NIGERIA’S attorney-general Abubakar Malami has welcomed the legal monitoring team set up by the Igbo socio-cultural group Ohaneze Ndigbo to monitor the trial of Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob) leader Nnamdi Kanu.
Highly controversial, Mr Kanu has been campaigning for the recreation of the independent republic of Biafra which broke away from Nigeria between July 1967 and January 1970 during the civil war. His campaign, which has led to the phenomenal growth of Ipob, has set him at odds with the Nigerian government who him arrested and put on trial for treason.
While the case was still pending, Mr Kanu was granted bail in April 2017 on health grounds but skipped his bail after flouting the conditions given to him by the court and fled Nigeria. However, on June 29, Mr Malami announced that Mr Kanu had been arrested abroad and extradited to Nigeria, where he will now face treason charges.
Numerous human rights groups have condemned the nature of the arrest as it appears that Mr Kanu was drugged and abducted without any course to legal procedures. So far, Mr Malami has not produced any court deportation order or an extradition warrant, indicating that Mr Kanu was abducted from Kenya without the knowledge of the government there.
All this has raised questions about whether Mr Kanu will receive a fair trial and to ensure he does, Ohaneze Ndigbo has put together a robust legal team to defend him. Mr Malami said he welcomed the constitution of the legal team but described the monitoring of the trial as unnecessary expressing hope that Ohaneze Ndigbo would be open-minded and guided by the rule of law in the process.
Umar Gwandu, Mr Malami’s spokesman, said: “Attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice, Abubakar Malami, has welcomed the formation of legal team by Ohanaeze Ndigbo to monitor the proceedings at the trial of the self-acclaimed Ipob leader, Nnamdi Kanu, which is in line with the doctrine of the right of fair hearing rooted in Section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is hoped that the unnecessary legal monitoring group will come with open-mind and guided by nothing but the rule of law in the process so as to convey the judgment of the court as may eventually be delivered to their people in various languages and dialects of the members of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo communities and the entire Nigerians.”
Binta Nyako, the Abuja Federal High Court judge where Mr Kanu is being prosecuted on charges of treasonable felony, has fixed July 26 for continuation of the trial. Mr Kanu, who holds dual citizenship in Nigeria and the United Kingdom, fled Nigeria in September 2017 after soldiers invaded his home in Afara-Ukwu, in Abia State, during an anti-Biafra military operation.