Nigerians have condemned the attitude of the government of Muhammadu Buhari to the trial of the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu for keeping the secession agitator behind bars since July 2021 while using a judicial process as an excuse.
When Kanu returned to the court on Tuesday, January 18, 2021, on treasonable charges leveled against him by the government, Nigerians were surprised to hear that the federal government had once again put forward an amended 15-count charge sheet of alleged terrorism and treasonable felony against him.
The authorities filed fresh charges on Monday, a development Kanu’s new lead Counsel, Mike Ozekhome, opposed.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) accused the government of breaching the principle of fair hearing over how new counts were brought forward.
Ozekhome said the action was sixth in the series and that the defense needed time to study and prepare.
Though Kanu pleaded not guilty to all the amended charges at the Federal High Court in Abuja, Nigerians wondered whether the government did not do its homework on what to do with the IPOB leader after he was smuggled from Kenya to Nigeria in July 2021.
What baffled many Nigerians was the timing of bringing the new charges forward to Kanu’s camp, as it was revealed at the court on Tuesday that the defense team got to know of the new charges less than 24 hours to the day of the hearing.
Unfortunately, Kanu has been in and out of court with no progress being made in his case only to be faced with a series of adjournments.
While Igbo leaders in the southeast of the country have been appealing for a political solution to Kanu’s case, President Buhari is adamant. President Buhari dashed hopes of a political resolution during an interview with a local television station when he revealed that his government would prefer Kanu to defend himself in the court of law, rather than getting his freedom through a backdoor solution, as had been suggested by Igbo leaders.
Instead of handling the case in court expeditiously, however, the government side is deliberately dragging its feet. This snail-like approach by the government has created a general feeling in the population and especially among the Igbos that Buhari may want to use the judicial process to keep Kanu out of circulation till the end of his mandate in 2023.
“Nigeria is afraid of her own court when it comes to Nnamdi Kanu’s case,” says concerned citizen Onurube Nwanneya Agbanoas.
Mr. Agbanoas says bringing new charges against Nnamdi Kanu every time he comes to court suggests the government is scared and that it would be more honest to release him.
“Release Nnamdi Kanu for we know you cannot engage him: he is an innocent man,” says Agbonoas.
To Elochukwu Ohagi, another concerned citizen, the government has been engaging in unnecessary delay tactics that further expose the insincerity and the unwillingness to prosecute the IPOB leader.
Ohagi says: “President Buhari said in his media chat that they wanted Nnamdi Kanu to defend himself in the court, yet the Nigerian government has been running from their own court, using every delay tactic available to them. Why is Nigeria running from their own court?”
Nwabekee Kenneth is of the opinion that the authority has no case against Kanu.
“They know that this case is dead on arrival. If it were in saner climes, this show of shame would have been dismissed by now. Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a hellhole where there’s no iota of justice or fairness. I’m afraid this delay would continue until the tenure of this government ends,” he says.
John Izunwanne saw the inconsistencies in the way the prosecuting team is handling the case and amending charges at every hearing as questionable.
“In the law court, any person whether plaintiff, defendant or witness that keeps changing his or her statement has already given the verdict that he or she is not saying the truth. Nigeria amending Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s charges, yet another time shows his innocence,” Izunwanne posited.
Azrael Annunaki believes the government is just making a mockery of Nigeria in the eyes of the world.
“Imagine you adjourned the case of Nnamdi Kanu to January. You had enough time to compile all the charges against the man, but you now decided to do it a day to the hearing. Shows the level of mediocrity which these people have ingrained in the system, and I am afraid, it will take years to fix this mess,” says Annunaki.
Timescape Magazine reports that while the trial of Nnamdi Kanu was going on in Abuja, the southeast region of the country was on lockdown due to the sit-at-home order given by the IPOB.
The banned group has compelled residents of the southeast to remain indoors whenever Nnamdi Kanu, its acclaimed leader, is arraigned in court.
Tuesday and Wednesday when Kanu’s case was heard at the Abuja Court and even Monday this week, were days of harrowing experiences for the residents of the five states in the eastern region (Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Imo, and Enugu) as businesses, banks, schools, government, and private offices and other commercial activities were grounded in a bid to obey the sit-at-home order for fear of attacks from the IPOB men who were hell-bent on enforcing the directive.
Those who failed to comply with the order have lost lives and limbs in addition to property.
Reports indicate that the campaign to enforce a sit-at-home order was taken to another level when gunmen broke into a Catholic Church in Onitsha, Anambra State, on Tuesday demanding that an ongoing Mass should be stopped. It took a diplomatic approach of the priest in charge before normalcy could be returned.
With the Buhari government’s determination to keep Kanu jailed while it drags its feet on his prosecution, Nigerians are gradually losing confidence. The process of prosecuting Kanu has not really started seven months after Kanu was picked from Kenya and illegally swindled into detention in Nigeria.