Nnamdi Kanu’s American lawyer, Bruce Fein, is currently considering dragging Nigeria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) over alleged gross violation of his client’s rights.
Kanu is the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a separatist mass movement seeking a sovereign state of Biafra out of Nigeria. He is standing trial in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, for alleged terrorism.
Fein who was in court on Wednesday to monitor the trial of the IPOB leader was denied access into the courtroom.
The plan to drag Nigeria before ICC is coming as the Buhari administration says it is open to all kinds of solutions, including a political solution in order to resolve the crisis surrounding separatist agitations in the southeast and southwest parts of the country.
Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Justice Minister, Abubakar Malami, gave the indication in a chat with some journalists in Abuja, noting that criminal conduct will never go unpunished, however, remarked that the government has been using the amnesty policy to tackle some security challenges in the country and as such, the possibility of a political solution cannot be ruled out.
He spoke on other issues including the current controversy between the Buhari administration and the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), the international arbitration involving Nigeria and Process and Industrial Development (P& ID) company on one hand and Sunflower firm over the Mambila power projects on the other.
On if Abuja is disposed to a political solution to the cases of Kanu and Igboho, as being canvassed by some leaders and other stakeholders in the country, Malami noted that although such consideration is not yet on the table, but would not mind taking a shot at it once there is an approach on how to go about it.
“As far as the security situation is concerned and as far as governance and this administration is concerned, you cannot rule out all possibilities”, he said, adding that, “But then there has to be an approach for government to consider.”
He, however, explained that he cannot be preemptive at this stage by stating clearly and outrightly that reconciliation is being considered without an approach being made.
According to him, it is the approach if at all any was made that the government “will look into for the purpose of looking at its weight, the authenticity of it, the good faith associated with it and then bring about the considerable factors relating to the negotiations or otherwise.
“So it is not a conclusion that one can outrightly make without juxtaposing associated facts relating to the reconciliation. There has to be an approach and then a counter consideration.”
Malami added that no approach in that respect is on the table for consideration yet, but it is something the government may take a shot at when it gets to that stage.
“So no approach in that respect is on table for consideration yet. So we’ll cross the bridge when eventually we get to that; when perhaps a type of request is made, we’ll consider,” he said.
While Abuja has been involved in a legal battle with Nnamdi Kanu in Nigeria, it is battling to extradite Igboho from the Benin Republic to face criminal charges. Both Kanu and Igboho have been at the forefront of agitations for a breakaway from Nigeria.
In fresh charges filed against Kanu last month at the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, Abuja linked him with the wanton destruction of lives and properties as well as attacks on security operatives and government infrastructure in the southeast of Nigeria.
However, some leaders from the two geopolitical zones have been urging for a political solution to the crisis.
On the issue of the payment of fees to contractors who allegedly helped the 36 states government to recover excess deductions from the account during the payment of the Paris Club loans, Malami berated the governors for “approbating and reprobating at the same time”.
He explained that the governors cannot come to deny a liability in 2021 having consented to it and made several payments.
While arguing that the federal government is obligated to obey orders of courts and carry out executions of a court judgment, he claimed that the governors’ current litigation over the payment of consultancy services fees was belated.
“I have told you earlier that the judgment in contention was a 2013 judgment and it was a consent judgment in which ALGON and governors forum consented to a judgment.
“So what judgment are you talking about in 2021 against the background of the fact that they consented to the judgment in 2013, against the background of the fact they have been effecting payment as far back as 2013, against the background of the fact that they have written in there right, under their respective hands, committing to the payment of this consultancy fee we are talking about.
“So I think it is logical for all to see that they were indeed, submissive and they were indeed in agreement, and they have indeed conceded and consented to a judgment that created the liability they are now complaining about.
“They have probated at a point in 2013 by way of submitting to judgment and then effecting payment over time. And in fact, among the claims relating to Paris Club that has been presented before the federal government over time is a component relating to consultancy fees.
“So what they are doing is as good as approbating are reprobating at the same time conceding in 2013, and objecting in 2021”.
He denied any relationship with the contractors or having any personal interest safe his duty to protect the federal government from unnecessary liabilities.
According to him since the federal government was made a party to the suit, there is the possibility that the assets of the federal government can be seized to pay the debt.
“So as far as the payment is concerned, the office of the Attorney General is not in any way involved.
But the fact remains judgments are meant to be enforced and then you are not expected to be speculative as far as the enforcement are concerned.
“When in the case of P&ID an award was made against Nigeria, what we did was to approach the court of law for the purpose of setting aside the enforcement proceedings.
It was only when the proceedings were set aside that we now have respite in terms of ensuring that no asset of the federal government is attached.
“So the fact that they are in court, belatedly, again against the background that they have three months within which to appeal against the 2013 judgment which they kept sleeping from 2013 until 2021 makes it illogical that they expect the federal government or perhaps any institution of government faced with a judgment and order of the court to await their belated approach to court, which is indeed a forum shopping”.
He also clarified that following complaints from the governors at a time the administration had involved the EFCC and DSS to authenticate the project; as well as what was done and how much.
According to Malami, the total judgment debt was put at about $3.2 billion, out of which the governors did not only agree to pay but actually have been making payments until recently.
However, speaking after the proceedings, Fein said: “Today was the fifth time I was told I could not enter the courtroom despite the court’s previous order that Nnamdi could have access to any three persons he wants to.
“I had the chance to talk briefly to him on my way to the courtroom. It is clear that I am the target in particular. That’s the reason why this proceeding did not transpire today.
“And I’m here to tell Nigerians and the international community that I’m taking this to international tribunals. It is clear that the Nigerian tribunals are compromised.”
The lawyer said he will petition “the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in Geneva, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, the ICC in the Hague and I’ll be going to the United States Congress and urging that sanctions be considered against Nigeria for gross violations of fundamental human rights”.
“I’m here not to be an irritant but there are huge international law issues that are present in Nnamdi Kanu’s case. I’m here because I’m an international expert to provide more enlightenment on what legal issues are present here”, Fein added.
Ifeanyi Ejiofor, Kanu’s lead counsel, said the legal team did not walk out of the court, instead, they were locked out. “What happened in the court today is the height of travesty of justice. We have more than 50 lawyers who are here in solidarity so we were outside trying to resolve it”, he said.
“When we came to the court, they still insisted that they could not allow the maximum of five persons to have access to the court. And there is space in the court for us to sit.
“We were still trying to resolve it when the judge came in and we were all locked out. When attention was called to the fact that we were outside the court protesting about what happened. Instead of the court calling the attention of the lead counsel to find out what is going on, the court discussed with our client.”
The court has adjourned the case to January 19, 2022, to hear the application challenging the competence of the charge and jurisdiction of the court.
Kanu was on October 21 re-arraigned on a seven-count charge bordering on treasonable felony and terrorism.