The Supreme Court of Nigeria has announced that it will deliver its judgment on the appeal seeking the release of Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), from detention.
The decision was made on Thursday, with December 15, 2023, marked as the date for the final verdict.
A five-member panel, led by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, approved the matter for judgment after hearing the final arguments from both the Federal Government (FG) and the legal team representing Nnamdi Kanu.
Representing the Federal Government was a team of lawyers led by Mr. T. A. Gazzali, SAN, the Acting Director of Civil Appeals at the Federal Ministry of Justice.
On the other side, Kanu’s legal team was headed by Mr. Kanu Agabi, SAN, a former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice. Notably, it was Prof. Mike Ozehkome, SAN, who presented the appeal to the apex court panel.
In his submission, Ozehkome, SAN, urged the court not only to order the immediate release of his client from detention but also to impose a “very heavy and punitive cost” on the Federal Government.
He stated, “We urge my lords to uphold our Cross-Appeal in order to do substantial justice to this matter and to the Respondent who has been in detention since June 29, 2021, even after the lower court ordered his release and that he should never be prosecuted again on the same counts. They are still holding him unconstitutionally. We pray my lords to deliver justice and use this case, just like in Ojukwu Vs State, to demonstrate that no man or government should be above the law.”
On the contrary, FG’s lawyer, Gazzali, SAN, called on the apex court to uphold the amended brief of argument filed on May 3, 2023. He requested that the court allow FG’s appeal, set aside the Court of Appeal’s judgment that ordered Kanu’s release, and order the resumption of his trial before the Federal High Court in Abuja on terrorism-related charges. Gazzali, SAN, also urged the apex court to dismiss Kanu’s Cross-Appeal.
The Court of Appeal in Abuja had previously ordered Kanu’s release on October 13, 2022, in a unanimous decision by a three-member panel. The appellate court also dismissed a 15-count terrorism charge brought by the FG against the detained IPOB leader before the Federal High Court in Abuja.
The Court of Appeal held that the Nigerian government had violated established laws when it forcibly repatriated Kanu from Kenya for the continuation of his trial. This arbitrary exercise of power by the government, according to the appellate court, divested the trial court of its jurisdiction to proceed with Kanu’s case.
However, dissatisfied with the judgment, the Federal Government took the matter before the Supreme Court and successfully secured a suspension of the execution of the Court of Appeal’s judgment pending the determination of its appeal.
With the stage set for the Supreme Court’s judgment on December 15, 2023, the nation awaits a decision that will have far-reaching implications for the legal and political landscape of Nigeria.