Governor Charles Soludo of Anambra State has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to release Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), before exiting office on 29 May.
Mr Soludo made the appeal in a letter dated 20 April and addressed to the president which was obtained by PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday.
Mr Kanu was first arrested in 2015, but was granted bail in April 2017. He fled the country after an invasion of his home in Afara-Ukwu, near Umuahia, Abia State, by the Nigerian military in September of that year.
He was re-arrested in Kenya and brought back to Nigeria in June 2021, about four years after he fled the country.
The Court of Appeal, Abuja, on 13 October, held that the IPOB leader was extra-ordinarily renditioned to Nigeria and that the action was a flagrant violation of the country’s extradition treaty and also a breach of his fundamental human rights.
The court, therefore, struck out the terrorism charges filed against Mr Kanu by the Nigerian government and ordered his release from the custody of the State Security Service (SSS).
But the government refused to release the IPOB leader insisting that he (Kanu) could be unavailable in subsequent court proceedings if released and that his release would cause insecurity in the South-east.
The government, through the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, later appealed the court ruling and subsequently obtained an order staying execution of the court judgement at the Supreme Court.
Mr Soludo, in the letter, said the continued detention of the IPOB leader has continued to affect residents of the South-east who are forced to observe a sit-at-home order on Mondays out of fear.
The governor expressed surprise that despite a call by the United Nations Human Rights Council for the release of Mr Kanu and various court rulings in Nigeria freeing the IPOB leader, the federal government has refused to release him.
“In the meantime, the continued detention of Mazi Kanu has created what, for want of a better description, can be seen as systemic insecurity in the South-east.
“Some supporters of Mazi Kanu have imposed the obnoxious and harmful sit-at-home order every Monday in the South-east, while all manner of criminal gangs- kidnappers, bandits, armed robbers etc.- now masquerade as ‘freedom fighters’ or those fighting for the release of Mazi Kanu,” he wrote.
Mr Soludo told the president that Mr Kanu was reported to be “gravely ill” with life-threatening conditions which he listed to include serious heart condition, hypertension and low potassium levels.
The governor stressed that the medical conditions require specialist medical care and interventions which are unavailable at the SSS facility where Mr Kanu is being detained.
“In the light of the foregoing, it is my earnest prayer that Mr President may kindly consider the immediate and unconditional release of Mazi Kanu as demanded by the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Federal High Court.
“This will be the right thing to do as a country that should extol the principle of the rule of law in compliance with the international law and conventions that Nigeria is signatory to,” Mr Soludo added.
The governor told Mr Buhari to consider granting Mr Kanu an “administrative bail on compassionate grounds and as part of national healing” if there were persisting grounds that would make his unconditional release “untenable.”
“In this circumstance, I am prepared to take him (Kanu) on bail. My government is prepared to provide him with alternative secured accommodation at Awka where he will have access to appropriate medical care, among others, and make him available when required,” he assured.
He said it was necessary for Mr Buhari to release the IPOB leader given that Nigeria has gone through a “very consequential election” and that part of the smart steps to be taken must include an agenda for national healing and addressing lingering insecurity, especially in the South-east.
Mr Soludo pointed out that the fight against insecurity in the region has not fared well because of lack of “wider constructive engagement/dialogue between the Federal government, South-east leaders and other critical stakeholders on a form of coordinated political solution.”
He said the release of Mr Kanu was not only a legal or compassionate thing to do, but also a patriotic act to advance the cause of security, peace and development of the South-east region.
“As you shepherd a transition process to handover to your successor, you might as well help to smoothen his easy take-off by resolving some of the lingering issues such as Mazi Kanu’s detention.
“I therefore respectfully call on you, as statesman, to discharge a historic show of mercy and release Nnamdi Kanu before you handover on the 29th May, 2023,” Mr Soludo said in the letter.