ABUJA— EMBATTLED Leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, who has been in detention since October 14, 2015, yesterday, secured bail from the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Trial Justice, Binta Nyako, granted Kanu bail on stringent conditions and refused to okay the release of three other pro-Biafra agitators- Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi- who are facing trial alongside the IPOB leader.
The bail conditions
* Produce three sureties including a highly respected Jewish leader
* Produce a highly placed Igbo person
* Produce a respected person who resides and owns property in Abuja
* Each surety must deposit N100million
* Must not attend any rally or grant an interview
* Must not be in a crowd exceeding 10 persons
* To surrender his Nigerian and British passports
* Must be available for trial at all times
On a day that jubilations and mixed reactions trailed the bail, Kanu, however, could not meet the tough bail conditions and has returned to Kuje Prisons, Abuja.
The Federal Government is prosecuting the defendants on a five-count criminal charge bordering on treasonable felony.
Justice Binta Nyako said her decision to release Kanu, who is the 1st defendant before the court, on bail, was based on health grounds, citing an affidavit that was attached to the bail application Kanu filed through his lawyer, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor.
Specifically, the court held that Kanu must produce three sureties, including a “highly respected and recognised Jewish leader.”
Apart from a Jewish leader, Kanu must also produce a “highly placed person of Igbo extraction”, as well as “a highly respected person who is resident and owns landed property in Abuja.”
Each of the sureties is to deposit N100 million.
Justice Nyako had in the course of the ruling, asked Kanu to tell the court the religion he believes in, considering that one of the bail conditions would include his production of a highly placed religious leader.
“My lord, I believe in Judaism”, Kanu replied from the dock.
“Are you a Jew?”, the Judge queried.
“Yes, I am a Jew”, Kanu maintained.
“Good, in that case, one of the sureties must be a highly respected and recognised Jewish leader. I must be able to know him. Thank God I have been taught how to use Google”, Justice Nyako jokingly added.
As part of his conditions for bail, Kanu, was expressly barred by the court from attending any rally or granting any form of interview.
“I must stress it here that the defendant must not attend any rally. He must not be in a crowd exceeding 10 persons”, the Judge warned.
Justice Nyako equally held that Kanu must sign an undertaking to make himself available for trial at all times.
Kanu was ordered to surrender his Nigerian and British international passports, even as the court compelled the Federal Government to return to Kanu, his wedding ring and reading glasses.
However, Kanu’s co-defendantss were denied bail by the court which described charges against them as “very serious.”
Justice Nyako said the fact that she earlier struck out the terrorism charges slammed against the defendants did not water-down the seriousness of the treason charge against them.
She held that Kanu’s co-defendants did not adduce fresh facts capable of persuading the court to release them on bail.
Court okays shielding of witnesses’ identities
In a separate ruling, Justice Nyako gave the Federal Government the nod to shield identities of all the witnesses billed to testify in the matter. She dismissed the applications that Kanu and the other defendants filed for a variation of an earlier ruling that permitted Federal Government to mask the witnesses.
While re-affirming her earlier ruling, Justice Nyako held that the witnesses who are mostly security operatives would testify behind a screen or wear mask when the need arises.
Pro-Biafra supporters jubilate
Meanwhile, several pro-Biafra supporters went into jubilation after they heard that Kanu was admitted to bail.
They sang, danced and engaged in a mini-procession, while chanting different Biafra war songs.
Most of them waved the Biafran flag, others brandished various insignia from the defunct Republic, while a small group of men and women dressed in Jewish apparels kept muttering what seemed to be a prayer in the way believers in Judaism do.
Fayose, Fani-Kayode defy DSS to enter courtroom
Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, was among dignitaries that stormed the court to show solidarity with the IPOB leader.
Fayose, who wore an Igbo chieftaincy red cap, was temporarily denied entry into the court room, a similar measure that was also meted out to former Minister of Aviation, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode.
The action of the security operatives, who were from the Department of State Services, DSS, sparked off a mild drama, as it took the intervention of lawyers to ensure that the duo entered the courtroom.
While Fayose stayed till the end of the proceeding, Fani-Kayode could not stay because his own trial was also coming up before Justice John Tsoho of the same high court.
Fayose was in the court even before Kanu was brought in by officials of Kuje Prison.
Immediately Kanu entered the courtroom, his lawyers drew his attention to Fayose’s presence.
The IPOB leader took quick strides towards Fayose, who met him midway. Both men hugged themselves.
Subsequently, Fayose left his seat and went over to where Kanu and his co-defendants sat; he sat beside Kanu and discussed with him for a while before the trial Judge entered.
After the ruling, Fayose told newsmen that he came to court to show solidarity to Kanu, saying: “I love his spirit.”
Also in court for the ruling was another erstwhile Minister of Aviation, Chief Osita Chidoka.
Justice Nyako, however, fixed July 11 and 12 to commence trial, just as she stressed that she would not entertain any form of interlocutory application from any of the defendants.
Kanu, who was hitherto the Director of Radio Biafra and Television, has spent a year and seven months in detention. He was arrested by security operatives upon his arrival to Nigeria from the United Kingdom.
This was not the first time a court okayed his release on bail.
Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the same high court had previously ordered the Federal Government to release the IPOB leader on bail.
Justice Ademola was later arrested by DSS operatives and prosecuted on18-count charge that was subsequently quashed by an Abuja High Court at Maitama.
Justice Nyako had in a ruling on March 1, struck out six of 11-count charge the Federal Government initially entered against Kanu and the others on the premise that they were not supported by the proof of evidence adduced before the court.
The Judge held that none of the six charges established a prima-facie criminal case against any of the defendants.
She said the fact that IPOB was not an organisation registered in Nigeria did not make it an illegal society.
Kanu’s family rejects bail conditions, says no going back on Biafra agitation
Immediately after the court ruling, the family of the IPOB leader rejected the bail conditions with the father, His Royal Highness, Eze Israel Kanu, and his wife, Ugoeze Sally Kanu, saying Kanu should be released unconditionally.
Both parents and their daughter, Chinwe, faulted Justice Binta Nyako on the bail conditions.
Speaking to reporters at Isiama Afaraukwu, Umuahia North Council, Eze Israel Kanu said while the family was happy over the bail granted their son, they rejected the bail conditions.
According to the monarch, the bail conditions were like giving something with one hand and taking it with the other hand, saying that the IPOB leader must be set free without any condition attached.
“The Federal Government should release my son unconditionally. The world should judge if the bail conditions are proper”, the monarch said.
He explained that he was happy when he received the news that his son had been granted bail by the court but was taken aback by the conditions attached to the bail.
Eze Kanu was not happy with Justice Nyako for asking the IPOB leader to produce a Jewish leader as surety and wondered why a court of competent jurisdiction would demand for a citizen of another country to come and stand as surety in Nigeria.
Flanked by his wife, Ugoeze Sally and daughter Chinwe, the monarch also faulted other bail conditions given to his son, including that a Senator from the South East should provide a whopping N100 million bail bond.
Corroborating her husband’s position, Kanu’s mother noted that if her son eventually returns home, she would advise him not to abandon the agitation for the restoration of Biafra, insisting that without Kanu’s activities, the world would not have known about the problem of Biafrans in Nigeria.
“No retreat, no surrender; God will deliver Biafra as He delivered Israel,” she said.
Also yesterday, the IPOB picked holes in the bail conditions.
IPOB, in a statement by its Media and Publicity Secretary, Mr. Emma Powerful said that its leader did not accept the bail conditions given to him, just as he dismissed the bail as unacceptable unless the other detained members of IPOB were also granted bail and with feasible bail conditions.
IPOB said: “It is unacceptable to the entire members of IPOB worldwide that the presiding judge, Hon. Justice Binta Nyako attached conditions towards the release of our leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. The conditions are not feasible and possible.
“The bail conditions are probably designed by politicians, who are afraid of our leader’s popularity. These are inhuman, non-feasible, childish and stringent for any reasonable person or group to accept, and we say no to that. While we say no to the bail conditions, IPOB worldwide commends those who put pressure on Nigerian Government and her judiciary to grant bail to our leader.
“We salute people like the Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose and well meaning sons and daughters of Biafra Land, who were in court to show solidarity with IPOB and its incarcerated leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. We, however, say a big shame to South East Governors and politicians who because of their ignorance of what IPOB stands for, have refused to identify with us.
“They and the government holding him are oppressors and are always afraid of our leader’s popularity. Their plan is to cage him through the childish, funny and unacceptable bail conditions they gave him in court. We are not excited, we demand the release of our members detained with him.”
Jubiliation in Umuahia, Port-Harcourt
In Imo State, yesterday, the ever busy MCC/Uratta Road and other communities in Imo State, were taken over by scores of IPOB loyalists, who were celebrating Nnamdi Kanu’s bail.
The spontaneous jubilation, drew a large crowd of ardent supporters of the Biafran sovereignty in Imo.
They carried various Biafran insignia, including flags, caps, shirts and banners, as they sang victory songs and danced happily on the streets.
Some other jubilant loyalists in Owerri, were seen distributing free drinks in some of the joints Vanguard visited before going to press.
One of the demonstrators, Chike, who spoke to Vanguard as they celebrated, said: “We are celebrating the release of one of our own, who has been incarcerated for several months. I am only praying that the bail granted him this time, won’t be treated like the previous ones, especially as the present Federal Government hates the rule of law with passion.”
Speaking also, a woman who simply identified herself as Mrs. Sylvia said they were not particularly concerned with the bail conditions, even as she described them as “stringent and draconian.”
“I am a mother. I know how it feels to have a loved one locked up endlessly by traducers. I do not know why the High Court Judge does not want Nnamdi Kanu to be seen among more than 10 persons or talk to the press about his experience in captivity”, Mrs. Sylvia said.
In Port-Harcourt, hundreds of pro Biafrans shutdown the Obigbo end of Port Harcourt-Aba Road as they celebrated news of the bail granted Nnamdi Kanu.
Passengers heading to Aba in Abia State on that road were stranded as most of them had to come down from their vehicles, trekking some distance to board vehicles that had already passed the huge traffic snarl created by the jubilant pro Biafrans.
It was also a tough time for police men from the Obigbo Police station drafted to control the traffic.
Meantime, the pro Biafrans danced,singing solidarity songs. Some who spoke to Vanguard expressed hope that the concept of a Biafra nation would come to be.
Bail conditions too stringent —Ikedife, Amechi
Also reacting to the bail conditions, former President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr. Dozie Ikedife and First Republic Minister of Aviation, Chief Mbazulike Amechi, described the conditions as too stringent and wondered how the court expected Kanu to meet those conditions.
Ikedife said: “It is good that they have granted him bail. This is what I have been demanding for a long time. The next thing we expect them to do is to dispose of the charges brought against him one way or the other. They detained him for a long time and the question is, are they going to compensate him for long incarceration? He ought to have been released a long time ago, but those who kept him in detention did so for reasons only they can explain. Besides, the bail conditions are stringent. Is Kanu going to get all these people to surety him? Where will he find the three people listed as those to surety him?’’
Also speaking to Vanguard, Chief Amechi said: “Granting bail to Nnamdi Kanu was long overdue. He is a prisoner of conscience and they incarcerated him this long because he is an Igbo man. The conditions given him to meet are very unkind. He should have been granted bail unconditionally. And how do they expect him to get people with the kind of money mentioned to surety him?”
Ohanaeze, Eastern Consultative Assembly reject bail conditions
Similarly, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Eastern Consultative Assembly, ECA, rejected the bail conditions, which they said are not implementable.
President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and former Minister of Information, Chief Nnia Nwodo and the Deputy Leader of the ECA, Chief Marie Okwo spoke during separate telephone interviews with Vanguard in Enugu.
Nwodo said the conditions attached to the bail were superfluous and cannot be implemented, pointing out that it was unconstitutional to ask Kanu not to make speeches, grant interviews or stay in a crowd exceeding 10 persons as conditions for his bail.
He said: “We welcome the bail given to him but we reject the conditions attached to his bail. The court cannot in the process of granting him bail deny him his basic rights of speech and association.
The conditions are superfluous. No court can ask anybody not to express his views or opinions or not to associate with people. Freedom of speech and association are guaranteed in the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria and you cannot ask a man not to exercise such rights especially when they do not have criminal undertones. The whole thing is superfluous.”
We are happy but— MASSOB
The Movement for Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, in its reaction, said its members are joyful but that other pro-Biafra detainees in various places in Nigeria should also be released.
Leader of MASSOB, Uchenna Madu said: “Thousands of MASSOB members are in jubilant celebration over the bail granted to Mazi Nnamdi Kanu of IPOB. We always identify with true representatives of Biafra and genuine struggle for the liberation of the people of Biafra. The bail granted to our brother today is a sign of light triumphing over darkness. It is a motivational factor that Biafra will always triumph.’’
Speaking, MASSOB National Director of Information, Comrade Edeson Samuel, said: “killing cannot stop us from pursuing the independent state of Biafra. MASSOB is rejoicing with IPOB and all Biafrans over the bail granted Nnamdi Kanu by the Federal High court Abuja. It is a very good development.
“We commend the judge for the bold step she took in delivering the judgement. An Igbo adage says that truth must definitely prevail. Nigeria cannot hide the truth forever..”
Okorie, Ukoh, IPAC react
National Chairman of the United Progressive Party, UPP, Chief Chekwas Okorie, while reacting to Kanu’s bail said it was a welcome development.
‘’The UPP received with joy the news that the Federal High Court at Abuja has admitted to bail Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. We welcome this development, although we would have preferred an unconditional bail, which is what he has always deserved. The courts have always granted bail to Nnamdi Kanu but the Nigerian Government, the accuser and plaintiff always denied him freedom to the utter embarrassment of the civilised world.
‘’We urge the government to save Nigerians further anxiety by releasing him from detention without further delay. ‘We further urge the government to take steps to drop all charges against Nnamdi Kanu and other prisoners of conscience. This will reduce avoidable tension in the polity. This is the path of wisdom. Nigeria will be better for it,’’ he said
Chairman of South East caucus of Interparty Advisory Council, IPAC, Prince Emeka Okafor, while welcoming the bail, rejected the conditions attached to it, saying it amounts to denying Kanu his fundamental rights.
He frowned at the bail conditions given by the Judge, saying that the Judge has deliberately denied him some of his fundamental human rights.
SERG hails judiciary, urges FG to obey order
The South East Revival Group, SERG, described the bail granted Nnamdi Kanu as yet another victory for the judiciary, saying “it proves that some Judges still have conscience and a sense of justice.”
The group in a statement signed by its Convener and national coordinator, Chief Willy Ezugwu urged the Federal Government to obey its own court order this time around.
“Despite that his bail conditions were too stringent, we commend the judiciary for proving its independence by not standing justice on the head by refusing Nnamdi Kanu bail. We hope that this time around, the Federal Government would obey the order of the court and allow the judicial process to be completed.’’