Elder statesman, Edwin Clark on Monday urged President Muhammadu Buhari to obey the ruling of the Court of Appeal discharging Nnamdi Kanu for terrorism charges.
The Court had on Thursday faulted the Federal Government for the manner in which it extradited Kanu, saying it flouted human rights norms.
However, the Federal Government has argued that the court only discharged but did not acquit Kanu.
In a statement, Clark, the leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, called on President Buhari to “order the immediate release of Nnamdi Kanu in the interest of peace in the country, the South East Zone, in particular.”
Read Clark’s full statement below
I have deemed it necessary to issue this statement following reports on the stance of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and the subsequent concurrence by the National Security Council at its meeting last Friday that the judgement of the Court of Appeal only discharged leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, but did not acquit him of the charges for which he was facing trial.
I consider this stance of the Federal Government as rather imperious and needless. I, therefore, earnestly call on President Muhammadu Buhari to obey the judgement of the Court of Appeal and order the immediate release of Nnamdi Kanu in the interest of peace in the country, the South East Zone, in particular.
Most Nigerians greeted the judgement of the Court of Appeal with elation, mainly in the South East, where there were reports of widespread jubilations across cities in the Zone. It would, therefore, be detrimental for the federal government to still keep Kanu in detention and provide any pretext for malefactors to continue to take advantage of the situation in perpetrating all sorts of atrocities in the zone.
Even though certain activities of Nnamdi Kanu and his IPOB followers have been a nuisance and very disturbing, the Federal Government went too far in going all the way to Kenya to abduct him on the ground that he jumped bail.
I remember, and it is well known, that when the leaders, elders and Traditional Rulers of the South East pleaded with President Muhammadu Buhari during a meeting in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, to release Kanu and other pro-Biafra agitators in detention, the President responded that Nnamdi Kanu’s fate will be decided by the Court. And even when they (Igbo leaders) visited him at Aso Rock, the President again said the matter was no longer in his hand and the security agencies, but in the hand of the Judiciary and that whatever the Court decides would be final.
Now that the Court of Appeal has given its judgement on the matter, I am imploring the President to obey the judgement of the Court and release the young man, and allow peace to reign. At this time, when insecurity is the order of the day, anything that would enhance the peace and stability of the country must be embraced.
This matter is similar to the case of Asari Dokubo of Rivers State. I recall that when I led Elders of the Niger Delta to plead with then President Olusegun Obasanjo on behalf of Asari Dokubo, Obasanjo said the same thing as Buhari told the Igbo leaders that the matter was in the hand of the Court. And that the government would allow the Court to decide on the matter.
In response to a follow-up letter I wrote to him on the matter and other issues, Obasanjo said and I quote, “ON ASARI DOKUBO, I WILL REITERATE THAT THE QUESTION OF HIS RELEASE IS NOT AN EXECUTIVE ISSUE BUT ONE WITHIN THE PURVIEW OF THE JUDICIARY. I ADVISE THAT YOU PURSUE THE ISSUE OF HIS RELEASE THROUGH THE COURT PROCESS.” And that was how Asari Dokubo’s case was determined.
The Attorney-General of the Federation, Mallam Abubakar Malami, SAN, needs to appreciate the fact that he is the Chief Law Officer of the Federation as provided in Section 150 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended). He is expected to play a neutral role at all times and in all matters. He is not the Chief Law Officer of a section of the country, a group, or even the president. But, I have, sadly, observed that the Attorney General has, no doubt, abandoned part of his job and is now involved in “executive rascality”, to the chagrin and dismay of patriotic Nigerians at home and abroad.
The issue as to whether Nnamdi Kanu was only discharged and not acquitted by the Court of Appeal has been decided by the Supreme Court to the extent that sometimes a discharge is the end of a case whereas at other times it may not be so regarded.
Nonetheless, the judgement of the three-member Panel of the Court of Appeal, which discharged Nnamdi Kanu is explicit and total and requires no further theatrics. I take the liberty to cite a Premium Times report of the judgement published on Thursday, October 13, 2022, with the headline: Appeal Court ends Nnamdi Kanu’s trial, and orders IPOB leader’s release.
“The Court of Appeal in Abuja, on Thursday, struck out the terrorism charges filed against Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) by the Nigerian government. The court struck out all the remaining seven charges against Kanu. It followed an earlier ruling of the trial judge, Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court in Abuja, in April dismissing eight of the 15 amended counts filed against him by the federal government. In a judgement on Thursday, the Court of Appeal panel led by Jummai Sankey struck out all remaining charges against Kanu, ruling that the lower court “lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the suit.” The court held that Kanu’s extradition from Kenya in June 2021 to Nigeria without following the extradition rules was a flagrant violation of Nigeria’s extradition treaty and a breach of the IPOB leader’s fundamental human rights. It held there was no denial by the Nigerian government’s lawyer, David Kaswe, in the appeal as to the submissions of Mike Ozekhome, Mr Kanu’s counsel, that the separatist leader was “extraordinarily renditioned from Kenya.
“The appellate court held that the failure of the federal government to adequately respond to Mr Kanu’s arguments gave merit to the appeal. The court further said the Federal High Court failed to examine the findings of the prosecution as it would not have tried Mr Kanu because the IPOB leader was not “illegally brought into the country. The charges struck out include the ones instituted against Mr Kanu before he was brought back to Nigeria last year.
“It ordered Kanu’s release from the custody of the State Security Service (SSS), where the IPOB has been held since he was brought back to Nigeria.”
Can any responsible government, anywhere in the world, challenge such a judgement? I do not think so! It is rather shocking that the federal government is said to be considering what to do next on the matter.
Instructively, President Muhammadu Buhari should, without further ado, honour the order of the Court and allow Nnamdi Kanu to be released, perhaps, with conditions that he would maintain the peace and work to bring to an end the needless Monday Sit-At-Home order, which has disturbed businesses and civil activities in the South East. I am certain that Kanu’s release from detention will also expose those perpetrating the kidnappings and horrifying killings of security officers and other innocent citizens in the zone.
I have long associated myself with the Igbo cause; I recall that in January 1970, as Commissioner for Education in the then Mid-West State, I accompanied my Governor, Col. S O. Ogbemudia, to congratulate General Yakubu Gowon on the successful end of the civil war. Rather surprisingly, he admonished us that the war was a family fight, that there was no victor, no vanquished, and that we should return home, reconcile and resettle the Igbos, who had earlier thronged the Midwest as a haven.
We did, and this is what General Gowon said in his forward to my memoirs, under print.
“……. At that time, foremost in my mind was how to reintegrate the people of the South-East, rather than congratulations, I would prefer that they, mainly the Governor and EK, returned to their posts to oversee the implementation of our “3R” Policy: Reconciliation, Rehabilitation/Reintegration and Reconstruction. I stated that the conflict had been “a family fight”, and consequently there was “no victor, no vanquished”.
“On their return, Governor Ogbemudia selected Chief Edwin Clark to head the assignment. EK was then Commissioner for Education, and he was exceptional within his role. Whilst in the South-East, Chief Clark was able to make the Igbos with whom he came into contact, feel at ease again. He also helped them to believe that they could place their faith in the Nigerian State. Chief Clark and his delegation toured various locations, particularly schools, and took note of what resources were most urgently needed. Together with generous donations from the Governor, Col. S. O. Ogbemudia, and the people of Mid-West State, EK provided ravaged schools, such as Queen’s School, Enugu; Union Secondary School, and others, with essential materials and equipment……”
This gracious disposition of General Gowon did not go down well with some of his military colleagues.
This could be inferred from an extract on page 109 of the book written by Dan Agbese titled; Ibrahim Babangida: The Military, Politics and Power in Nigeria: Babangida revealed that in 1975, he was on an evening drive in Lagos with then Lt. Col. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua when he (Shehu Musa Yar’Adua), told him that he wanted to overthrow General Yakubu Gowon’s government that they needed a change but they were apprehensive and one of the reasons he reeled out was “Gowon pulled the nation through a 30-month civil war and his humane attitude towards those who fought on the secessionist side and his famous three Rs – Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Reconciliation endeared him to the nation and the international community.”
Though history, as a subject, has not been taught in our schools for many years, the evidence of the civil war and the marginalization of the South-East, the “Igbos” is there for even a ten-year-old child to comprehend; when he or she is discriminated against in even admission to the Federal Unity Schools, where even if he or she scores the highest mark percentage, the child knows he or she may not be admitted.
It is important to further underscore that every zone in the country has six states, except the South East, which has five states and the North West has seven. If one may ask, on what basis was this allocation made and why the marginalization of the South East?
The disparity has resulted in the shortchanging of the South-East zone, over the years, in revenue distribution, ministerial appointments, representation in the National Assembly, etcetera. The zone receives one share less than the other zones in almost every aspect while the North West receives one share more than others. This particular situation prompts serious questions about issues of fairness, equity and justice in Nigeria.
And this is where IPOB has fashioned a place for itself in the hearts and minds of the young people in the southeast with its demand for self-determination. I have physically seen these IPOB boys in action, at the Ekwueme Square in Akwa, Anambra State, when I attended a meeting of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum there. It is indeed a movement of youths who are justifiably angry with the way and manner the affairs of the country are being conducted and particularly the marginalization of the Igbos but are misguided. None of these youths witnessed the civil war and is, definitely, not abreast with the history of the war and its full ramifications. I advise, therefore, that rather than the use of military force which has already proved counter-productive, they should be carefully treated with the “carrot and stick approach”, in the interest of the peace, stability and progress of Nigeria as a whole and the South East zone in particular.
Furthermore, to properly address the feelings of alienation and exclusion, the federal government needs to negotiate and dialogue with the Igbo groups and other disaffected groups in the country, including Sunday Igboho and his group in the South West, and provide them with the assurance that they belong to this country and are on equal footing with the others, in all facets; not as second class citizens. That’s the major task the government should undertake and not look for ways to further humiliate and estrange the people.
Finally, Nigeria must be restructured to correct the imbalances and make every state equal in the country. That was why the 2014 National Conference recommended the creation of more states, where the southeast was given four additional states and three for all other zones except the North-West, which was allotted two because it already has seven states. That would have made the six geopolitical zones of the country to be at par with nine states. This was regarded as one of the most important recommendations of the conference because it affected every zone of the federation, but, unfortunately, the report is lying fallow in the archives.
The unity of Nigeria can only be achieved and sustained if every part of the country is treated equally with the other parts, in all ramifications. No one can play God over Nigeria and no section owns this country more than any other section. We want Mr. President to reassure Nigerians of our oneness.
A situation where everybody at a meeting of the National Security Council of the country is almost of the same stock, Hausa/Fulani, is not only unfair but outrageous. We need to sit down and have frank discussions about the peace and future of Nigeria, notwithstanding that the general elections are close by because the country is not on the right path.
Let’s allow peace to reign in Nigeria! Enough is Enough!!!
Chief E. K. Clark, OFR, CON
17th October 2022”