Barristers & Solicitors
Fear of sit-at-home in Southeast over Supreme Court verdict on Kanu
Kanu and Ohanaeze

The anticipated Supreme Court judgment today on the trial of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) leader Nnamdi Kanu has sparked fears of violence in the Southeast should it not go in his favour.

A verdict is expected on the appeal and cross-appeal filed by the Federal Government and Kanu.

A five-member panel, headed by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, fixed the date on October 5 after the Federal Government’s lawyer, Tijani Gazali (SAN) and counsel for Kanu, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), made final submissions.

Some major markets, such as Ariaria International, Ngwa Road and Ahia Ohuru; banks and parts of Aba witnessed a surge of human and vehicular movements yesterday.

There was anxiety following another sit-at-home directive by Finland-based factional IPOB leader Simon Ekpa.

A bank worker said the rush was because they may not open today.

But a security source said the police were on top of the situation.

The Federal Government is praying the Supreme Court to set aside the Court of Appeal judgment quashing the treasonable felony charge against Kanu.

The Court of Appeal had also ordered his release on the ground that he was unlawfully brought back to the country after he jumped bail.

Kanu wants the Supreme Court to allow the judgment of the Court of Appeal and uphold his discharge and acquittal.

In his final submission, Gazali urged the apex court “to allow the appeal, set aside the judgment of the court below and affirm the judgment of the trial court (Federal High Court) to the effect that the respondent should stand trial in respect of the charge, which the court below quashed.”

Gazali urged the court to dismiss Kanu’s cross-appeal.

Ozekhome prayed the court to dismiss the appeal “with punitive cost and uphold the cross-appeal in order to do substantial justice to this matter.”

The SAN told the court that his client had been in custody since June 29, 2021 “even when the lower court had ordered his release”.

He prayed the court “to use this case to demonstrate that no government should trample on the rights of citizens as was done in the case of Ojukwu v. Lagos State.”

The Court of Appeal in Abuja, on October 13, 2022, faulted the manner Kanu was brought back from Kenya.

It held that the prosecution breached international laws and resorted to self-help in its failure to file an extradition application against Kanu in Kenya instead of resorting to unlawful abduction and extraordinary rendition.

The Court of Appeal granted the Federal Government’s motion for a stay of execution pending the Supreme Court’s decision.

Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court had struck out eight out of the 15 counts in the original charge filed against Kanu, leaving seven, which the Court of Appeal quashed.

Sit-at-home: Victim’s family seeks help

 Also yesterday, the family of Mr Henry Oko urged the Federal Government to set up a Special Intervention Fund for the treatment and rehabilitation of victims of sit-at-home.

Oko was a victim of the December 14, 2022, sit-at-home enforcement attack at Nwakpu market Ikwo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.

The family appealed for urgent intervention to save the life of the victim who is in critical condition.

The father of four was at the Nwakpu market, Ikwo, when masked gunmen who claimed to be enforcing the five-day sit-at-home declared by Ekpa invaded the market, shooting and setting vehicles ablaze.

They set his vehicle on fire and gave him deadly axe cuts in the head and shoulder before shooting him in both thighs.

He was left in the pool of his blood but was rescued by a security team.

Oko’s thigh bone was shattered by bullets, 17 of which were later extracted.

A spokesperson for the family, Mr Steve Oko, decried the plight of innocent victims of sit-at-home, some of whom have been incapacitated for life.

He regretted that some of them who escaped attacks now live with life-threatening injuries with no help from the government.

According to him, some of the victims came under harm’s way for relying on assurances of protection by the security agencies and Southeast governors.

He argued that it was wrong to ask residents to ignore sit-at-home orders only to abandon them when attacked by the enforcers.

He said both the governors and the Federal Government should be held responsible for the ordeals of the innocent victims.

“A situation where governors threaten residents with sanctions, and in some instances force them to flout sit-at-home orders only to leave them at the mercy of the enforcers is treacherous!

“The governors should be held accountable for exposing these innocent residents to danger,” Oko said.

He called on the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, set up a special intervention fund for the treatment and rehabilitation of all victims of sit-at-home in Southeast and parts of Southsouth.

He urged National Assembly members from the Southeast to come up with the necessary Bill for the establishment of an intervention fund or a Commission to cater for the affected victims.

Oko regretted that his brother who sustained bullet wounds when enforcers of sit-at-home attacked people at Ebonyi market “is still in critical condition at the hospital 12 months after.”

He said: “Our family is financially exhausted because enormous fortunes have been sunk into efforts to save my brother’s life. 

“He spent over four months at the National Orthopedic Hospital Enugu before he was referred to another tertiary hospital where he is currently being managed.

“No government has looked our way. There are other people like us in different parts of Igbo land. Families have lost their loved ones and valuable property including houses and vehicles.

“The time has come for the Federal Government to intervene and show empathy just as it did to victims of Boko Haram when it established the Northeast Development Commission.