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Malami’s media trial of Igboho and Kanu

By Editorial Board
08 November 2021   |   4:10 am
Two citizens of the Federal Republic, Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu are being accused by the Federal Government of terrorist activities with support from foreign sources.
Abubakar Malami

Nigeria’s attorney-general and minister for justice Abubakar Malami PHOTO: TWITTER/Abubakar Malami

Two citizens of the Federal Republic, Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu are being accused by the Federal Government of terrorist activities with support from foreign sources. Igboho, an agitator for self-determination for his Yoruba ethnic group, is alleged to receive more than N127 million toward his activities from, according to Attorney General and Minster of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN), ‘‘a federal lawmaker in the National Assembly’’ and of financial dealings with a person linked and convicted in Saudi Arabia of funding terrorism.

Kanu and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the group he leads, are accused of offences against the state and people of Nigeria. The findings of the 24-person Presidential Ad-hoc Committee that investigated the activities of the IPOB has, according to Malami, cited a litany of offences against the agitator for self-determination for his Igbo people. Malami  said  recently that Nnamdi Kanu ‘ has  accomplices in Nigeria and abroad….state and non-state actors  who are aiding and facilitating his campaign…; that  he used ‘online Radio Biafra to instigate violence and incite members of IPOB to commit violent attacks against civil and democratic  institutions…’;  that he ‘seized’ the EndSARS protest to further his goal, that on Kanu’s ‘instigative directives’ ‘members of IPOB/ESN carried out massive attacks on democratic institutions…with a view to hampering  democratic process in Nigeria.’ Not done, the Committee ascribed the killing of 175 security personnel, traditional rulers and most recently Dr. Chike Akunyuli and others to Kanu and his group.  

The point must be quickly made that the compilers of these offences are all employees in the ministries and agencies of the Federal Government that accuses Kanu and will prosecute, judge and punish him. There is no neutral and independent opinion within the ad-hoc committee. None!

Having said this, since the case is in court, it would be reasonable to expect that Mr. Malami should forward these findings to the prosecutor to build his case against such enfant terrible and his group. The federal chief law officer and senior advocate of Nigeria chose to go to the court of public opinion, or put differently, resort to media trial, seemingly in order to bias the mind of the public against the accused. But it is the court, not the public that, on the facts before it, will determine the case.  

The question legitimately arises then if, in a matter that is sub judice, this senior lawyer is not acting in contempt of the judicial process.  This is important a national matter that even has international dimension, as alleged by the attorney general.

The federal attorney general claimed IPOB enjoys the backing of state and non-state entities; he mentioned no names, he provided no evidence.  And so, these lacking, for so serious an allegation of foreign interference that threatens the stability, peace and security  of  a sovereign Nigeria,  all  he could say was  to tepidly ‘call on  these countries to desist  from  aiding subversive acts  by Kanu and IPOB against the state  of Nigeria and its people.’ That does not speak for a confident government of a serious country at all.

Mr. Malami reportedly justified going public with his list of accusations because ‘Nigerians, in public interest have to be carried along as (the matter) relates to the protection of their rights and properties’ One should think that if this public officer is so public- interest minded, those alleged state and non-state backers of Kanu and IPOB should be disclosed to the public too. The public’s right to know in a transparent government requires, nay demands, that the truth and the whole truth be revealed.  Full disclosure is required in a court of law, as Malami should know.

For, partial truth is worthless and denies the full information from which sound judgement can be derived.  In any case, his allegations remain one side of the matter. In a duly constituted court of justice, the other party is entitled to be heard. 

By engaging in media trial of accused persons kept in incarceration therefore, Malami has not helped the cause of fair hearing. He should know better that in this case of national focus, the Nigerian and international publics are most interested in a fair and open trial.  Chief Chekwas Okorie rightly cautioned that since the allegation raised in the report of the ad-hoc committee are so ‘weighty’, ‘let the court do its work and not conduct trial by public statements.’

Besides that Malami and the Federal Government he represents should desist from  trial by public opinion,  it must be said too that raising these yet to be substantiated allegations  do nothing to lower tension in the land. Indeed they serve to raise it. Truth be told, too many sections of Nigeria are thoroughly unhappy, for different reasons, with the state of their country under the present government.  Agitation for self-determination which, by the way, is universally recognised as a right, is not necessarily a pleasant choice; it is foisted upon them by the nigh intolerable situation that prevails in the land. Igboho and Kanu merely symbolise this feeling of group exclusion and are courageous enough to do something about it.

All said the Igboho, Kanu and similar national issues are political in nature. Rather than resort to tortuously legalistic and cudgel-wielding approach that can only make an already bad matter worse, government is advised to see and to address politically, these troubles in the land. It is the wise course to take.