Mr Aloy Ejimakor is an expert in international law. He is the counsel to the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, he said that self-determination was well provided in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the proscription of IPOB for agitation for self-determination was wrong and averred that it would not stand.
He, therefore, said that President Buhari and his Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, are ignorant of the provisions of the law on self-determination.
Ejimakor also demanded that the Nigerian military be forced to account for their operation in Kanu’s home and the disappearance of his client. Excerpts:
What do you make out of Nnamdi Kanu’s disappearance as his counsel? Presently, those who took him on bail are being hunted by the Federal Government; last time the trial judge asked them to produce him or go to jail?
First of all, let me correct this general misconception that he escaped bail or he disappeared in contemplation of his trial, no. As you recalled that Nnamdi Kanu was granted bail though that bail came with unreasonable and stringent conditions that he shouldn’t be seen in company of more than 10 persons. Kanu family of Afarukwu is a royal family; it is expected that in his home his relatives are more than 10 persons. So, we knew that those conditions were stringent, but the Federal Government wasn’t happy that he was granted bail. You recalled that the bail was granted to him on previous occasions, but the law enforcement agencies working for the Federal Government frustrated the perfection of the bail by bringing up new charges or amending the charges. I believe that happened twice in a bail that has been perfected and granted by Justice Binta Nyako. So, we have historical evidence showing that the Federal Government is not happy that he got bail and so what did they, the attorney general went back to the court to have his bail revoked with claim that he was breaching the conditions of his bail. That application was duly replied to and was pending before the federal high court when the military decided to take the law into its own hands. The Nigerian military has a role that is clearly defined under Sections 217 and 218 of the Nigerian Constitution. That role they have as Armed Forces do not in any way resembles the duties of the Nigerian police as enshrined under Section 215 of the constitution. The military invasion of Kanu’s residence in Afara Ukwu was clearly in breach of at least three sections of the Nigerian constitution, the duties of the Nigerian police as distinguished from the duties of the Nigerian military in the sections I mentioned in 215, 217 & 218 and, of course, breached Sections of 308 and also additionally breached chapter four of the constitution which is the fundamental human rights. So, the military invasion or operation against him was clearly illegal and unconstitutional. When you go to somebody’s house with live bullets, shooting everywhere, what do you expect?
He could have died from stray bullets. I don’t think that his disappearance have to do with his next court day for 17, 20th of October 2017, it has nothing to do with that. When on about 8 and 9th of September, 2017 when the army declared ‘Operation Python Dance 11’ one of the reasons given actually pointed to insurrection in the South-East, but there was no insurrection in the South-East. Insurrection connotes the bearing of arms to rise against the constituted authority. There was no group in the South-East that was doing that, we might have a few cases of armed robbery and kidnapping going on which the police were already handling. The army specifically pointed on insurrection and agitations for separation, which was an euphemism for IPOB and others. The international community and eminent Nigerians condemned the military invasion and it was very unpopular move and it remains unpopular and it is an infamy, that is, something that shouldn’t happen.
Where is Nnamdi Kanu now?
I might as well be asking you this question. I think the question should be properly directed to the Nigerian Army who invaded his place. The only people; brothers, sisters, friends, associates who normally would have or in better position than myself to know his whereabouts are asking where is he or could he have taken a flight to safety which is quite reasonable, something anybody could do. I am hoping that was what happened, but we don’t know really what happened, nobody can tell, but most importantly is why are people of South Easterners mostly Igbo, they don’t seem to be talking as much as they should about that military invasion. I know a lot of outrage during the invasion, but everything seems to have died down as if people have accepted that Federal Government just came to the neighborhood and do anything they wish to with your people and just get away with it just because some people who are supposed to talk are vying one office or the other in the 2019 election. We are talking about Nnamdi Kanu what about the others, the unnamed Nigerians, the Igbo killed in that invasion in cold blood. We should be talking about that, they are human beings. If we should allow this type of thing to happen then it can happen to anybody. Wole Sonyika said ‘the man dies in him who keeps silent in the face of tyranny’, he said that in the confines of the prison when Gowon put him over accusation that he supported Biafra, but he was then saying something that makes sense. That what stands as civil war is actually a war of genocide. So people shouldn’t really be afraid to speak out or retreat to the confines of their zones. They should not forget that Nnamdi Kanu had this messianic appeal and he had a lot of followership. So I don’t believe that people that followed him in the South-East and even in South-South in millions are Nigerians they should terrify, no. They shouldn’t be terrified, they should rather respect them, they should have brought them to the table and talk it out.
What have you been doing since his disappearance?
Personally, I filed a petition before the Africa Commission on Human and People’s Right. I did that petition after considerations of events after the Federal High Court in Abuja where his case is pending. Of course, it was looking like his disappearance or his fate was going to be blamed exclusively on his three sureties, himself and everybody that took the action; that they led to the cause and effect of his disappearance. So, during the proceedings that followed the military invasion of September 14, 2017 it was becoming clearer by the day that it wasn’t getting sufficient billing that it should before the Federal High court, so I took the unusual step of approaching the African Commission on Human and Peoples Right sitting in Bangu in Gambia with an application which is pending now. One of the issues or averment I made is the matter of his disappearance that the Federal Government should account and the happenings around that date of September 14, 2017.
It appears that the Federal Government is shifting the blame of disappearance of Nnamdi Kanu to his sureties. As his counsel what is your take on this development?
The suretyship is governed by several statutes that you will find in the laws of the Federation of Nigeria as published in 2004, but the most applicable one in the circumstance we are talking about, the administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015. In that act, if I recall beginning from Section 179 you now see copious provisions that govern conditions for bail, cognizant of jumping of bail, forfeiture order, among others. Now, the provisions on forfeiture or jumping of bail really didn’t capture Nnamdi Kanu or Abariebe or the Jewish Rabbi or the accountant, Uchenna, who came together to become the surety to Nnamdi Kanu. They didn’t do anything in breach of any law that governs suretyship or bail bond. Nnamdi Kanu did not do anything that breached any law that governs someone on bail, particularly administration of Criminal Justice Act. A bail bond is ordinarily a contract between the surety on one hand, the prisoner or the defendant’s and the Federal Government that is prosecuting him on the other hand. A contract requires that every party keeps to the terms of the contract. Nnamdi Kanu was free on bail on his next court date, I believe on 17th of October, there is no court order revoking his bail then, approximately a month to his court date Nigerian army, a non-party in the bail bond contract went to his house and carried out military operations on the orders of their Commander-in-Chief President Buhari. If you look at Kanu’s charge sheets, it is titled Federal Republic of Nigeria vs Nnamdi Kanu; Federal Republic of Nigeria is headed by President Buhari who is Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria and the Armed Forces of Nigeria is the coercive agency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So, gentlemen you have me in court, you are the coercive apparatus of state, you are the one prosecuting me, you are the one accusing me, you are the one that took me to your national court to get me convicted and you are the one that did not have the patience to wait for that court to get me convicted; you pre-convicted me and imposed the death penalty on me; by engaging in that military operation is tantamount to imposition of deponent, imposition and implementation.
What is your position on the proscription of IPOB as a terrorist organization?
That proscription is not fair and is questionably legal, some people might say it’s illegal. The proscription proceeded under Section two of terrorism act of 2011 as amended in 2013; under that section an organization can be proscribed and declared a terrorist organization pursuant to ex parte application made by the attorney general before a federal high court, the emphasis here is on ex parte the organization being targeted here will not be put to notice, that right there is unconstitutional, it’s in direct conflict with Section 36 of the constitution, which is fundamentally right that no man shall be condemned without the right to fair hearing.
There appears to be relative peace after the disappearance of Nnamdi Kanu in the South-East?
First of all, South-East was not in pieces; I am looking for best opposite of peace. There was also peace not relative to anything in the South-East in 2017 except somebody was kidnapped or armed robbery, which is national issue. IPOB was not killing anybody, they have never taken any one single of Igbo or Nigerian life. So, what do you call peace? Is there not peace, you only see them in large crowd with their colourful flags, singing, that was all, they never harassed or intimidated anyone or taken any life don’t forget that.
But they are overheating the polity?
That is the definition they handed to you. They baked that propaganda and gave to you and you are the one selling it. What is your evidence of overheating, what is the meaning of overheating, the herdsmen are not overheating? They are overheating with blood and tears and dislocations. Boko Haram is overheating with blood, bombs and dislocations in full view of Nigerians and international community, what was IPOB overheating with, it’s a popular movement, is that overheating? No, please they are not overheating the polity.
Can’t you advise your clients to toe the line of restructuring as against their demand for secession?
Restructuring? The question posed is political, it is not illegal. Restructuring is gathering variety in secession or self-determination, of autonomy of division of change in present circumstance and that is why the Federal Government is resisting it or those that are benefiting most from the current structure are resisting it. So, restructuring is gathering variety in form of self-determination that keys into Section 20 of that act that I talked about. The most popular document on restructuring now is the one that emanated the Yoruba or South-West group. They did a pan-Yoruba confab; it’s the most cogent document now, I believe Ohanaeze is keying into it and it’s followed by the one by Aligbo Development Foundation (ADF), but the reason I am not going to talk about the one of ADF which I find to be far better than the one produced by the South-West is that once that one makes front page news now they will come after the members of ADF because when an Igbo man talks about restructuring he may be misunderstood in terms than when Yoruba talks about it. I don’t know what it is about South-East that when they demand the same things that other Nigerians have been demanding; restructuring, secessionist and self-determination have been there; at times it was supported with arms, but there is no such degree of Operation Python Dance with significant of force that was used in Igboland last year in those regions. So restructuring, self-determination, complete autonomy, independence, division of Nigeria; people have been talking about these since anyone of us was born. The first demand for secession came from the North in their local languages called ‘Araba’ Zike and Awolowo refused. They were reluctant partakers of this federation. The second was at the Dondan Baracks by Murtala Mohammed.