President Muhammadu Buhari Friday reiterated that the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, must defend himself in court.
The president said this while responding to appeals for the release of the detained IPOB leader by South East traditional, religious and political leaders during a town hall meeting with Buhari in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State.
Like what they deed when they visited the president at the Villa some months back, the South East leaders pleaded with Buhari to release Nnamdi Kanu by deploying political solution in resolving his trial bothering on treasonable felony and terrorism, offences he allegedly committed in the course of his separatist campaigns.
The meeting with the South East leasers was the last official engagement of the president, who was on a two-day working visit to Ebonyi.
The president, in a statement issued by his spokesman, Femi Adesina, expressed concern over the deteriorating security situation in the region, reiterating his directive to security agencies to ‘‘flush out’’ those perpetrating violence in the land.
Speaking at the meeting in Abakaliki, President Buhari promised that the federal government would deploy its strength to protect innocent and hardworking Nigerians from terrorists and those causing a breakdown of law and order in the South East region.
While responding to appeals by traditional, religious and political leaders in the region for the release of Kanu, the president said, ‘‘I have listened carefully to the various appeals from the elders to the traditional leaders regarding a wide range of options, and as I said previously that this matter remained in the full purview of the courts, where it will be properly adjudicated.
‘‘My worry is for our hardworking and innocent civilians, for whom life is already tough and would like to earn a decent and honest living. There are many that fit this profile, and the government owes them that obligation to protect lives and property.
‘‘I will once again repeat that no one has the right to carry an AK-47, and anyone seen in any part of the country doing so and is not a law enforcement officer is a threat to our peaceful coexistence and should be treated as such,’’ Buhari said.
Buhari agreed to a political solution – Umahi
However, the Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi, who appreciated the president for his visit, said he had earlier met Buhari, who had agreed to a political solution in resolving the issue of Nnamdi Kanu.
The governor said President Buhari would be remembered as a man who did not use the plight of the people of the South East to play politics but came to their rescue severally.
He urged southern leaders to work towards finding a political solution in resolving some challenging issues, warning that the region is at ‘‘ a crossroads.’’
Other people who spoke at the event, including the chairman, South East Traditional Rulers, Eze Charles Mkpumah and the chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria in the South East, pleaded for release of Kanu.
Buhari right on judicial process – Don
Reacting, Dr Aminu Hayatu, a lecturer in the Department of Political Science, Bayero University, Kano (BUK), said President Buhari was right to insist that the court process would be allowed to conclude on Kanu’s matter.
Hayatu, in a chat with our correspondent, said the IPOB issue has a lot of political complexities but no one can accuse the president of paying lip service to wanting a solution to the matter.
“The court is the last resort and we can only go against the position of the president if only the court had at any point discharged and acquitted him (Kanu) but the government did not obey the court order,” he said.
The political scientist and public affairs analyst said the southern leaders ought to have done more than just asking for pardon for Kanu to salvage the situation the region has been plunged into.
“They (South East leaders) should improve on the way they engage with the government. They were doing well at some point but with the political season coming on board, their language changed and we know that whatever grievance they (South East) have, they must find peaceful means to resolve this with the federal polity but attacking and killing innocent citizens is definitely not the way to go,” he said.
On whether the fortunes of APC would be affected in the coming election with the president insisting on the judicial process to determine Kanu’s fate, Dr Hayatu said it will not do any harm or do any good to the fortunes of the ruling party because “this has always been the president’s position.”
He said if the president had even changed his position because of the approaching election, he (president) could lose the trust he enjoys in other regions and even in the South East because people will read meanings into it.
He added that what the APC ought to know is that whatever the president says or do, the South East will still vote in a block against the party at the federal level except party leaders can do some political manoeuvrings by reaching out and engaging the South East leaders more so as to at least meet at a common ground going into the election.
Buhari’s position shows judiciary moving towards independence – Retired CP
In an interview with one of our correspondents, a former Commissioner of Police in the Federal Capital Territory, Lawrence Alobi, noted that Buhari’s position tilted towards having independent judiciary.
Alobi maintained that the president’s response to the Igbo leaders depicted he believes in the rule of law, adding that there will be no security, political or economic implications in the long run.
“Let the judicial process or law take its course. As a leader, you have to set a standard. There should be a leadership by example. We have to make our judiciary independent because that is very important in the democratic process,” he said.
UK endorses IPOB as terror group
Daily Trust Saturday reports that Buhari’s comment on the detained IPOB leader came at a time the government of the United Kingdom has accepted Nigeria’s classification of IPOB as a terrorist organisation.
Following widespread killings and acts of lawlessness, the Nigerian government designated IPOB a terrorist group in 2017.
But some foreign countries, including the UK did not acknowledge the declaration at the time.
However, four days after the outlawed group beheaded an army couple, who were on their way to Imo State for their traditional wedding, the UK acknowledged the group as a terrorist organisation, directing that it should be excluded from its asylum programme.
“The IPOB is proscribed as a terrorist group by the Nigerian government, and members of the group and its paramilitary wing – the Eastern Security Network (created in December 2020) – have reportedly committed human rights violations in Nigeria,” the UK government said.
Meanwhile, the youth wing of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Youth Council (OYC) has flayed the UK government for tagging the IPOB a terrorist organisation.
The president of the OYC, Igboayaka O. Igboayaka, who spoke to our correspondent yesterday, said the IPOB was no more than a self-determination group seeking for the actualisation of the sovereign state of Biafra.
Muideen Olaniyi, Idowu Isamotu (Abuja), Clement A. Oloyede (Kano) & Jude Aguguo Owuamanam (Owerri)