SEVERAL northern socio-political groups have warned President Muhammadu Buhari against acting on his recent promise to release Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob) leader Nnamdi Kanu in a bid to ease the political tension currently bedevilling the nation.
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, in a dramatic development in June this year, Mr Kanu was abducted in Kenya in a commando operation carried out by Nigerian security operatives and flown to Nigeria where he his trial has resumed.
Mr Kanu’s trial has polarised the nation, however and earlier this week, a group called the Highly Respected Igbo Greats, led by First Republic parliamentarian Chief Mbazulike Amaechi, met with President Buhari and urged him to release Mt Kanu in the interest of peace. Acknowledging that the military option can only solve so much, President Buhari promised to consider their request.
Northern socio-political activist, Yaro Abdullahi, however, warned of the dangers of releasing Mr Kanu, saying it may serve as a spring board for other people to commit serious crimes and get away with it. He pointed out that nobody in the history of Nigeria has committed Mr Kanu’s kind of crimes, hence releasing him would be sending the wrong message.
Mr Abdullahi said: “How do you start considering the release of a criminal like Kanu, who ordered killing of people. Because of his criminal style of agitation, the southeast is no longer peaceful and releasing him would be sending the wrong signal that people can just do anything and get away with it.
“The president should allow the judiciary to do their work and not listen to all those appeals. If the courts find him guilty, he should face the music and if it’s the other way round, he should be released.
“The president, while considering should also note the damage Kanu is capable of doing if set free. This is my view.”
Constitutional lawyer Maduabuchi Idam, explained, however, that the Nigerian constitution permits President Buhari to direct the attorney-general of the federation Abubakar Malami, to withdraw the case against Mr Kanu. He added that in the interest of the public, the president can direct Mr Malami to withdraw all cases against anyone, including Mr Kanu.
Mr Idam said: “Kindly note that if an offence is alleged to have been committed, it is the state that prosecutes the alleged offender. In this context, the state is the presidency and that is why it is the office of the attorney-general of the federation that prosecutes Mr Nnamdi Kanu and those of his members on behalf of the federal government.
“By the operation of the said provision of the constitution, the attorney-general has the vires to personally or through an officer in his office, walk into the court where Mr Kanu is undergoing prosecution and apply to withdraw the charges against him and his members and the court has no power under the constitution or any law, to refuse the application or demand he give an explanation for that. If the president feels that a matter should be withdrawn from the court for public interest, all he needs to do is to direct the attorney-general to do the needful.”