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Supreme Court affirms treason charge against IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu, rejects release plea



In a decisive ruling on Friday, the Supreme Court upheld the treasonable charge against Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The verdict came after a legal battle that saw the federal government challenging the Court of Appeal’s earlier decision that quashed the treasonable felony charge against Kanu and ordered his release.


The federal government, represented by counsel Tijani Gazali (SAN), appealed to the Supreme Court, urging it to set aside the Court of Appeal’s judgment. The Court of Appeal had determined that Kanu’s arrest and subsequent trial were unlawful since he was brought back to the country after jumping bail.


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.”


In response, Mike Ozekhome, Kanu’s counsel, countered the appeal, urging the court to dismiss it with punitive costs. He emphasized the need to uphold the cross-appeal to ensure substantial justice in the matter. Ozekhome pleaded with the court to consider his client’s prolonged detention since June 29, 2021.


Despite the arguments, the Supreme Court not only upheld the treason charge against Kanu but also declined to order his release from detention. Justice Garba Lawal, who authored the judgment, voided and set aside the Court of Appeal’s decision that ordered Kanu’s release and quashed terrorism charges against him.


Justice Lawal acknowledged the reckless and unlawful manner in which the Nigerian Government rendered Kanu from Kenya but insisted that such acts did not strip the courts of the authority to proceed with the trial. He pointed out that no Nigerian law was cited in the suit seeking Kanu’s release based on the alleged unlawful abduction from Kenya. The judge suggested that Kanu could file a civil matter against such actions instead of hindering the courts’ powers to continue with his trial for alleged criminal charges.


Consequently, the Supreme Court ordered Kanu to defend himself in the remaining seven counts of terrorism charges against him. The ruling reaffirmed the government’s position on pursuing the trial and dispelled the earlier notion of Kanu’s release based on procedural irregularities in his arrest.


The legal battle surrounding Nnamdi Kanu continues to be a focal point in the nation’s legal and political landscape. The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the treason charge signifies a significant development in the ongoing legal saga, with implications for the trajectory of Kanu’s trial and the broader conversation on separatist movements in Nigeria.

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