IPOB: Tinubu under intense pressure to let Nnamdi Kanu go

The latest move by the South-East governors and members of the National Assembly, NASS, to meet with President Bola Tinubu to discuss the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, has sparked diverse reactions.

The latest move by the South-East governors and members of the National Assembly, NASS, to meet with President Bola Tinubu to discuss the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, has sparked diverse reactions.

Kanu has been a subject of contention in Nigeria’s political landscape While some see him as a symbol of their struggle for self-determination, others view him as a threat to national unity.

Meanwhile, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization; Olisa Agbakoba, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association; and Ikoro Ndigbo, among other groups, have welcomed the move as a step towards finding a political solution to the impasse whereas spokesperson for the Northern Elders Forum, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, kicked against the proposal.

Suleiman argued that Kanu’s release would undermine the country’s criminal justice system and embolden separatist groups.
Furthermore, some have described the move as “belated”, suggesting that it should have come earlier given the urgency of the situation.
Kanu’s continued detention has been a source of concern for many in the South-East region.
The IPOB leader’s release has been a longstanding demand of various groups and individuals, including candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the Labour Party, LP, in the 2023 general election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Mr. Peter Obi, respectively.
Governors from the South-East under the umbrella of the South-East Governors’ Forum, Tuesday, met in Enugu with a resolve to meet with Tinubu to plead for the release of Kanu.
The decisions of the governors were contained in a communique read to the media by their Chairman and Governor of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodimma.
Interestingly, barely 24 hours after the governors met, senators from the region numbering 15, led by a former Abia State Deputy Governor, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, met with the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, in Abuja, to plead with Tinubu for Kanu’s release.
They submitted a letter to the AGF seeking political solution to the criminal charges against Kanu.
Also, South-East lawmakers in the House of Representatives called on the President to consider releasing Kanu.
The region’s caucus in the House made the call in a statement signed by the 43 lawmakers from Anambra, Abia, Enugu, Imo and Ebonyi states.
The lawmakers noted that an out-of-court settlement remained the best option, adding that it would also restore peace in the South-East geo-political zone.
Recall that 50 members of the House of Representatives from different parts of Nigeria and political parties, known as Concerned Federal Lawmakers for Peace and Security in the South-East, had, on June 19, appealed to Tinubu to invoke Section 174 of the Constitution of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and Section 107(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 for the release of the IPOB leader from detention.
The clamour for political solution in Kanu’s case had heightened recently with Igbo political and traditional leaders, including Ohanaeze Ndigbo, pressing the FG to drop the terrorism charges against the IPOB leader.

Not guilty
Kanu, who pleaded not guilty to the charges, has been in the custody of the Department of State Service, DSS, since June 2021 after he was repatriated from Kenya.
The Federal High Court in Abuja, on March 19, 2024, rejected his bail application. Therefore, the proposed meeting between the South-East governors, NASS members, and Tinubu is seen as a positive step towards finding a solution to the impasse over Kanu’s detention.
Speaking, Agbakoba welcomed the move by the governors and the federal lawmakers. “It’s very good”, he said and urged the President to consider the calls for political solution to the lingering issue.
Also, the Convener of Ikoro Ndigbo, Ugochimereze Chinedu Asuzu, commended the South-East governors and other leaders for their efforts to engage with the President on the pressing issue of insecurity in the region.
He said: “Although belated, their intervention is a welcome development, as it prioritizes the welfare of the people, which is the essence of leadership.

“The prolonged detention of IPOB leader has had a devastating impact on the region, hindering businesses, development, and fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression.

“I urge the Tinubu government to consider the delegation’s appeal and work towards a peaceful resolution, fostering development, harmony, and prosperity in the South-East”.
Similarly, Okechukwu Nwanguma, Executive Director, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre, RULAAC, noted that the renewed efforts by the governors and other stakeholders to secure the release of Nnamdi Kanu were a welcome development.

“I know that there have been previous calls by some former and serving South-East governors, NASS members and some political leaders in the region for the release of Kanu but this call has not elicited any positive response from the President”, Nwanguma stated.
“RULAAC had also recently made a similar call, and it can’t be overemphasized that the FG needs to reassess its strategies in tacking insecurity in the South East”.
He urged the FG to explore dialogue and constructive engagement, stressing that the reliance, almost exclusively on force, has not worked but instead, escalating insecurity.
“As RULAAC previously argued, releasing Nnamdi Kanu is a necessary step towards de-escalating violence and insecurity in the South East”, he added.
“Nnamdi Kanu’s release will likely end the albatross of ‘sit at home’ which appears to have become a permanent weekly ritual contributing to loss of man hours, huge economic losses, curtailment of the rights to movement, dignity and life, and increased hardship in the region.
“It will reduce attacks on security personnel and infrastructure which often result to reprisal attacks subjecting a whole community to indiscriminate and collective punishment for crimes committed by a few misguided individuals who in some cases are not members of the affected community. “

In the same vein, the National President, Ohanaeze Youth Council, OYC, Comrade Igboayaka O Igboayaka, the governors and other Igbo leaders woke up very late from their slumber when enough damages had been done by former President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
He said: “Insecurity contributed almost 60 per cent to the rotten economy of Nigeria; therefore, to put an end to unknown gunmen in South-East, bandits and Boko Haram in the North is another strategic means to grow Nigeria economy.
“President Bola Ahmed Tinubu should ignore all forms of blackmail and conspiracy by former President Buhari’s government against Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB and commence a peace-building project and hearken to the voice of eminent Nigerians on the political solution to the problem by directing the AGF to withdraw all the charges against the IPOB leader and grant him unconditional release.”‘Not a fresh demand’
But for the National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr Alex Ogbonnia, it’s not the first time such move was being made. “It is not a fresh demand. If you go back to record, you will see where Soludo talked about his release, including Otti, who just came in last year”, Ogbonnia said.
“What all of us, including the South-East governors, are saying is that Kanu should be released from incarceration, especially when a court of competent jurisdiction has set him free.
“Keeping him there does not solve any problem. Rather, it creates and intensifies the problems in the South-East.
“Whether we like it or not, Kanu will be released because the more he is there, the more the clamour for his release.
“Can you look at what is happening at the National Assembly? Nobody would have come to sign for his release, but they have got 50. And they may even be more in two months.
“The clamour continues; it is not reducing. The more he is detained, the more there will be clamour both home and abroad. “Whoever is thinking that releasing him isn’t to the advantage of Nigeria is making a mistake.
“In the South-East, some people blame the sit-at-home that takes place every Monday on the fact that Kanu is in detention.
“If he is released, there won’t be any sitting at home. That aspect of insecurity will be reduced to the barest minimum.”

Four-man delegation
President of Credibility Group, Chief Goddy Uwazurike, said: “Kanu has been in prison. As soon as Buhari came in as President, he got him, grabbed him and didn’t let him go.
“I was part of the four-man delegation that visited him. Myself, Bishop Onuoha, Mmazi Amaechi and Dr Ezeife, we thought that we were talking to a human being, yet he didn’t do what he promised us privately – that he would look into it and give us a positive response.
“For President Bola Tinubu, the knife and yam are on his table. He has the right to tell the Attorney General to withdraw the case, saying: ‘Kanu, you are free, go.’ When that happens, a political solution has been reached.
“Political solutions are so important in negotiation. When we say political solution, it means everybody can shake hands, but in a judicial conclusion, there is none. “Parties do not shake hands in court. While one goes home happy, another leaves frowning. Those who want Kanu in prison are working overtime to ensure that the President doesn’t look in that direction.
“It is our duty to support the President and Ohanaeze that keeps calling for the release of Kanu.
“The average Igbo man has no reason to abandon Kanu and we will keep looking for a solution.
“When an issue ripens, we all pay attention to it. The role of Kanu in the day to day affairs in the South-East can’t be overemphasised. The governors are looking for solutions.”

National dimension
Publicity Secretary of Igbo think-tank, Aka Ikenga, Mr Collins Ugwu, argued: “It is a welcome development. If the governors had a meeting and this was one of their major statements, it speaks to the fact that Kanu’s issue has rightly assumed a national dimension for the peace of the subregion and the country.
“If the governors who receive security information in all zones are requesting the President to release Kanu, I think nothing can be more salutary than that.
“We support it entirely and we wish them (governors) to actually walk their talk.
“Governance is a deliberate process. To achieve a coherence of five state governors of different parties demanding one major issue takes time to mature.
“They should ensure that even though their demands appear late, it is radically and speedily pursued to make up for lost time. “The protocol of Kanu’s arrest is in the open. It is one of the most discussed subjects. The court was on it and he (Kanu) had a series of victories.
“The constitution ascribes to him some rights and we are saying civil liberty and rights as guaranteed by the constitution make sense to the extent that it is respected.
“There have been pronunciations in that direction. If governors are making this demand, it speaks to the weight and persuasion of its merits.”

‘Irresponsible stance’
Meanwhile, speaking in his personal capacity, spokesperson for Northern Elders Forum, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, said: “It is indeed a curious, ridiculous, and unfortunate abuse of constitutionalism, rule of law, and decency for Igbo leaders to insist on the unconditional release of Nnamdi Kanu without trial.


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