The Federal Government yesterday adduced reasons it has not obeyed the judgement of the Court of Appeal that ordered the release of leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, from detention.
Government in a fresh affidavit filed before the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, maintained that Kanu posed a flight risk, insisting he would escape from the country as soon as he was freed from detention.
The affidavit was attached in support of an application seeking to stay the execution of the appellate court verdict that quashed the entire 15-count terrorism charge the federal government preferred against the embattled IPOB leader.
Arguing the application yesterday, an Assistant State Counsel in the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. David Kaswe, told the court that the case against Kanu bordered on national security.
Kaswe argued that Kanu’s fundamental rights should not supercede the interest of the nation.
Relying on the decided case law in Federal Republic of Nigeria Vs Asari Dokubo, the federal government argued that once a case touched on national security, the right of the individual affected took secondary place.
“It is important to appreciate the gamut of depositions in our application. The Respondent is a flight risk person and one of the ground of our application is that this matter touches on national security of the state.
“We further rely on the case of FRN Vs Dokubo, where the Supreme Court held that where national security is threatened or when there is likelihood of it being threatened, human rights take secondary place.
“Once there is a threat to national security, human rights of any individual can be suspended until such threat is taken care of.
“Once security of the nation is in jeopardy, the individual right may not even exist,” government’s lawyer argued.
Besides, he told the court that intelligence report in government’s possession indicated that releasing the IPOB leader from detention would worsen the security situation in the South East.
“The defendant has shown that he has the capacity to jump bail or to escape from lawful custody. There is reasonable intelligence that the enforcement of judgement of this court, pending determination of our appeal at the Supreme Court, may impact negatively on the declining security in the South East.
“No court can close its eyes on activities happening around it. As we speak, the entire social media is awash with threat to security in the country.
“We believe that there is an exceptional circumstance to warrant this court to grant our application.
“We urge this court to resolve the sole issue we raised and find our application meritorious, in the interest of justice and unity of the country,” federal government’s lawyer added.
However, Kanu’s lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, urged the appellate court to dismiss FG’s application which he said was tantamount to seeking the stay of the liberty of a citizen.
Ozekhome argued that contrary to FG’s position, Kanu’s release from detention would guarantee peace in both the South East and the country
“In fact, my lords, on the contrary, the release of Kanu will actually bring peace and tranquility to the South East in particular and the nation in general
“This was demonstrated after the judgement of this court that ordered the release of the Respondent. Immediately the judgement was delivered, there was so much joy and happiness in the entire South East. There was so much jubilation and merriment.”
He argued that Dokubo’s case was different from that of Kanu.
According him, while Dokubo applied to be granted bail, pending the determination of the charge against him, in Kanu’s case, the appellate court had already terminated his trial and ordered his release.
Relying on the case of Olisa Metuh Vs FRN, Kanu’s lawyer argued that the law forbade the grant of stay of execution in a criminal case.
He told the court that the IPOB leader did not jump bail, stressing that he only escaped from the country to save his life, after soldiers illegally invaded his house in 2017, in an operation that led to the death of 28 persons.
Ozekhome argued that the federal government, being in contempt of the judgement of the appellate court, could not approach it to seek any favourable order.
“They are already in contempt of order of this court. This application is therefore nothing but a slap on the face of this court,” he said.
After the three-man panel of justices of the appellate court, led by Justice Haruna Tsanami, had listened to both sides, it reserved its ruling till a date to be communicated to the parties.
Meanwhile, six Igbo traditional rulers yesterday stormed the court to demand the release of the detained IPOB leader.
The monarchs, who were all dressed in their regallia, said they were in court to show solidarity to their son, even as they stayed and observed the proceedings till the end.
The traditional rulers that were in court included HRM Eze Innocent Nwaigwe, Secretary Umuahia North Council of Traditional Rulers; HRM, Eze Nnamdi Ofoegbu, Chairman Ohuhu Council of Traditional Rulers; and HRM Eze Iheanyichukwu Ezigbo, Chairman Ibeku council. Others are HRM Eze Pastor Philip Ajomiwe, immediate past Chairman, Umuahia North Council; and HRM Eze Eddy Ibeabuchi, former Chairman Umuahia North Council and HRM Eze Ben Oriaku, Ikwuano LGA.
It will be recalled that the appellate court had in a judgement delivered on October 13, ordered Kanu’s release from detention, even as it terminated further proceedings on the case the federal government entered against him.
The court said it was satisfied that FG flagrantly violated all known laws when it forcibly rendered Kanu from Kenya to the country for continuation of his trial.
It held that such arbitrary use of power by the Nigerian government, divested the trial court of the jurisdiction to continue with Kanu’s trial.
Though FG had since gone to the Supreme Court to challenge the judgement, it, however, in line with the rules, it approached the Court of Appeal to seek a stay of execution of the verdict.