is a country that has a law and the law of the land has just been interpreted by a competent court.

“Is the Federal government the owner of Nigeria? Are they the law? The law of the land has said what is written in it and nobody has any right to go against that law. Under which law will he hold Kanu when the Nigerian law has said they should release him?

“Are they Nigeria? If there was an extradition request from Nigeria to Kenya, Kenya would have arrested Mazi Nnamdi Kanu legally with their security force, and take him to court where he’ll be represented by his lawyers. It is that court that’ll now rule if he should be extradited.

“It’s only when that is done that you’ll extradite him. You cannot just abduct someone and push him down to Nigeria to face trial. This is a judgment of the Court of Appeals of Nigeria. It’s not just any court.

“So, whoever doesn’t obey the Court of Appeal be it a President or Attorney General of the Federation, that person doesn’t deserve the position. If the president fails to obey that court order it’s an impeachable offence and for the Attorney general, it’s contempt of the court he can go to prison for that.”

He said that the AGF cannot keep the IPOB leader under any law, adding that even if the Federal Government wants to appeal, he must go home first.

“This is not a civil matter where you say you want to file a stay of execution. You don’t file a stay of execution on a criminal matter. This one is let him go and you must allow him to go,” he said.

Around Owerri and Ngor-Okpala, people were calling one another getting clarifications. Reports said people were happy with the ruling.

Read also: Aba residents, lawyers demand immediate release of Kanu

In the communities, some young men from Ngor-Okpala went out for jubilation. They called newsmen on the phone and expressed their satisfaction with the ruling of the Court of Appeal.

Some youths went to local beer parlours for drinks. In Owerri, people were seen jubilating over the ruling. Some said the ruling would be the beginning of the end of the Sit-at-Home order by IPOB.

In Asaba, the ravaging floods and disasters seemed to occupy the attention of the people and youths. Those interviewed in Aba and Enugu however expressed hope that Sit-At-Home would come to an end.

Hope further dimmed on Kanu’s freedom Friday as the National Security Council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari declared that the embattled IPOB leader was only acquitted but not discharged by the court.

Relying on Malami’s counsel therefore, the Federal Government said decision on Kanu’s fate will be taken in due course, not now as the law demands.

At the Security Council meeting, the Southeast, Kanu’s geopolitical zone, has no representation in the Council.

While briefing State House Correspondents after the meeting presided, the Minister of Police Affairs, Mohammed Dingyadi, said that a political solution was not discussed.

The Council, according to him, was therefore, considering an appropriate action to take on the matter and would notify Nigerians of its final position on the matter in due course.

Dingyadi, joined by the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, and the Chief of Defense Staff, General Lucky Irabor, said what would become of the case against Kanu would be decided in coming days.

“Similarly, the issue of Nnamdi Kanu has also been raised and Council was briefed on the state of things on the matter and it was observed that Kanu was discharged, but he was not acquitted.

“So, government is considering the appropriate action to be taken on the matter and Nigerians will be notified of the position that will finally be taken on the matter in due course,” Dingyadi said.

He said the Council only discussed the Appeal Court judgment on Nnamdi Kanu but noted that solutions to these kinds of matters can be considered as long as they are not subjudice.