Last Tuesday, the Federal Government announced that the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, had been re-arrested abroad and returned to Nigeria to resume his terrorism trial from which he allegedly absconded four years ago.
Kanu was apprehended on Sunday, June 27, according to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN.
“He has been brought back to Nigeria to continue facing trial after disappearing while on bail regarding the 11-count charge against him,” Malami said at a news conference in Abuja.
Kanu was also accused of instigating violence in the Southeast that resulted in the loss of lives and property of civilians, military, para-military, the police and destruction of civil institutions and symbols of authorities.
Since his re-arrest, there have been speculations about where and how he was nabbed.
Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who also spoke with newsmen, was evasive about the information.
“What we can tell you is that the re-arrest was made possible by the diligent efforts of our security and intelligence agencies, in collaboration with countries with which we have obligations. We continue to respect and honour the obligations,” Mohammed said.
He, however, explained that government and security and intelligence agencies had been on the IPOB leader’s trail for over two years before he was intercepted and whisked back home.
Mohammed disclosed that the forensic investigation carried out so far had revealed a treasure trove of information from Kanu and his collaborators.
“While the investigation continues, we assure you that none of the collaborators, irrespective of their standing in the society, will be spared.
“They will all face the full wrath of the law for their activities that challenge our nation’s sovereignty and threaten its unity.
“No one, no matter how highly placed, is bigger than the country,’’ he said.
The minister also assured that Kanu would get a fair trial.
Mystery of Kanu’s re-arrest
Kanu fled the country in September 2017, after an invasion of his home by the military in Afara-Ukwu, near Umuahia, Abia State. The Nigerian government obtained a court order on September 20, 2017, to designate IPOB as a terrorist group and to proscribe it.
He is facing trial before Justice Binta Murtala Nyako of an Abuja High Court, charged with treason, terrorism and illegal possession of firearms, among others.
Just as the modus operandi of the intelligence agencies that apprehended Kanu remains a mystery, the country of arrest is also unknown.
IPOB believes its leader was arrested in Kenya, But there have been speculations that his arrest and subsequent extradition took place in Prague, capital city of the Czech Republic. Some also said it took place in Ethiopia while others said he was lured to a hotel room in Brazil by a pretty woman and grabbed by Interpol.
Our hands are clean, says Kenyan government
The Kenyan government denied involvement in the Kanu saga, saying it did not want to be dragged into Nigeria’s internal affairs.
Its High Commissioner to Nigeria, Dr. Wilfred Machage described the claim that his country was involved as nothing but “fictional” and “imaginary” and deliberately concocted to fuel antagonism.”
“On the case of the alleged arrest in Kenya of Mr Kanu, I wish to categorically state that we are not happy at this ridiculous attempt of dragging the name of Kenya and HE President Uhuru Kenyatta on this matter of arrest and extradition of the self-proclaimed IPOB leader….
“I want to challenge anyone with facts relating to this alleged arrest in Kenya to present those facts. This includes when, where, how and who was particularly involved in the alleged arrest,” Machage said.
Nigeria’s past attempts at extradition
The task of extraditing criminal suspects by one country from another country is based on bilateral agreements in most instances. Sometimes, when the strategy involved is defective, the attempt is truncated.
The Dikko affair
The much-talked about failed attempt to extradite Umaru Dikko from London has been tagged “The Dikko affair”.
Dikko was minister of transport in the civilian government run by Shehu Shagari, his brother-in-law, from 1979 until the end of 1983, when the army toppled the administration and installed Major General Muhammadu Buhari as the head of state.
He hugged global headlines in 1984 when men said to be from the Israeli secret service Mossad and the military government conspired to kidnap him in a large wooden crate.
Dikko was seized outside his house in London, bundled into a van and taken to Stansted Airport, where a Nigerian Boeing 707 cargo aircraft waited to repatriate him to face charges of corruption. His captors handcuffed him, drugged him, and stuffed him in chains into the crate with a doctor by his side maintaining a tube to keep him breathing.
The doctor and another of his captors, a diamond trader, were Israelis; the other two, a Nigerian ex-army major and a Tunisian-born shopkeeper. The other men climbed into a second wooden crate. Only when all were awaiting take-off did a telephone call by suspicious British customs officers to the Foreign Office discover that the two crates, each four and a half feet by five and a half in size, did not have diplomatic clearance.
Customs officials were told to open the crates in the presence of an official Nigerian government representative. The crates were searched and the men discovered. Dikko was whisked to hospital in Bishop’s Stortford, where he woke up unharmed after remaining unconscious all night, and his captors arrested.
The doctor and the shopkeeper were later sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment, the Israeli organiser of the snatch to 14 years, and the Nigerian military man to 12 years. The men lost appeals to have their sentences reduced.
Neither Nigeria nor Israel ever admitted taking part in the only-just-thwarted effort to avoid the time-consuming process of securing Dikko’s extradition to Nigeria.
The Nigerian High commissioner was expelled from Britain and two expatriate British engineers working in Nigeria were accused of stealing an aircraft. They were sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment, and, for the next few years, relations between Britain and Nigeria were frosty. The two were freed three years later.
Nigeria is required by treaty with several nations to cooperate in the extradition of criminals. For instance, Nigeria signed an Extradition Treaty with the United States on December 22, 1931. This entered into force on June 24, 1935.
Since then Nigeria has extradited several persons to the United States for various reasons ranging from drugs, advance fee fraud, and terrorism-related offences.
“On August 28, 2013, a court in Nigeria on the request of the U.S. Embassy ordered the extradition of a man (name withheld) to the US on a federal indictment charging him for providing support to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula by recruiting members to train in Yemen.
Extradition laws between Nigeria and other countries
Nigeria has extradition treaties with several countries. The United Nations Office of Drugs and Documentation (UNODC) in a publication, “Cases and Materials on Extradition in Nigeria” published 2016 in conjunction with Nigeria, listed such treaties in Appendix 11 in post-independent Nigeria to include:
- Extradition Treaty between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates 2016
- Agreement on Transfer of Sentenced Persons between the United Kingdom and Nigeria 2014
- Extradition Treaty between and South Africa 2005
- London Scheme for Extradition within the Commonwealth 2002
- Economic Community of West African States Convention on Extradition 1994 176 6. Extradition Treaty among Benin, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo 1984
- Exchange of on the inheritance of international rights and obligations between the United Kingdom and Nigeria 1960
Britain seeks clarification
The British High Commission in Nigeria last Wednesday said it was seeking clarification from the Federal Government regarding the circumstances of Kanu’s arrest. The IPOB leader is also a British citizen.
The Commission spokesperson in Nigeria, Dean Hurlock, stated this in a statement, published by online medium TheCable.
Hurlock said the United Kingdom (UK) Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office “stands ready to provide consular assistance” regarding the matter.
He added that the UK “would expect any trial or legal proceedings to follow due process” as Kanu’s prosecution reopened.
Kanu’s opulence life for probe?
The Nigerian government claimed that Kanu lived an opulent lifestyle in exile, suggesting that IPOB was being well-funded locally and internationally.
According to Mohammed, Kanu was living “a five-star life across several countries, travelling on chartered private jets, living in luxury apartments and turning out in designer clothes and shoes. Of course, as we all saw, he was wearing an attire made by Fendi, a luxury Italian fashion brand, when he was arrested.”
While analysts agreed on the need to unravel those financing Kanu’s activities, they were equally worried about the possible repercussion of the manner he was arrested and extradited. They referenced the foiled attempt to kidnap Dikko out of Britain years ago which damaged political and bilateral relations between Nigeria and the United Kingdom for years.
Has Nigeria breached any law or international treaty in the course of extraditing Kanu to the country? Lawyers versed in international laws and treaties disagreed. They included Seyi Sowemimo, SAN; Dr Fassy Yusuf; 1st Vice President, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), John Aikpokpo-Martins; and activist lawyer, Kabir Akingbolu.
Government breached no law – Sowemimo
Sowemimo noted that the government was yet to clear the dust on where and how Kanu was arrested whether it was from Prague, Ethiopia, Kenya or Brazil. He argued however that whichever country it is, there was nothing to suggest that the Federal Government violated any law or treaty.
He said: “I don’t have a caveat to say that they violated any laws from what we are reading. I think it was the work of Interpol that facilitated it. So, if Interpol was involved, I am not aware of any law that has been breached.
“What we have on ground was the fact that there was a case, he was on bail and that he jumped bail. That again may probably undermine whatever claim that he may have to freedom of movement or fundamental rights because that threw a different light on the matter.
“I think that, legally, there is not much one can fault without further evidence and if that is to happen, the country from which he (Kanu) was taken from needs to have put it on protest and no country has done that. It is only the political angle that matters as to whether it is wise to adopt that position and whether it is expedient to just allow matters to rest. Now it has gotten to a situation where it could or not generate into crisis because the man represents the feelings of some of them in the Southeast. But legally, I am not aware of any law that has been breached.”
Need for caution – Yusuf
According to Dr Yusuf, Kanu’s extradition is a legal issue. He, however, noted that government was yet to tell Nigerians how Kanu was extradited, the country from which he was extradited and the procedure adopted in his extradition.
Noting the “many conspiracy theories on the issue”, Yusuf said: “I think the Federal Government need to tell us how the extradition was done and how it was achieved and we need to know whether what the Federal Government did, breached any international rule of law.”
He recalled that Kanu has dual nationality and advised Nigeria to be aware of a diplomatic row with Britain.
“Of course, we also know of his connection with Israel being a man that practises Judaism. So, it is up to the government to be logical in the defence of its actions or in the way it goes about its actions because anything that affects us as a people, especially if Nigeria is seen to have breached any international law or protocol, the country will be attracting condemnation globally,” he said.
Yusuf advised that Kanu’s case should be handled with caution. “The Federal Government might have succeeded in extraditing him to the country, but the dream of Biafra agitators may not die that easily just like other separatist movements.
“I think the Federal Government should find a way of addressing these issues. Importantly, the Federal Government should tell the country, instead of allowing rumours to thrive, the government should tell us. We have the right to know what is happening or what the government has done.
“If it is a sting operation or something the government doesn’t want to tell us its secret behind it, then we should still be told where and how.”
Yusuf contended that for the government to keep mum over the situation would not do justice to the matter at hand.
He added: “Rather than allow rumour mongers, speculators to have a field day, I would want to request the Federal Government to please speak out so that all the speculations could be put to rest and we would know whether there are one or two lessons to be learnt from his extradition.”
Fed Govt acted constitutionally – Aikpokpo-Martins
Aikpokpo-Martins said any President of Nigeria is constitutionally bound to quell secessionists’ agitations. He said under Nigerian law, self-determination agitations are “simply unconstitutional”.
He faulted secessionists’ claim that agitation for self-determination is a fundamental right, noting that Chapter 4 (Fundamental Human Rights guaranteed provisions) of the 1999 Constitution does not include the right to expressions seeking to divide the country.
The NBA official who stated this in his personal capacity in a post on his Facebook page titled, STIRRING THE HORNET’S NEST; THE MENS REA began his post by differentiating between the agitations of a former Niger Delta militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo on the one hand, and that by Boko Haram, the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) and Igboho, on the other.
Defending the government’s actions “strictly based on the law”, Aikpokpo-Martins said: “Let it be known that there is a major difference in the agitation of the Niger Delta militants as led by Tompolo etc to the agitations of Boko Haram, IPOB and Sunday Igboho.
“Tompolo never agitated for a different country; this is very very significant and must reflect on how he is treated.
“Whereas Boko Haram, IPOB and Sunday Igboho are agitating to carve different countries out of Nigeria, Tompolo never did that; he is a Nigerian and advocates for justice and equity albeit as a Nigerian and in Nigeria.
“Constitutionally, no President (whether he is a Buhari, Nnamdi, Babatunde, Ahmed, Osahon, Wike, Aper etc) worth his job will treat those agitating for self-determination with kid’s gloves; he is constitutionally and legally mandated and obliged to crush such people.
“You may mouth fundamental human rights to self-determination etc, but the fact is, the Nigerian constitution described Nigeria as one indivisible country; see Section 2(1) of the 1999 Constitution.”
He explained that Buhari took an oath to defend the constitution, “so how can a President who swore to defend the constitution which contained a clause providing for the indivisibility of the country turn around to condone agitations for self-determination, whether by peaceful and or violent agitations, when such agitations are directed at the core of the validity/legitimacy of the constitution he swore to defend?”
According to him, such agitations are “simply unconstitutional and the President is constitutionally bound to crush same.”
He contended further that Chapter 4 (fundamental human rights guaranteed provisions) of the constitution that many rely on to defend protests, agitations and rallies to demand a division of Nigeria into different countries “did not guarantee such expressions when such expressions or assemblages are directed at the validity and/or legitimacy of the constitution itself ie seeking a divisible Nigeria!
“It is a legal, ideological and philosophical absurdity to rely on a constitution to which you seek to destroy to protect a right to destroy the same constitution!
“The constitution must inherently and naturally protect and defend itself by denying any person or agitator any right that is inimical to its existence.
“So, those agitating to divide Nigeria cannot seek the protection of the constitution; it will not avail them. They can only seek to actualised their demands outside the purview and protection of the 1999 Constitution by whatever means that they deem fit.
“The constitution and all organs and authorities that take legitimacy from the constitution will automatically be biased against such agitators, so they should not expect to be granted any benefits as
”Except and until the constitution provides for the right to self-determination, any expression or assemblage where such agitations are made are not only unconstitutional but also treasonable.
“So, I urge the agitators for different countries to be carved out of Nigeria to first agitate for the right to self-determination and referendum be included in the constitution.
“Then and only then will a President who seeks to crush such agitations be said to be acting unlawfully, illegally and unconstitutionally and only then too can agitations for Boko Haram Caliphate, Odua Republic and the Biafra Republic be lawful and constitutional.”
‘Kanu’s arrest, extradition have legal implications’
Akingbolu noted that it is a common practice amongst foreign countries to collaborate in the fight against criminality.
He said they do this through the instrumentality of security or intelligence agencies of the governments concerned, like Interpol and the likes.
Akingbolu argued that under international law or convention, it is not only permissible but also legal and justified.
He noted that in the case of Kanu, it was “a tactical and well-orchestrated arrest. This is because there was no way he would have been possibly arrested in the UK, so the government was said to have lured him to enter into a country where the government knows it has a say in terms of cordial international cooperation that can effectively facilitate his arrest and subsequent deportation. And as it turned out, it paid off eventually.
“To that extent, the government has not breached or violated any international treaty, law or convention. Therefore, the action cannot reasonably be faulted legally. More so, the country concerned has not complained that Nigeria has breached or trampled over its sovereignty.”
He, however, noted that Kanu’s arrest and extradition have legal implications for the country but this depends on the angle from which the government wants to look at it.
Akingbolu advised that the arrest “should not be seen by the government as a victory or a kind of feat for which commendation should be expected, because if viewed deeply, beneath the velvet of the vainglorious jubilation are the persistent discordant tunes of acrimony against the government which if left unattended.
“Secondly, while away, he has been alleged to be responsible for certain crimes committed by supposed members of IPOB, which, if established, can serve as grounds for further criminal charges and consequent arraignment.”
Akingbolu also observed that Kanu’s arrest could spark serious upheavals and protest by his followers to draw government attention to their demands.
“It can also encourage the springing up of a lot of militia groups in the country.
“So, if the government is jubilating about his arrest, it should also work hard towards designing a system or policies that can help solve or address the agitation of the group.”