Ifeanyi Ejiofor, lawyer to Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in an interview monitored on Arise Television spoke on the fate of his client, alleging that the United Kingdom (UK) government is not really playing its role in protecting Kanu. JOY ANIGBOGU brings the excerpts:
What can you say about Nnamdi Kanu’s trial?
The fact that Nnamdi Kanu was brought to court on the 29th of June, 2021 without reference to me, his lawyer was a violation. The court made an order to bring him to court on 26th of July to commence trial, the Department of Security Services (DSS) should have produced him in court. The agency has a history of violation of court orders even in this case. On 14th of October 2015 when Kanu was arrested in Lagos, he was taken to court in Abuja on the 16th of October. He was granted bail the same day but was not admitted to bail by the DSS. He was taken to federal High court on 19th, and granted bail unconditionally, that order was flouted. They went ahead to file frivolous and unfounded charges against him on 23rd December, 2015. It is immaterial vacation commences on 26th; they should have brought him to court on 26th to commence trial. DSS denied us access to him a few days before commencement of trial; we made effort to see him throughout last week to no avail. It means we had no discussion with our client before the trial commenced, which is why we filed an application to get him transferred to prison custody, where we can have unrestricted access to him before trial. The application will be heard on the next adjourned date and the court must hear the application because we must have the forum to see him. Though the court ordered DSS based on my application, to allow us unrestricted access to him Mondays and Thursdays and I hope that DSS will obey the order. What happened in the court on the 26th was not strange to us and very conversant with this political trial, we experienced it in 2015, when Nnamdi was brought to court; it looked like a president was brought to court. It is unfortunate that the treatment was extended to the media and the lawyers who were locked out from the courtroom. The court room is the only jurisdiction where layers belonged, unfortunately they were locked out. It took my intervention to ensure that some of them were admitted.
Was it because you were unable to access him that made you demand that he be transferred to the correctional centre?
When a person is charged with such an offence, he should be allowed access to his lawyers. We don’t think that the DSS facility is a convenient place for him to be detained, more so when the DSS made it clear to us that they have concluded the investigation. They should transfer him to a place recognized by law for him to be in the interim pending when his application for bail will be considered. We are being restricted from seeing him in the DSS facility that is why we filed the application. It was filed on the 14th of July and served to the prosecution of the federal government the same day, and they filed a counter affidavit to the application 48 hours after receiving our application, but withheld it for reasons best known to them. They didn’t serve the counter affidavit until on 26th morning. I only mentioned it to the court because they raised issues in the counter affidavit which should be addressed by way of further affidavits to ensure that the court hears it on the merit. We are not comfortable with him being in DSS custody while the trial commences and I will continue to oppose it. During our last visit to him, one of my colleagues was harassed by DSS officials. When you apply to see him they will give you a time convenient for them but not to you. They can ask you to come at 6pm or 7pm and sometimes on Saturdays. If you visit at 7pm, you are most likely to leave the place at 10pm under intimidation. I don’t think that we will work with that guideline. We cannot effectively defend him while he is in DSS custody. DSS is acting as though the government is not ready to give him a fair trial.
What was the state of Kanu’s health, the last time that you saw him?
We visited Kanu on 17th of July. It was the Saturday that we were permitted to come around 6pm. At the time we saw him he was still in pains of the injury he sustained on account of torture during his detention in Kenya. There was a burden of solitary confinement because he had no access to relatives and friends. He was not given much attention. Last week we made an effort to access him before commencement of trial on Monday but we were denied access. We hope that the DSS will obey the order of 26th July.
Britain promised to offer consular services to Kanu, what is the position?
British government is not doing much about this case. In 2015 when Kanu was arrested, the British government was keeping constant communication with him. They visited him in a DSS facility, visited every two days in prison. They were also calling me to confirm about his medical state, which they did till 2017 when he was granted bail. As at 27th of July, a British personnel was abducted on 19th June, 2021, smuggled into Nigeria, was taken to court on 26th of July, no communication. He was arrested as British citizen in Kenya, and it was only on the 27th that the British High Commissioner was talking about offering consular services. He hasn’t seen Kanu let alone talk about offering consular services to him.
You approached the African Union to accuse the Nigerian government of abduction, where are you in that case?
We have communicated with them and are waiting for further action from the African Union. We are following up.
Some members of IPOB were arrested on the day of trial in court, what is the state of those people, and what was their offence?
Some of them were released after my intervention. A few of them are still in detention and I have made contact with the commissioner of Police, FCT to see the possibility of getting them released unconditionally. A court is a public place and they have not conducted themselves in a manner that suggested that they were violent. They only came to observe the proceedings of the court. What happened in court on Monday was a matter of serious concern to the public. You will think that a battle was going on with shooting all over the place, intimidating people. Obviously if that kind of atmosphere continues to be witnessed anytime a case is adjourned for hearing, it means that there will be no fair trial..
It is clear that your client will remain in custody till October, what are your next steps?
We have applied to the Chief Justice Of Nigeria for a fiat and we are awaiting his approval for the court to hear the matter during vacation. In line with the court order that we should see him on Mondays and Thursdays, I will be there on Thursday to interrogate him. I have communicated to the DSS but they have refused to reply to our text message but I will be there at 2pm. If they don’t want to try him they should let us know.
You said that Nnamdi Kanu was not arrested but abducted, can you elaborate on that?
He was not arrested; this was a case of abduction and kidnapping. If you compare what happened to Nnamdi Kanu in Kenya with what happened in Benin Republic, you will discover that Sunday Igboho was arrested and taken to a custody where he is being subjected to trial but Kanu was kidnapped at Nairobi airport and taken to a place, not police custody. Within the 24 hours of his abduction, people who were aware of his whereabouts, visited all the police facilities in Nairobi but he wasn’t seen anywhere. He was detained in that place for eight days; it was after eight days that he was handed over to the Nigerian security agents who smuggled him into the country.