November 22, 2021

Nnamdi Kanu: Do Igbo leaders really have to beg Buhari?

File: Nnamdi Kanu’s first day in court.

By Arogbonlo Israel

On the 19th November, 2021, the news of some highly respected Igbo leaders who visited President Muhammadu Buhari at Aso Rock greeted the media space, setting a pace for dissenting opinions by Nigerians.

The social media agog when the details of the meeting was finally revealed by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, who said the Igbo leaders under the aegis of Highly Respected Igbo Greats appealed to the President, to ensure the release of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra leader, Nnamdi Kanu.

The group led by First Republic parliamentarian and former Minister of Aviation, 93-year-old Mbazulike Amaechi, “begged” Buhari to release Nnamdi Kanu (his stern critic). As expected, Buhari while responding to the Igbo leaders, stated that though the demand was heavy, he would “consider it”.

The phrase “consider it” suggests the freedom of the IPOB leader would be subjected to unconditional release and by inference, Mr. President having the veto power can decide to pardon Nnamdi Kanu without necessarily waiting for the Judiciary to give its verdict. But the question is, do Igbo leaders really have to beg Buhari to secure Nnamdi Kanu’s release? It will take a deep and reflexive thinker to dissect the question.

Is Nnamdi Kanu protected by law?

The IPOB leader, as far as law is concerned, is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law. The Nigeria’s Terrorism Act of 2013 gives the court the powers to conduct such trial (terrorism) under more restrictive circumstances as is the case in certain parts of the country. These laws are in line with global standards including those of the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 – Sections 802-811.

According to the Practice Direction and Protocol of Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act 2013, Section 34 subsection 3, “The court may also decide, in the public interest and national security that (a) all or any of the proceedings pending before the court shall not be published in any manner; and (b) that such proceedings shall be adjourned and the accused persons detained pending when the Attorney-General is able to guarantee the protection of persons and safety of the witnesses and other persons involved in the matter.

Similarly, the Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015 (Section 233) subsection 1, “A trial for the offence referred to in subsection (4) of this section may not, where the court so determines, be held in an open court.”

READ ALSO: NNAMDI KANU: How we brokered meeting with Buhari – Ngige

This is the position of the law that should be strictly followed by the court if Nnamdi Kanu must be given fair hearing. But, it is sad when rule of law becomes the rule of engagement between the Executive and Judiciary to subject a suspect to heinous treatment where mental stress and emotional distress become the order of the day for the alleged criminal.

Begging is not an option?

Based on unpopular opinion, the Igbo leaders, perhaps, might have thought the treatment of Nnamdi Kanu in detention as alleged is “dehumanising” and “unlawful” but “begging” Buhari for his quick release is not an option the Igbos should be considering now. The president should not be compelled to release Nnamdi Kanu if he can free repentant terrorists (Boko Haram members) without any strict conditions attached. Shouldn’t he (Buhari) voluntarily release Nnamdi Kanu if he so wishes and not until he is being begged.

For some, begging Buhari goes against the nature of an average Igbo man who is presumed to be “proud” and “fearless” no matter who he is dealing with. Hence, begging someone they see as “enemy” to release their kinsman is strange to the Igbo culture. This uncustomary culture, however, might have been violated when the Igbo leaders visited Buhari to appeal for the release of Nnamdi Kanu, which the latter could have declined if consulted before they (Igbo leaders) took the decision.

The ultimate solution to the release of Nnamdi Kanu right now is the rule of law, which is still questionable to an extent in Nigeria as a result of the various actors enacting these laws. In a saner clime, a suspect is presumed guilty otherwise proven by law through fair trial, but this seems not to be obtainable in Nigeria where it can be difficult to differentiate between who a criminal is from who is not. Nnamdi Kanu deserves fair hearing as against the “political begging” where no solution lies.

  • Arogbonlo Israel, a journalist and good governance advocate, wrote from Lagos

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