Lead counsel of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) whose leader, Nnamdi Kanu’s whereabouts has remained unknown since the military stormed his Afara-Ukwu, Umuahia, Abia State home, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, in this interview, says only the military, which had the last contact with him, knows where Kanu is.
In this interview with Magnus Eze, in Abuja, the lawyer, who filed a suit asking the court to compel the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai, to produce Kanu in court dead or alive, maintains that only the court can determine whether the IPOB leader has flouted his bail conditions.
Kanu’s whereabouts has been an issue since the recent military operation in Afara-Ukwu and he has a date in court on October 17; what will you do?
Recall they first went to my client’s place on 12th September where about five persons where brutally wounded at the end of their onslaught, because they went with sophisticated arms and ammunition, including purpose -built Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC). As if that was not enough; which eventually showed that they went on surveillance, they repeated this again on 14th September. I got a call from Kanu on 14th September that there were sporadic gunshots around his house and he was sensing that the military were coming around his house; because if you know the topography or location of the place; well isolated and away from the town, you will know that the military had no business going there for any form of exercise. I quickly issued a statement which was widely published on the social media alerting the world of what was going on; that my client was under siege as the military was shooting for over 40 minutes trying to gain access into the house, I was alarmed in case anything happened to him, because their mission at the period still remained unknown. And that was my last communication with my client in which I assured him I would let the world know. He called me again that they were at the gate shooting to gain access, which I asked him to remain, while I continued to let the world know. So, that was our last communication and I never heard from him again after the attack. And the rest is now story.
But don’t you think that Kanu has actually flouted some of the bail conditions?
We are supposedly in a democratic government practicing constitutional democracy, with three arms of government in place. These arms operate independently through with checks and balances. You have filed an application to revoke his bail before a judge of court of competent jurisdiction; why can’t you wait for the judge to make pronouncement on the application you filed before him to say on the face of it that Nnamdi Kanu has flouted his bail conditions? I have said this in several forums; Kanu is not being tried on flouting of bail conditions; there are charges preferred against him. Why can’t government bring witnesses to come establish those charges? This charge was filed on 23rd December, 2015, till date, they have not called any witnesses to come and establish the charge. In fact, at a point, they elaborated it to 11-count charge before I filed application and upon my application, the court struck out six of the charges remaining five. Even the court told government that what is before it cannot prove the offence of treasonable felony that Nnamdi Kanu is being accused of. But since they said they have videotape; go and bring it. This is a pointer that there is nothing before the court for Kanu to continue to stand trial. I told them that I know that some of these terms are apparently in complete breach of his fundamental rights; and we have taken adequate steps to ensure that the court varied those terms by filing an application to vary the terms. We had done that before now to see that the court varies those terms running against his fundamental rights as enshrined in the constitution. We served on the Federal Government; they filed a counter to the application; so after the Arewa youths had given them condition on what to do to revoke his bail, maybe after they had nothing serious to hold on to our application, they decided to file an application to revoke his bail in tandem with the demand of the Arewa youths.
So, the issue of whether Nnamdi Kanu flouted his bail conditions or not doesn’t lie in the hands of the military or even the Executive to determine. It’s the court; allow the court to decide on it. This is a matter of argument and law. The military has positioned itself as taking over the matter before a court. Is the military the enforcement arm of the court? It’s even more curious when the court has not revoked the bail; the court has not said go and arrest him, so he’s still enjoying the bail granted him by court. Let me say this; if Kanu had, in the course of enjoying the bail granted him by the court, been seen to have committed any offence outside the one being tried in court, they can simply wait and let him come to court. If he comes to court on October 17, they could arrest him on those supposed offences. There is no law that says that anybody being tried for any offence and enjoying bail cannot be arrested if the person commits another offence. If actually what they wanted was to arrest him; they would have waited for him to come to Abuja. But I know what they wanted was to kill him at all cost; and let me not believe that has taken place by now.
So, what would you tell the court on October 17?
I have done the needful. Only few hours ago, I filed a suit at the Federal High Court, Abuja, praying for an order of habeas corpus, commanding the military to produce Nnamdi Kanu. I have given the court reasons why it should make such order. They should produce him in court because they made the last contact with him and they killed people there, arrested some. We can’t tell at this juncture whether Nnamdi Kanu was among those killed or arrested. So, the military should be in a position to open up and tell us where Nnamdi Kanu is. If they had killed him, they should be bold enough to bring the corpse to us. They should release the corpse to the family for befitting burial; if he’s still alive let them bring him to court. So, the motion filed today is in essence to secure his production in court by the military. We all knew that when Nnamdi Kanu was released on bail, he went about freely. If he had wanted to jump bail, he would have run away when he came out of prison. At least on about three occasions, the wife came in from UK to visit him; to show that he wants to stand the trial at least he knew that there was nothing before the court to convict him. I know that they are acting this script based on the frustrations they are confronted with; because they can’t establish any charge against Nnamdi Kanu; and also frustration on the popularity being enjoyed by the IPOB leader in the South East. That’s why we have all these playing out.
Where do all these leave his sureties since they are supposed to produce him in court?
The point is that you cannot under the circumstance lay hands on the sureties, because the circumstance that presented itself is such that had gone beyond the sureties’ control. In legal parlance, it’s called force majeure. It’s not a situation they would be able to control. The court is a human being; it can listen to our application. If at all this incident never took place and by tomorrow we start looking for Nnamdi Kanu, they will be told to go and produce him. But in this case, Nnamdi Kanu had been visible; moving around, going places, meeting people and was very certain of coming to Abuja before now to face trial, so, people who attacked him, killed people in his house, wounded people and arrested people, should be in a position to show us where he is.
It now lies with the army; it’s out of the sureties hands, so they cannot be held liable.
Are you in touch with the sureties?
Of course, I am in communication with the sureties. They don’t have cause to express fears, because it’s not within their control. They don’t know anything about what happened. The people that should be held responsible are the military and the Federal Government; simple!
I believe if at all they wanted to arrest him, they would have extended invitation to him saying we want you at this period to interrogate you; there is allegation of this and that offence, be it police, army or the DSS. But such thing never took place. So, what informed their going to his place to shoot and kill?
Did you anticipate what is playing out now?
I didn’t, but as a lawyer, I should know what to do when any situation presents itself. When it became difficult for the military to oblige our request for his release, whether dead or alive, I said we have another option available in law to explore, because when the court makes an order that they should produce him in court, they have no option than to produce him. Forget about the lies they’ve been telling; they must produce him. By the process we have initiated, if they have killed my client; they should come and tell the court. Then we will now know what to do, because he has to be given befitting burial if at all such thing happened. But God forbid!