A Pan Igbo group, Nzuko Umunna, led by former Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Governor, Professor Charles Soludo yesterday, told President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately release the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, saying the federal government must obey court orders even when such orders appeared unpalatable.
This came as the group claimed Nigeria was becoming a failed state, despite having the potential to be one of the most prosperous nations on earth. Other signatories to the statement, read by Prof. Soludo include; Profs. Chidi Odinkalu, Ebere Onwudiwe, Mr Law Mefor, Rev. Fr. Jude C.; Emeka Ugwu-Oju, Ferdinand Agu and Tony Nnadi. Others are Dr Sam Amadi, Mr Innocent Chukwuma, Collins Ugwu and Andy Wabali .
Addressing journalists in Abuja, Prof. Soludo said: “We demand for the urgent release of Nnamdi Kanu, his colleagues and all prisoners of conscience, as part of the process of the search for national cohesion and building a new Nigeria. There is a legitimate debate among Nigerians on the Biafra question, and there are indeed many Igbos who, like many other Nigerians, do not agree with Nnamdi Kanu’s objective or means. It needs to be stated, however, that no citizen of Nigeria deserves the kind of treatment meted to him and his colleagues. Government has declined to obey the orders of properly constituted courts in Nigeria for his release. Nnamdi Kanu is not above the law; but, nor should he be put beneath it.
”A situation where the state refuses to obey legitimate court orders for his release and holds him until it gets a favourable order; moves the goalposts endlessly through endless amendment of the charges against him; and now seeking to try him in secret clearly constitutes circumstances that would fall well short of the constitutional guarantees of due process.
These also would raise questions about our country’s adherence to human rights, the rule of law and transparent judicial process. We worry that there is now a clear design to place Kanu beneath the law and basic constitutional guarantees of due process. Without the rule of law, no sustainable economic progress can take place.
”The treasonable felony charge, which is now levied against Nnamdi Kanu has previously been used against Joseph Tarka and Obafemi Awolowo. His trial reminds us of the travails of these historic figures in our country and, indeed, of the more recent military-era treason trial of President Obasanjo.
Not many people believe that Nnamdi Kanu and his colleagues can receive a fair trial based on the law. This makes Nnamdi Kanu and his colleagues political prisoners or prisoners of conscience. “At various times in Nigeria’s history, it became expedient to release such prisoners (e.g. Obafemi Awolowo; Yakubu Gowon and Odumegwu Ojukwu, as well as President Obasanjo) as part of national reconciliation and nation-building. Nigeria is currently a country at war with itself.
Our considered view is that, for taking extraordinary steps to draw international attention to Nigeria’s failing state and the urgency of actions, Nnamdi Kanu and his colleagues deserve to be engaged and not to be held interminably as political detainees.”
Agitation for self-determination, not a crime Flanked by Prof. Pat Utomi, Dr Udenta Udenta and other Igbo professionals, Soludo, said: “We demand that the right to freedom of association, assembly, peaceful protest, and expression must be accessible to all citizens of Nigeria as guaranteed by Nigeria’s constitution.
Trying to criminalize anyone who talks about self-determination or attempts to use brute force to main and kill innocent protesters in a democracy is a strategy for a time that we no longer live in. This is 2017 and Nigeria is supposed to be a democracy! More than 200 years after 11 states in the US failed their secession bid, their Confederate flag still flies in several of them, even on government buildings. ”Since 2012, no less than 23 U.S. states had thousands of their citizens sign petitions to secede from the U.S. Currently, the State of California is still pressing for Calexit.
There were protests all over the US following the election of Donald Trump. Similar examples can be cited in many democracies. But no one is killed, brutalized or incarcerated by the state. “As a people, we believe that our country is big enough for diverse voices to be heard in the confidence that these voices in their respective ways seek to correct our imperfections; to have a stake in constructing a more perfect union.
We convey our thanks to the Federal Government and the Acting President, Prof. Osinbajo for reaffirming recently that citizens have the right to peaceful protest, and we are happy that protesters were allowed to express themselves in Lagos, Abuja and other venues recently under police protection.
Soludo explained that the group was not self-serving but working for the interest of humanity, saying: “We are a delegation of the Nzuko Umunna, a Pan-Igbo group, whose members are individual professionals within Nigeria and the Diaspora, as well members/leaders of most pan-Igbo associations and groups. ”
We were sent to pay a visit to Nnamdi Kanu and his associates currently in detention at the Kuje prison as part of a worldwide consultation process on the peace and development of Alaigbo/Nigeria. We visited to hear his own point of view, and we also shared our views with him. Our interactions with Nnamdi Kanu and his colleagues were frank and fruitful.