President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR
President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,
Dear Mr President,
Passionate Appeal for the Urgent Release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu
1. I bring you felicitations from Anambra State, the Light of the Nation. Let me first express, on behalf of my people, our profound gratitude to your government for some remarkable strides that will impact on the development of Anambra State and the South East, especially the near completion of the rd Niger Bridge, the ongoing rehabilitation of the Enugu-Onitsha road by the MTN, near completion of the Federal Secretariat complex, Awka, as well as the appointment of our sons and daughters in some key government institutions.
2. As you gradually wind down your eight years of duty tour, I have elected to write you on the above subject matter with a deep sense of duty, responsibility, and patriotism. I am a neo-Zikist, Pan-Nigerian, Pan-Africanist, and who is a stickler for the rule of law and protection of fundamental human rights of all Nigerians and persons. It is my hope and prayer that granting my appeal will be one of your historic acts of statesmanship in the last days of your stewardship as President and which will greatly advance the peace, unity, and progress of Nigeria.
Recall, Mr. President, that Mazi Nnamdi Kanu was brought back to Nigeria in June 2021 to continue his trial on the charges brought against him. Like most people, I am convinced that effective and timely dispensation of justice will restore law and order in our dear country. I believe that it is in furtherance of the foregoing objective that the trial of Maxi Nnamdi Kanu was initiated.
However, up to this moment and going on to nearly two years, the trial has stalled and lingered in the courts, with no end in sight. Without meaning to delve into the merits of his case, it is pertinent to point out that Mazi Kanu has gotten TWO rulings in the court ordering his release from detention. It is also my understanding that the Federal Government has secured a stay of execution of ONE of these rulings and is also appealing the same. One of the court rulings for his release remains unchallenged and or subsisting. In July 2022, the United Nations Human Rights Council had issued an opinion calling on the Federal Government to release him unconditionally.
In the meantime, the continued detention of Mazi Kanu has created what, for want of a better description, can be seen as systemic insecurity in the South Fast. Some supporters of Mazi Kanu have imposed the obnoxious and harmful "Sit-at-Home" order every Monday in the South East, while all manner of criminal gangs (kidnappers, bandits, armed robbers, etc) now masquerade as "freedom fighters" or those fighting for the release of Mazi Kanu. The human toll in terms of lost lives and socio-economic hardship, as well as challenges to our security personnel are matters for another day. Since my assumption of office as Governor of Anambra, we have been fighting these criminals head-on, in partnership with the security agencies. While we have achieved significant successes in Anambra, some businesses remain closed and movement remains limited on Mondays out of fear and anxiety. It is our belief that a lot still needs to be done and paradoxically, Mazi Kanu might end up as a part of the lasting solution.
Furthermore, it is reported that Mazi Kanu is gravely ill with three life-threatening conditions, namely a serious heart condition, hypertension and low potassium levels. All of these conditions demand specialist medical care and interventions that are reportedly not available at the facility where Mazi Kanu is being detained.
4. The Case for Mazi Kanu's Release
a) The continued detention of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu has been declared to be arbitrary and in contravention of international law and conventions as well as a violation of the Constitution of Nigeria.
In a long and strongly worded evaluation of the issues surrounding the arrest, detention and trial of Mazi Kanu, the United Nations Human Rights Council (Working Group on Arbitrary Detention) issued a damning verdict on 20th July, 2022, and called on the Federal Government of Nigeria to release Mazi Kanu immediately. Some excerpts from the verdict include:
"The Working Group finds that Mr. Kanu's continued deprivation of liberty violates his rights under articles 3 and 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 9 of the Covenant, and principles 2,4 and 10 of the Body of Principles and constitutes arbitrary detention under category I, It... and a breach of article 14(c) of the Covenant..;
Working Group finds that the fair trial rights and procedural guarantees of Mr. Kanu under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Covenant and other relevant human rights standards, were not observed and that such violations are of such gravity as to render Mr. Kanu's detention arbitrary under category ...... Working Group considers that his detention violates articles 2 and 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 2(1) and 26 of the Covenant, and is arbitrary under category V...'
The Working Group notes that Mazi Kanu has been denied medical treatment and medication for his heart condition.... The Group recalls that prolonged solitary confinement in excess of 15 consecutive days is prohibited under rules 43 (1)(b) and 44 of the Mandela Rules... Further notes that denial of medical assistance constitutes a violation of the Nelson Mandela Rules, rules 24, 25, 27 and 30 in particular....
In conclusion, the Working Group observes in the case of Kenya and Nigeria that: "The deprivation of liberty of Nnamdi Kanu, being in contravention of articles 2,3,6,78,9,10,11 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 2,9, 13, 14, 16, 19 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is arbitrary and falls within Categories I, 11, Ill, and V....... The Working Group considers that, taking into account all the circumstances of the case, the appropriate remedy would be for the Government of Nigeria to release Mr. Kanu immediately andfor both Governments to accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law".
Furthermore, the Federal High Court, Umuahia, in a judgment in October 2022 largely concurred with the position of the UN Human Rights Council. While demanding the Federal Government to pay N500,000,000 (Five Hundred Million Naira) as damages to Nnamdi Kanu, the Court held that: "the manner of arrest and detention of the Applicant (Nnamdi Kanu) in Kenya, his continued detention in Abuja, his subjugation to physical and mental trauma by the Respondents (Federal Government), the inhuman and degrading treatment meted out to the Applicant, amount to a brazen violation of the Applicant's fundamental right to dignity of his person and threat to life under Section 34(1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)"
My understanding is that this judgment of the Federal High Court has not been stayed or appealed and the Federal Government has not paid the damages as demanded by the Honourable Court.
b) It is my understanding that Mazi Kanu is very sick and needs urgent medical treatment by medical personnel of his own choice
c) Nigeria has just gone through very consequential elections and part of the next smart steps must include an agenda for national healing and addressing some of the lingering systemic insecurity, especially in the South Fast. We need to build a cohesive force for the rapid socio-economic transformation of the country. All hands need to be on deck. All states and regions need to collaborate and cooperate. All voices need to be heard, and any positive contribution by anyone needs to be harnessed. The beauty of democracy is that most problems can be resolved through structured discussions. I believe that this is the time to bring all critical stakeholders around the table to talk, heal, and act together. In the South East, I believe that the key stakeholders are ready to sit down with Mazi Kanu to chart a path to sustainable peace and security in the region, and that he might be able to rein-in some of the renegade criminals masquerading as his supporters or "freedom fighters".
Consequently, the release of Mazi Kanu is not just a legal or compassionate thing to do; it is a smart, patriotic act to advance the cause of security, peace and development especially in the South East of Nigeria. Mr. President, you have tried your best in the area of fighting insecurity, but I am sure that you appreciate that a lot more still needs to be done. Kinetic approaches have their power, but when combined with non-kinetic approaches, the results can become more sustainable. While we are doing a lot to productively engage the youths, and embark on mass mobilization for value re-orientation as part of the non-kinetic approaches, a key missing link so far is the wider constructive engagement/dialogue between the Federal Government, South East leaders and other critical stakeholders on a form of "coordinated political solution".
In the light of the foregoing, it is my earnest prayer that Mr. President may kindly consider the immediate and unconditional release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu as demanded by the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Federal High Court. This will be the right thing to do as a country that should extol the principles of the rule of law and in compliance with the international law and conventions that Nigeria is signatory to.
Alternatively, if there are persisting grounds that make his unconditional release untenable, Mr. President may consider granting him administrative bail on compassionate grounds and as part of the national healing process/creating a conducive atmosphere for a political solution. In this circumstance, I am prepared to take him on bail. My government is prepared to provide him with an alternative secured accommodation at Awka where he will have access to appropriate medical care, among others, and make him available when required. This will help to douse tensions in the South Fast and pave the way for constructive discussions towards progress. We commend your efforts in the North East especially in granting amnesty and rehabilitation for repentant Boko Haram operatives. The South Fast beckons, and I am confident that you can still do something historic within the remaining days of your tenure.
Mr. President, I am available for a meeting (if need be) at your earliest convenience to discuss any or all of the prayers above. God has been merciful to you over your entire life, especially during the past eight years. As you shepherd a transition process to hand-over to your successor, you might as well help to smoothen his easy take-off by resolving some of the lingering issues such as Mazi Kanu's detention. I therefore respectfully call on you, as a statesman, to discharge a historic show of mercy and release Nnamdi Kanu before you hand-over on the 29th May, 2023.
I most sincerely thank you, Mr. President, for your attention to this matter, while I look forward to hearing from you soonest. Please be assured of my highest respect and that of the people of Anambra State.
Ever united to the service of Nigeria.
Chukwuma Charles Soludo, CFR
1) WE Asiwaju Bola Abmed Tinubu President-Elect, Federal Republic of Nigeria
2) Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN Attorney-General/Minister of Justice