INDIGENOUS People of Biafra (Ipob) leader Nnamdi Kanu has lost a court battle with the Nigerian government after the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) court ruled that his arrest and detention was legal dismissing his claim for $800m compensation.
Highly controversial, Mr Kanu has campaigned for the creation of an independent nation state for Nigeria’s 18m Igbos and used to run a radio station broadcasting hard-hitting propaganda. Based in the UK, Mr Kanu ran an unregistered radio station in Nigeria, for which he was arrested during a visit in October 2015 and charged with treason among other things.
After being held in detention for a year and a half, Mr Kanu was granted bail in April 2017 by Justice Binta Nyako under strict conditions which included that he does not engage in any political activity. However, as soon as he was released, Mr Kanu defied the conditions, holding daily rallies at his house in Umuahia and travelled across Igboland spreading his message.
Fearful of his actions, the Nigerian government stepped up the military presence around Mr Kanu and fearful that he might be arrested, he fled the country in September 2017. Earlier this year, Mr Kanu took the Nigerian government to court claiming he suffered torture, assault and was subject to inhuman treatment by security operatives when he was arrested in 2015.
However, the Ecowas regional court ruled that Mr Kanu failed to prove his allegations against the Federal Government of Nigeria. In a judgment read by Justice Dupe Atoki, the court also ruled that Mr Kanu had no reason to conclude that his arrest and detention were unlawful and arbitrary as claimed.
Consequently, the three-man panel of court judges also dismissed Mr Kanu’s request for monetary compensation. Justice Atoki held that although Mr Kanu has the legal capacity to approach the court to seek redress for any violation of his human rights, he, however, lacked the legal personality to represent Ipob before the court.
In the suit filed before the court on March 3, 2016, through his lawyer Ifeanyi Ejiofor, Mr Kanu had claimed that his rights to life, personal integrity, privacy, fair trial, freedom of movement, freedom of expression, personal liberty, freedom of association, private property, right to existence and right to self-determination were violated following his arrest and detention by Nigerian security agents. He also alleged that he was a victim of arbitrary arrest, detention, torture inhuman and degrading treatment while in detention, insisting that government confiscated his personal belongings through its agent and demanded monetary compensation in the sum of $800m.
However, the federal government’s lawyer Abdullahi Abubakar, asked the court to dismiss the suit which he contended lacked merit. He added that Nigeria was obliged to enforce the rule of law as stipulated in its constitution, treaties and protocols that included defending the sovereignty of an undivided Nigeria.