By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—–Barely 24 hours after charge against him was struck out, the Federal High Court in Abuja, today, ordered the Department of State Service, DSS, to forthwith, release the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu.
Ruling on the fundamental right enforcement suit Kanu lodged before the high court, Justice Ademola Adeniyi, said there was no basis for the applicant to remain in custody since there is currently no charge pending against him.
The court stressed that Kanu is entitled to his right to liberty as enshrined in section 35(1) (4) and (5) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
According to the court, the continued detention of Kanu after two months without trial, violates Section 158 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 and Section 35 of the 1999 Constitution.
Justice Ademola said there was no law permitting the DSS or any other security agency to detain any Nigerian beyond two months without any concrete move to try such person before a competent court.
The judge said available facts before him showed that the DSS was not minded to release Kanu on bail.
He therefore ordered the DSS to immediately grant unconditional bail to the applicant.
The court had earlier granted the DSS leave to detain the IPOB leader for 90 days.
The order followed an application that was filed before the court by counsel to the DSS, Mr. Moses Idakwo, who insisted that the security agency needed the time to conclude investigation into fresh allegation that Kanu was into terrorism financing.
In a counter-affidavit he filed against Kanu’s suit, DSS, said its investigations revealed that the applicant who it identified as the brain behind recent clamour for the creation of ‘Biafra Republic’, has already received huge sums of money to purchase weapons.
It told the court that prior to his arrest, Kanu, had already made enquiries about prices of all the weapons he intended to buy.
The counter-affidavit was deposed to by a senior officer with the DSS, Mr. Ayo Ibitoye, who averred that it would be in the interest of justice, peace and order, to allow the IPOB leader to remain in custody of the security agency.
The argument was however rejected by the high court today.
It will be recalled Kanu who is also the Director of Radio Biafra and Television, was on October 17, arrested in Lagos by security operatives, shortly after he arrived Nigeria from his base in the United Kingdom.
He was subsequently arraigned before a Chief Magistrate Court in Abuja over allegation that he engaged in criminal conspiracy, managed and belonged to an unlawful society.
In the First Information Report, FIR, it entered before Chief Magistrate Shauibu Usman, FG, aside accusing Kanu of indulging in criminal intimidation, contrary to section 97 (a)&(b) and section 397 of the Penal Code, maintained that it has evidence that he was involved in terrorism financing.
Meanwhile, Kanu on October 19, pleaded not guilty to the charge and was eventually granted bail to the tune of N2million.
The court further directed the defendant to produce a civil servant of Grade Level 16, to stand as his surety.
However, the accused person alleged that the Nigerian government refused to release him from detention despite the fact that he met the bail conditions.
Moves by Kanu’s lawyer, Mr. Egechukwu Obetta, to enforce the bail granted to his client by the Magistrate Court was thwarted by the DSS which applied to withdraw the charge upon which the bail was granted.
The DSS, in its notice for discontinuance, asked Magistrate Usman to hands-off the matter, saying it has concluded plans to file fresh charge against Kanu before a higher court that has the jurisdiction to try terrorism case.
Consequently, the Magistrate court, on Wednesday, struck out the charge, even as it discharged Kanu.
Kanu had in his fundamental right enforcement suit, prayed the high court to set aside the order it made ex-parte, on November 11, in Suit No. FHC/Abj/CS/873/2015, which gave the DSS leave to further detain him.
He applied for, “An order of court admitting the applicant to bail and directing the respondent to comply with the order of the Chief Magistrate Court, Wuse Zone 2, Abuja, admitting the applicant to bail in Suit No. Abj/CMC/CR/21/2015, between the State Security Services V. Nnamdi Kanu”.
Kanu’s lawyer contended that FG failed to adduce any evidence to support its allegation that Kanu is a terrorist, supports and finances terrorism and is preparing to take arms against the Nigerian state.
“The continued detention of the applicant in the face of an order of a court that he be released is a trespass on the person of the applicant and a violation of the basic freedoms of the applicant as guaranteed by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended.
“Section 27(1) of the Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act 2013 and any provision of that Act which empowers the court to make an order for the detention of the applicant or anybody else anytime beyond 24 hours without trial is ultra vires the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended”, Kanu’s lawyer added.
More details soon