It is recalled that the Intersociety has on 18th of October 2015, issued a public interest statement, titled: Probing Questions Over The Arrest Of Nnamdi Kanu & Dismissal Of Brig-Gen Ransome Kuti. The statement followed what we saw as unjust service treatment meted to detained Brig-Gen E.A. Ransome- Kuti leading to his sentencing to six months imprisonment and dismissal from the Nigerian Army on two-count allegation of infraction of the provisions of the Armed Forces Act (Cap A20), Laws of the Federation 2004. We also raised probing questions trailing the way and manner the 3,023 officers and personnel of the Nigerian Army were recalled and pardoned, while Brig-Gen Ransome-Kuti was singled out for indictment and conviction. We demanded and still demand that concrete answers to the raised probing questions should be provided publicly by the image department of the Nigerian Army.
We had in the course of our investigation searched for several hours relevant information associated with the said recall and pardon of 3,023 Army personnel and officers as well as how and why Brig-Gen Ransome-Kuti was dismissed and sentenced. Several calls spanning hours were also made to some friendly and credible sources, which included media friends and opinion holders in Lagos and other parts of the country relevant to the statement under reference. We also ran into a statement issued by the image making department of the Nigerian Army regarding Brig-Gen Ransome-Kuti’s ordeal. Loopholes inherent in the statement of the Nigerian Army led to our decision to raise probing questions so as to get its attention for the purpose of clearing air over such contradictions for the benefit of ordinary Nigerians and the world at large.
Our Encounter With Femi Falana, SAN: Our organization through its Board Chairman (Emeka Umeagbalasi) got a call in the morning of yesterday (22/10/2015) at 7:52am and the caller introduced himself as Femi Falana, SAN. He asked our Board Chairman (Umeagbalasi) a number of private questions such as I guess you are a lawyer (he is a Criminologist), etc. He quickly raised the issue of the publication under reference and made reference to its last paragraph that stated as follows: “The family is also advised to critically assess and re-assess the continued capability and capacity of the legal team of its son (Brig-Gen Ransome Kuti), as it concerns possible conflict of interest (alleged soft spot for present Buhari administration). If the family sees the need to change or fortify its legal team, so be it”
He said the paragraph was a reference to him on account of his capacity as Brig-Gen Ransome-Kuti’s Counsel. Our Board Chairman instantly rejected Falana’s position and went on to put the records straight by letting him that our organization was not in the know of or interested in who stood in as Brig-Gen Kuti’s Counsel, but arrived at the decision of adding the paragraph on account of what it was told by a friendly source in Lagos on the need for the family to possibly change its legal team or fortify it geopolitically (from another part of the country) because of a belief in some quarters that the Southwest based activists and lawyers particularly in Lagos are the main supporters and foundation of the Buhari administration; which may most likely lead to a conflict of interest.
Our Board Chairman further told Mr. Falana, SAN that our organization is only aware that he (Falana) handled similar matters years ago but unaware of his involvement in the one under reference. Mr. Falana responded thus-no problem, no problem; and went on to enlighten us on how he handled the matter and past ones with no failure or lose of any. That he is the one handling the Kuti’s matter as well as others who have been sentenced to death and that he was the one that handled the case of the recalled and pardoned 3,023 officers and personnel. He later in the evening of same yesterday forwarded to us a copy of his letter to the Chief of Army Staff on behalf of detained Brig-Gen Ransome-Kuti, pleading for his release pending appeal.
Yet, this morning at 04:11:50am, he sent a text message, saying that it was his client who drew my (his) attention to your incendiary statement designed to impugn my (his) professional integrity and suggested that I (he) compromised the case of my (his) client. It is in your (Umeagbalasi) interest to withdraw the libelous imputations, which lacerated your (Umeagbalasi) public statement as I am (Falana) not prepared to be maligned for handling pro bono publico.
Beyond the foregoing clear misunderstanding of the meaning (direct and indirect) of the paragraph by Mr. Falana, SAN, whom Intersociety and our Board Chairman respect hugely for his immense contributions for the betterment of the masses, we will not be derailed by same in ensuring that every citizen of Nigeria no matter his or her age, sex, tribe, religion or social, political or military backgrounds gets our rights advocacy protection if we, he or she feel that his or her fundamental rights have been, are being or likely to be breached or violated by either State actor(s) or non State actor(s).
Intersociety has severally spoken out not only for Brig-Gen Ransome-Kuti, but also for others like Dr. Chidi Odinkalu (boss of National Human Rights Commission), Retired Col Sambo Dasuki (former NSA), Gordon Obua (for CSO to Goodluck Jonathan), Peter Gregory Obi (during his court cases), Citizen Nnamdi Kanu (detained Biafran self-determination activist), to mention but just a few. Our defense of the fundamental rights of ordinary Nigerians is countless and basketful and; it is continuing. In all these, Intersociety never sought for a meeting or to see the face of any of them or expect any commendation from any quarter or group. These are in furtherance of our strong belief that no matter how big you think you are, you are not free from human rights abuse or abridgment. Not minding Mr. Falana’s failure to understand our straightforward explanation and his adjudicatory threat, we still respect him and commend his efforts and commitment for betterment of humanity. We will not hesitate to come out in defense of his fundamental human rights any time they are under threat or abuse.
In line with our promise given to him (Falana) yesterday to the effect that if he thinks that the paragraph was in anyway refering to him as Brig-Gen Ransome-Kuti’s legal team; that in the spirit of comradeship and oneness and togetherness in rights struggle in our beloved country over the years, it would be revisited publicly in our next update on the referenced matter. It is hereby revisited and stated as follows: that the paragraph was in no way referring to Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, as Brig-Gen E.A. Ransome-Kuti’s legal team. This is more so when Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, is singular, whereas legal team is plural. There is also nowhere in the paragraph where Lead-Counsel or Counsel to Brig-Gen Ransome-Kuti was used or mentioned. Be that as it may, we hereby step down the paragraph irrespective of its geopolitical and legal team intendment or direction; provided that Brig-Gen Ransome-Kuti’s unjust treatment in the hands of the Nigerian Army is judicially revisited and quashed at the end.
However, in addition to the friendly grounds clearly stated foregoing upon which the paragraph was stepped down or withdrawn, we further wish to add that no amount of threat of lawsuit will deter us in our public advocacy activities especially where we find individuals or groups or their conducts going contrary to societal approved standards of behavior including civil, moral or criminal conducts. In this respect, no body or group shall be spared. Intersociety will at all time offer itself and its key leaders for individual and public scrutiny over its social conducts as well. That is to say that any time we have strong reasons to question the social conducts of any highly or lowly placed Nigerian including the likes of Femi Falana and detained Brig-Gen Ransome-Kuti, we shall not hesitate to ask questions or condemn same, no matter the quantum of adjudicatory and meta-adjudicatory threats.
Finally, we wish to commend Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, over his humility in reaching out to us for the purpose of seeking satisfactory clarifications over the issue under reference. Since it is through public knowledge that himself and his client got to know about the statement and their misunderstood version; it is also reasonable that we address the issue and disabuse their minds through same medium. We feel saddened that what the duo of Femi Falana and his client erroneously thought to be the odd item in the statement was what they cared most and not our solidarity statement. We are not dampened a bit; instead, it is Aluta Continua, Victoria Acerta!
On the other hand, Mr. Femi Falana’s efforts in seeking to upturn the unjust verdict of Brig-Gen Ransome-Kuti as contained in his letter to the Chief of Army Staff, dated 19th October 2015 are very commendable and gladdened our heart. We join him in demanding for immediate release pending appeal of Brig-Gen E.A. Ransome-Kuti and reversal of the unjust military verdict at the Appellate Court. We are also in total agreement with Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, over his position in the said letter to the effect that: “in its judgment delivered on Thursday, October 15, 2015, the SCM which had earlier held that Brig-Gen Ransome-Kuti took the right decision by withdrawing his troops from Baga in the circumstance in which he found himself turned round to find him guilty on the 2 charges and sentenced him to dismissal from service in respect of the charge of failure to perform military duties and 6 months imprisonment in respect of the charge of miscellaneous offences relating to property”.
We see this as a total judicial miscarriage and incoherent with the principles of the rule of law, which must be reversed by the Appellate and Apex Courts. For the avoidance of doubt, attached is the letter from Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, to the Chief of Army Staff, dated 19th of October 2015 and titled: Request For The Release Pending Appeal Brig-Gen E.A. Ransome-Kuti (N/8301). It is attached for the purpose of adding flavor to campaigns for reversion of the unjust jail term and reinstatement of Brig-Gen Ransome-Kuti.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, B.Sc., Criminology & Security Studies, M.Sc. (Candidate), Peace Studies & Conflict Resolution
Board Chairman, International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Obianuju Igboeli, Esq., LLB, BL, Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program