From Magnus Eze, Enugu and Ogbonnaya Ndukwe, Aba
The Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) is upbeat that its leader, Nnamdi Kanu would soon be a free man, going by the recent directive by the United Nations to the Nigerian Government.
Kanu, who is currently facing trial, has been in the detention facility of the Department of State Service (DSS) in Abuja, the nation’s capital for about 14 months after his interception and rendition from Kenya by the Nigeria authorities.
But the UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, in its decision contained in opinion No. 25/22, has reportedly asked the Nigerian Government to release the separatist unconditionally and compensate him for the abuse and torture he has and continues to suffer. Kanu’s international legal counsel, Mr Bruce Fein and Prof. Rachael Murray, who were engaged by his family as well as the IPOB leader’s special counsel, Aloy Ejimakor, initiated the efforts leading to the UN directive.
The family of the embattled IPOB leader also hired two top legal firms, which filed a kidnapping case against Nigeria in the United Kingdom.
Bindmans and Doughty Street Chambers, the law firms defending Kanu had said in a statement: “At the time of the transfer, Mr Kanu was not in possession of his British passport. The transfer by Nigerian authorities, without identification documents and with the aim of rendition to justice, amounts to extraordinary rendition and is unlawful under international law.”
Speaking on the latest development, Kanu’s special counsel, Aloy Ejimakor and Chairman of Igbo Lawyers Association (ILA), Chief Chuks Muoma, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said Nigeria was bound to obey the UN directive. Muoma said it will be an international scandal if Nigeria refuses to obey the UN directive for Kanu’s release. He further said the country might be sanctioned if it turns a deaf ear to the UN Human Rights body’s order stressing that it was dependent on whatever decision the body will recommend to its General Assembly for approval against Nigeria.
The former IPOB lawyer explained that a refusal will amount to disobeying the world body, to which Nigeria is a member, emphasizing that if one belongs to an organisation, he or she will abide by its rules and regulations.
“It will be international scandal to disobey a directive from such an organisation like the United Nations, so it has to carry out its membership obligations by obeying to release and pay adequate compensation to Kanu, as directed,” Muoma said.
Saturday Sun learnt that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which rendered the opinion on Kanu as a quasi-judicial body that has the legal mandate of the United Nations to consider and adjudicate human rights petitions against member nations of the UN.
Flowing from the above, Ejimakor argued that failure of Nigeria to release Kanu will trigger a nasty diplomatic conflict with the UN that may convulse the country.
He explained: “Further, the opinion is legally binding on Nigeria because the decision is based primarily on human rights standards set by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Nigeria is a signatory.
“Additionally, Nigeria, in addition to ratifying the UN Charter, has also ratified other human rights instruments that require it to comply with opinions like this. Ratification is a means by which a nation makes itself subject to international laws and treaties. And by the provisions of Section 12 of Nigeria Constitution and a plethora of decisions by the Supreme Court of Nigeria, ratification makes Nigeria subject to whatever it ratified.
“It goes without saying therefore, that as a bonafide member of the United Nations, Nigeria is subject to decisions issuing from all UN bodies. Nigeria is thus duty-bound to implement this decision in its letters and spirit. And it is expected to do so promptly.”
Speaking further on whether the Nigerian Government has taken any actions and what the next line of action would be if the directive is ignored, Ejimakor said he believed that something was being done.
“Given that the decision called for the ‘immediate’ release of Kanu, I wager that the government is already giving it consideration. Nonetheless, if compliance doesn’t happen within a reasonable time, we will consider the many options we can employ to compel compliance.”
“It is never in contemplation that a responsible member of United Nations (such as Nigeria) will thumb its nose at the UN. But wherever such had happened in the past, even so rarely, it opened up a host of legal and diplomatic consequences. It not only brought the international legal and diplomatic order to bear aggressively but the domestic legal regime as well,” he stated.
Saturday Sun was informed that the Opinion, which was issued on July 20, 2022, was forwarded to the Governments of Nigeria and Kenya on July 22, while the advance copy was released to Kanu’s counsel the next day.