BY Bolanle Olabimtan
The court of appeal in Abuja has struck out the terrorism charge filed against Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Delivering judgment on Thursday, a three-member panel of the court of appeal held that Kanu’s extradition from Kenya to Nigeria to stand trial was illegal.
Kanu was re-arraigned on an amended 15-count charge bordering on treasonable felony preferred against him by the federal government.
However, on April 8, the judge struck out eight of the 15 counts in the charge.
But Kanu, through his team of lawyers led by Mike Ozekhome, filed an appeal marked CA/ABJ/CR/625/2022, praying the court to quash the remaining seven counts for being devoid of merit.
The court was also asked to order the immediate release of Kanu should the charges be quashed.
Moving the application at the court session on September 13, Ozekhome alleged that his client was forcefully abducted from Kenya and illegally brought back to the country.
The senior lawyer argued that under the “doctrine of speciality” as provided for in section 15 of the Extradition Act, the federal government ought to have proceeded to try Kanu on the initial five-count charge on which he was re-arraigned before he fled the country.
He argued that Kenya, being the country from where Kanu was arrested and extraordinarily renditioned to Nigeria, ought to have authorised his extradition and the new charges he is facing.
But David Kaswe, counsel to the federal government, had asked the court to dismiss the appeal for want of merit.
In its judgment on Thursday, the appellate court held that the respondent, by not responding to the appellant’s submissions, conceded to the allegation that Kanu was forcefully renditioned from Kenya to Nigeria.
The court held that it was necessary for the country to prove the legality of Kanu’s arrival in Nigeria.
The court also held that the respondent flouted the Terrorism Act and was also in violation of all known international conventions and treaties guiding extradition process, thus, breaching the rights of the respondent.
The court further held that having illegally and forcefully renditioned the appellant, the trial court is stripped of jurisdiction to continue to try Kanu.
According to the appellate court, the federal government’s action “tainted the entire proceedings” it initiated against Kanu and amounted to “an abuse of criminal prosecution in general”.
“The court will never shy away from calling the executive to order when it tilts towards executive recklessness,” the appellate court held.