PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has said that he will consider the request by Igbo leaders for the release of the detained leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu.
However, he observed that the demand is heavy, especially as he is reluctant to interfere with the functions of the other arms of the government.
The president made the declaration on Friday when he received a group under the aegis of Highly Respected Igbo Greats led by First Republic parliamentarian and Minister of Aviation, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He explained that an unconditional release of Kanu, currently standing trial, runs contrary to the doctrine of separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary.
President Buhari said: “You have made an extremely difficult demand on me as the leader of this country. The implication of your request is very serious. In the last six years, since I became president, nobody would say I have confronted or interfered in the work of the judiciary. God has spared you and given you a clear head at this age, with very sharp memory. A lot of people half your age are confused already. But the demand you made is heavy. I will consider it.”
A statement by the president’s Special Adviser (Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said while stressing his policy of non-interference with the judiciary, the president said when Kanu jumped bail, got arrested and brought back to the country, “I said the best thing was to subject him to the system. Let him make his case in court, instead of giving very negative impressions of the country from outside. I feel it is even a favour to give him that opportunity.”
Buhari condoled with Chief Amaechi, 93, who recently buried his wife, praying that her soul would rest in peace.
The nonagenarian had described the situation in the South East as “painful and pathetic,” lamenting that “businesses have collapsed, education is crumbling, and there is fear everywhere.”
He pleaded for a political, rather than military solution, requesting that if Kanu was released to him as the only First Republic minister still alive, “he would no longer say the things he had been saying.”
He stressed that he could control him “not because I have anything to do with them (IPOB) but I am highly respected in Igbo land today.”
Chief Amaechi said he had twice interfaced with Nnamdi Kanu in the past and the latter rescinded orders earlier given on civil disobedience.
He added: “I don’t want to leave this planet without peace returning to my country. I believe in one big, united Nigeria, a force in Africa. Mr President, I want you to be remembered as a person who saw Nigeria burning and you quenched the fire.”
Other people in the visiting delegation were former Anambra State governor, Chukwuemeka Ezeife; Bishop Sunday Onuoha of the Methodist Church, Chief Goddy Uwazurike, former President of Igbo socio-cultural group, Aka Ikenga, and Mr Tagbo Mbazulike Amaechi.
The Federal Government had hinted that it had not ruled out any solution to Kanu’s issue, including a political one, as part of efforts to resolve the crisis surrounding separatist agitations in the south-eastern and the south-western parts of the country.
The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, gave the hint in a recent chat with newsmen in Abuja.
While he insisted that criminal conducts would never go unpunished, he pointed out that the government had been using the amnesty policy to tackle some security challenges in the country and as such, the possibility of a political solution could not be ruled out in Kanu’s case.