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The IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, was discharged by the Court of Appeal, not vindicated, according to the Nigerian government.

NewsReports that over a day after the Court of Appeal in Abuja released Nnamdi Kanu, the Nigerian government once more stated that it is not yet prepared to release him.

The government was still reviewing the court’s ruling before adopting a position on it, the Minister of Police Affairs, Mohammed Dingyadi, said in a statement to the press after a national security meeting on Friday in Abuja.

Re-echoing the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, who gave the government’s first reaction to the verdict late on Thursday, Mr. Dingyadi said Mr. Kanu, the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), was only discharged and not acquitted by the court.

Mr. Kanu, a dual citizen of Nigeria and the United Kingdom, has been detained by the State Security Service (SSS) over terrorism charges filed against him since he was arrested in Kenya and brought back to Nigeria in June last year.

Twenty-four hours after the charges against him were dismissed and his release ordered by the appellate court, Mr. Dingyadi said on Friday that the government was still reviewing the case, and would make its position known after weighing all available legal options.

“Similarly, the issue of Kanu has also been raised and Council was briefed on the state of things on the matter and it was observed that Kanu was discharged, but he was not acquitted.

“So, the government is considering the appropriate action to be taken on the matter and Nigerians will be notified of the position that will finally be taken on the matter in due course,” Mr. Dingyadi said.

Mr. Dingyadi’s comment is a repeat of the exact claims by Mr. Malami in a statement on Thursday.

The “discharged-but-not-acquitted” line is seen by lawyers as a fuzzy basis for the government’s attempt to continue to hold Mr. Kanu in custody against the Court of Appeal’s clear order for his release.

In the absence of any pending charges against the separatist leader championing the secession of the Igbo-dominated states of Nigeria as an independent Biafra nation, lawyers say there is no legal basis to continue to hold him in custody.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how a three-member panel of the Court of Appeal in Abuja, on Thursday, struck out all the remaining seven charges against Mr. Kanu.

It followed an earlier ruling of the trial judge, Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court in Abuja, in April, dismissing eight of the 15 amended counts filed against him by the federal government.

The charges were a fallout of the separatist activities of Mr. Kanu.

Mr. Kanu is championing the secession of the Igbo-dominated Southeastern states along with some states in the South-south as an independent Biafra nation.

The charges included treasonable felony first filed against him after he was arrested in 2015. It also included terrorism-related counts introduced into the case after he was rearrested outside Nigeria and brought back to face his trial in June 2021.

Mr. Kanu, displeased with the partial dismissal of the charges against him by the Federal High Court in April, had approached the Court of Appeal in Abuja to challenge the validity of the remaining seven charges.

The Court of Appeal panel led by Jummai Sankey struck out all the remaining charges against Mr. Kanu, on Thursday, ruling that the lower court “lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the suit.”

The court held that Mr. Kanu’s extradition from Kenya in June 2021 to Nigeria without following the extradition rules was a flagrant violation of Nigeria’s extradition treaty and a breach of the IPOB leader’s fundamental human rights.

It held there was no denial by the Nigerian government’s lawyer, David Kaswe, in the appeal as to the submissions of Mike Ozekhome, Mr. Kanu’s counsel, that the separatist leader was “extraordinarily renditioned from Kenya.”

The appellate court held that the failure of the federal government to adequately respond to Mr. Kanu’s arguments gave merit to the appeal.

The appeal court also said the Federal High Court failed to examine the findings of the prosecution as it would not have tried Mr. Kanu based on the prosecution’s claim that the IPOB leader was not “illegally brought into the country.”

Although the Court of Appeal ordered the release of Mr. Kanu from the custody of the State Security Service (SSS), many have expressed doubts, particularly on social media, that the federal government would obey the order.

The secret police repeatedly violated court orders granting bail to Mr. Kanu from 2015, when he was first arrested, until 2017 when Mrs. Nyako granted him a fresh bail.

Background
The Court of Appeal’s decision terminating Mr. Kanu’s trial on Thursday came months after the federal government, through Mr. Malami’s office, amended the charges against the IPOB leader.

The amendment was necessitated by the ruling of Mrs. Nyako, striking out eight of the 15 counts including terrorism and treasonable felony earlier brought against Mr. Kanu.

Mrs. Nyako, in her ruling on Mr. Kanu’s application on 8 April, threw out counts 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12,13, and 14 which she ruled were repetitive and invalid.

But she approved counts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, and 15.

The pending charges had to do with Mr. Kanu’s alleged membership of the proscribed IPOB and incitement via social media channels of members of the group to kill innocent persons in the South-east.

The prosecution also alleged that on diverse dates between March and April 2015, Mr. Kanu illegally imported into Nigeria and kept in Ubulisluzor in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State, a radio transmitter known as Tram 50L. He allegedly concealed it in a container of used household items which he declared as used household items.

The alleged offense was said to be contrary to section 47(2)(a) of Criminal Code Act CapC45 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.

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