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Will the Judiciary ruin itself over Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho?

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In this report, our correspondent writes on the preset attempts by secessionists and their sympathisers to infiltrate the country’s judiciary, using some state High Courts and judges to work against the interest of the country by granting orders likely to throw the country into turmoil.

When an Oyo State High Court presided by Justice Ladiran Akintola ordered the Department of State Services (DSS) to pay a whopping N20billion to self-acclaimed Yoruba nation activist, Sunday Adeyemo (Igboho), who is currently in Benin Republic prison, not few Nigerians raised eyebrows over such a judgement describing it as outlandish and laced with bias.

Justice Akintola, who was very swift to dismiss any application challenging its jurisdiction for hearing the suit, described DSS’ action as “arbitrary aggression and prejudices” against Igboho, just as he said the N20 billion will serve as exemplary and aggravated damages.

Igboho was arrested in Benin republic while trying to escape to Germany after he was declared wanted by the DSS who had earlier raided his Soka, Ibadan residence following intelligence reports that he stockpiled arms.

His lawyer, Yomi Aliu, SAN, headed to the court to challenge the raid despite Igboho languishing in a Benin Republic prison awaiting the verdict of the Beninoise court. Some of Igboho’s aides who were arrested during the raid have been released except for two who were charged for terrorism.

Interestingly, many Nigerians expressed mixed feelings about the Oyo High Court ruling, just as others handpicked obvious holes in the judgement especially on the basis that the raid was a subject of national security.

Of course, the Federal Government said it will appeal the judgment. According to the AGF, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), he said that “efforts are already being made to commence the process of appealing the judgment”.

Speaking with our Correspondent, an Ibadan-based legal practitioner, Barrister Taiwo Ajibola, expressed shock at the ruling, just as he questioned the jurisdiction of the court for hearing of the suit in the first place.

“With respect to the ruling of My Lord, I think the basis of the claim for aggravated damages for breaching his fundamental rights does not really add up and was somewhat spurious. I think there are merits in the appeal of the DSS and that is beside the rudimentary issue of the jurisdiction of the court.”

Also speaking in a similar tone, Lagos based public affairs analyst, Daniel Omotunde, said there are limits within the freedom of human rights, adding that no freedom is absolute, “I hope the judge took all these into considerations before we breed another set of secessionists who may want to hide under the cover of such ruling. The peace in the country is fragile and the judiciary should also be seen to be acting responsibly.”

When asked about possible compromise at that level, he said, “Nothing is impossible, even some of the judges are sympathetic and in support of what the secessionists are doing. The compromise may not necessarily be financial inducement but sympathy and not facing the reality that these guys can break this nation, may also be responsible for such ruling. Because, what is the value to warrant such payment of N20billion?. At least, we were aware of how much property Igboho himself destroyed because he claimed to be after Fulani killers.

“I think the judiciary must also come out clean and support the government in ensuring that those after the soul of Nigeria are kept at bay. If they (judiciary) are being blackmailed to compromise, let them speak out for Nigerians to hear. This ruling may give a fillip to other people,” he said.

Buoyed by developments in the Oyo court that gave Igboho favourable judgement, the leader of the proscribed Igbo nationalist organisation, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, also decided to toe the same line, this time- a High Court in Abia State.

Kanu, the separatist leader whose followers have wrecked untold damages in the south-east especially, was arrested on June 27 by the Kenyan Government, while in Kenya, at the behest of the Nigerian Government and repatriated to Nigeria to face his outstanding criminal charges of terrorism, treasonable felony, unlawful possession of firearms, and management of an unlawful society, among others.

Upon his repatriation to Nigeria, Kanu was re-arraigned in continuation of his trial before Justice Binta Murtala-Nyako of the Federal High Court, Abuja. His next adjourned date is October 21.

While the October date for the resumption of the suit is just knocking at the door, Kanu, through his lawyer, Aloy Ejimakor, quickly find it convenient at the Abia court to file a suit marked HIH/FR14/2021 against the federal government of Nigeria (1st respondent), attorney-general of the federation (2nd), chief of army staff (3rd), inspector-general of police (5th), director-general, Department of State Services (7th) and three others for allegedly violating his fundamental human rights, like his co-secessionist, Igboho.

He asked the court to compel the respondents to pay him N5 billion in damages as monetary compensation for the “physical, mental, emotional, psychological and other damages” he suffered.

With most of the respondents absent, the presiding judge, C. J. Okereke, adjourned the matter till October 7. That makes it 14 days’ difference to the subsisting suit in FHC Abuja.

Curiously, 24-hours to the sitting of Abia High Court, Ejimakor, Special Counsel for the detained IPOB leader, was cocksure that his client would emerge victorious against the Federal Government at the High Court of Abia State, citing the that Kanu’s case was similar to that of Adeyemo.

Ejimakor said, “I have confidence that the Abia Court will uphold the law. The Oyo State High Court judgment in Igboho’s case (which is similar to Kanu) is instructive and underscores the wide powers of State High Courts when it comes to enforcement of fundamental rights.”

Clearly, Ejimakor’s statement should be tested because it appears too loaded for ordinary eyes.

Identifying a dangerous pattern, a university lecturer, Dr. Kenneth Ugah, highlighted the possibility of an evil plot to either blackmail or harass judges with violence for them to grant favorable judgements and grant the separatists leaders their plea. He said, “It is a delicate position-judges may be intimidated or threatened with violence; attracted with economic gains or they (judges) may also be simply sympathetic to the secession cause too.

“I read somewhere that supporters of both ends especially politicians and Diaspora groups, mobilized funds to patronise any influential person in Nigeria who are sympathetic to their cause.

“All we can do is to appeal the country’s CJN and the National Judicial Council (NJC) to rise to the occasion and sanction erring judges like the recent warning on multiple injunctions. We don’t have any other country and the judiciary must support the efforts of other arms of government to end the rage of these agitators either on the streets or in the courtroom,” he said.

Clearly, the era of unmerited judicial favours, glaring judicial bias and solidarity for secessionists and politicians must be quickly halted. On the strength of this, it is expedient that the Chief Judge of Abia State should re-assign the suit filed by IPOB lawyers at the Abia High Court or the judge should recuse himself from the suit because the judiciary is the last hope of the common man who has been severally denied his freedom through IPOB’s violence-stricken sit-at-home enforcement style.

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