The anticipated freedom of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Mr. Nnamdi Kanu was dimmed on Friday as the Supreme Court declined to order his release, instead , the apex court ordered the continuation of trial of the embattled regional leader on terrorism charges. The judgement also implies an effective reversal of
The anticipated freedom of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Mr. Nnamdi Kanu was dimmed on Friday as the Supreme Court declined to order his release, instead , the apex court ordered the continuation of trial of the embattled regional leader on terrorism charges.
The judgement also implies an effective reversal of the previous decision of the Court of Appeal ordering the release of Mr Kanu from detention.
The case which started in 2015 had been put on hold at the Federal High Court in Abuja after the Court of Appeal dismissed the charges in a judgement delivered in October 2022.
The Court of Appeal in Abuja had anchored its decision dismissing the charges on the illegality of the “extraordinary rendition” of Mr Kanu from Kenya to Nigeria in June 2021 to continue his trial.
A three-member panel of the appellate court led by Justice Oludotun Adefope-Okojie, dismissed the terrorism and treasonable felony charges against Mr Kanu.
The Appeal Court had ordered Mr Kanu’s release from detention after striking out a seven-count charge pending before Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Justice Adefope-Okojie held that Mr Kanu’s forced return from Kenya to Nigeria in June 2021 was a breach of local and international laws.
But on 28 October 2022, another three-member panel of the Court of Appeal headed by Justice Haruna Tsammani, halted the execution of its judgement which freed Mr Kanu of terrorism charges.
The government had applied that the execution of the judgment be suspended pending the resolution of its appeal filed at the Supreme Court.
Justice Tsammiani, in the ruling, held that the counter-affidavit filed against the government application by Mr Kanu’s legal team led by Prof. Mike Ozekhome Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) was misleading.
But on Friday, a five-member panel of the Supreme Court led by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun declared that Mr Kanu’s forcible repatriation from Kenya to Nigeria is illegal.
However, the court, in the lead judgement prepared by Justice Tijjani Abubakar, ruled that there is no Nigerian law that prohibits the use of “illegally obtained evidence for the trial of a defendant.”
“Our law is that evidence illegality obtained is valid before the court. A violation of Mr Kanu’s right should have been by way of civil proceedings. That is not our law for now,” Justice Abubakar declared.
The court also ruled that there is no legislation that provides in Nigeria that trial should stop where the prosecution does something illegal against the defendant while standing trial. “There is a civil remedy,” Justice Abubakar said.
Although the lead judgement of the apex court was prepared by Justice Abubakar, it was read on his behalf by Justice Emmanuel Agim.
According to him: “The Court of Appeal was wrong to say that the Federal High Court can no longer try Mr Kanu…The appeal is allowed and the cross-appeal is dismissed.”
The Supreme Court held that Mr Kanu’s forcible repatriation from Kenya in June 2021 by the Nigerian government did not rob the trial court of jurisdiction to entertain the IPOB leader’s trial.
The Court held that although the Nigerian government recklessly and unlawfully brought in Kanu from Kenya, such an unlawful act has not divested any court from proceeding with trial.
According to the Supreme Court, no Nigerian law was cited in the suit seeking Kanu’s release on mere unlawful abduction from Kenya, stressing that at the moment, the remedy for such action is for Kanu to file a civil matter against such act instead of removing the powers of courts to continue with his trial for alleged criminal charges.
The Supreme Court subsequently ordered that Mr. Kanu should go and defend himself in the remaining seven counts of terrorism charges against him.
“The Court of Appeal was wrong to say that the Federal High Court can no longer try Mr Kanu,” the court held.
“The appeal is allowed and the cross-appeal is dismissed.”
The Court also granted the Federal Government leave to file nine new grounds against Nnamdi Kanu’s release.