|Radio Biafra’s Nnamdi Kanu|
The arrest and custodial detention on Saturday (17th October 2015) by the DSS (Nigeria’s secret police), of Mr. Nnamdi Kanu of a self-determination group-called the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and director of the UK based Radio Biafra is unreservedly questionable and condemnable. Mr. Nnamdi Kanu was on in the country in exercise of his citizenship and statehood provided in the 1999 Constitution; having been born and bred in Igbo ethnic nationality of Nigeria. He was arrested hours after he landed in the country from his UK base. His arrest has since been confirmed by his associates in UK and published on their website. Till this moment, the Federal Government and its Presidency has kept moot over his arrest and custodial detention; in reminiscence of State terror and brigandage during the dark military era.
We see the arrest of Mr. Nnamdi Kanu as reckless, militarist, overzealous and a fundamental breach of Nigeria’s international human rights obligations particularly the African Charter on Human & Peoples Rights as it concerns the rights to personal liberty, fair hearing and self-determination contained in Articles 6, 7 and 20 of the AU Rights Charter of 1981; ratified and domesticated by the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1983. Failure by the Federal Government of Nigeria to disclosure the offenses under which Citizen Nnamdi Kanu was arrested since Saturday (17th October 2015) is also a fundamental violation of Sections 35 (personal liberty) and 36 (fair hearing) (8) & 36 (12) of the 1999 Constitution.
The continued silence of the Federal Government over his arrest exposes malicious intents surrounding the arrest and executive recklessness. It is a clear replication of the dark era of the military during which citizens were abducted by security agents and caused to disappear or go unaccounted for ; leading to many of them never seen. The DSS and the Buhari’s Presidency must publicly disclose why they arrested Citizen Nnamdi Kanu and the written offense and its penalty under which he was suspected or accused of having committed. Citizen Nnamdi Kanu must also be charged before a court of competent jurisdiction immediately or be released unconditionally. The intelligence network deployed in arresting Citizen Kanu, who is not armed or an insurgent, is more needed in fishing out the strategic elements within the Boko Haram insurgency group particularly its bomb makers and detonators.
We also frown at, and reject in its totality, the dismissal from the Nigerian Army and sentencing to six months jail term, of Brig-Gen E.A. Ransome-Kuti by the Army General Court Martial (GCM). Brig-Gen Kuti, before his arrest months ago, was commander of the Multi-National Joint Taskforce in Maiduguri, waging counter insurgency operations against Boko Haram terror activities. He was accused of Dereliction of Duties in the ongoing counter insurgency operations against the Boko Haram and convicted recently at the Army Garrison Headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria. In the count-two charge, he was found guilty of Failure to Perform Military Duties and dismissed from the Army and in the count-three charge; he was found guilty of Miscellaneous Offenses Relating to Service Property and sentenced to six months imprisonment. The General Court-martial of the Nigerian Army deals with military misdemeanor offenses, while the Special Court-martial deals with military felonious offenses. Decisions arising from the two are appealable to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
On the other hand, we see the dismissal of Brig-Gen Ransome Kuti and six months jail term placed on him as totally unsatisfactory and sketchy. Granted that Brig-Gen E.A. Ransome Kuti was the commander of the Joint-National Taskforce in Maiduguri; our probing questions are: how come he was lonely convicted, dismissed and jailed? What about the roles of his sub commanders like platoon commanders? Did Brig-Gen Kuti act unilaterally or on account of information and advice received from his sub commanders? What are the religious and ethnic identities of those 3,023 officers and personnel recently recalled and pardoned (alleged presidentially) over the same Boko Haram issues under which Brig-Gen Kuti was convicted, dismissed and jailed?
Are there no accomplices in the alleged military offenses leveled against Brig-Gen Kuti? How many senior officers and non-senior officers were among the recalled and pardoned? Did the affected 3,023 officers and personnel appeal to President Buhari or the Army Council for the review of the said military punishments against them leading to their recall and pardon? Who directed for their recall and pardon; President or Army Council? If it was President Buhari, was it in his exercise of Prerogative of Mercy and when did the Prerogative Council sit and its constitutional process follow?
If it was the Army Council, when did it sit considering the fact that the recall and pardon was announced in August 2015 less than one month and a half after the new service chiefs were appointed (July 13, 2015) and less than three months after President Buhari was sworn in? Were the affected officers and personnel court-martialed under special court-martial (involving military felonies) or under general court-martial (involving military misdemeanors)? Can the Army Council or a mere presidential phone call over-rule the decisions of the Military Court-martial appealable only at Appellate (Section 240 of the 1999 Constitution) and Supreme Court? What is the possibility of the 3,023 cases reviewed and concluded in less than one month and a half?
While it remains our irrevocable view that the country and its affairs must be at all times administered under the rule of law, it is also important to remind the military that under Nigeria’s constitutional democracy, it is thoroughly subjected to civil authority, the Constitution and the rule of law. While conducting its military affair including military discipline, those who ought not to be punished, must not be punished and those who ought to be punished should be punished under strict fair and procedural processes.
Even if the court-martial processes are shrouded in military secrecy owing to military tradition, the military owes Nigerians and the 1999 Constitution legal and moral explanations and obligations over how and the manner it arrives at any punishment so metes out to any of its officers or personnel. From the foregoing critical questions that are laid on the table of the military, begging for immediate answers; the conviction, dismissal and sentencing of Brig-Gen E.A. Ransome Kuti as well as summary recall and pardoning of 3,023 officers and personnel are totally murky, sketchy and questionable. Nigerians firmly demand satisfactory answers from the Nigerian Army to the questions under reference.
Finally, we urge the family of Brig-Gen E.A. Ransome-Kuti to proceed to the Court of Appeal immediately so as to subject the said General Court-martial verdict to a more competent appellate review for the purpose of setting aside same if its processes and verdict are found incoherent with the principles of the rule of law and the 1999 Constitution. 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.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman
International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety)