Former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Professor Chukwuma Soludo, Professor Pat Utomi of Lagos Business School, Professor Chidi Odinkalu and other prominent Igbo leaders, have called on the Federal Government to immediately release the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja, yesterday on the aegis of Nzuko Umunna, a pan-Igbo group, the leaders said there was already a legitimate debate among Nigerians on the Biafra question and that there are many Igbo who, like other Nigerians, do not agree with Kanu’s objective or means.
They maintained that despite some misgivings about Kanu and others incarcerated, no citizen of Nigeria deserves the kind of treatment meted to him and his colleagues. They said the Federal Government had declined to obey the orders of properly constituted courts in Nigeria for his release.
Professor Soludo who spoke on behalf of others, said: “We demand the urgent release of Nnamdi Kanu, his colleagues and all prisoners of conscience, as part of the process of the search for national cohesion and building a new Nigeria.
“A situation where the state refuses to obey clear and legitimate court orders for his release and holds him until it gets a favourable order; moves the goalposts endlessly through endless amendment of the charges against him. Now seeking to try him in secret clearly constitutes circumstances that would fall well short of the constitutional guarantees of due process.
“These also would raise questions about our country’s adherence to human rights, the rule of law and transparent judicial process. We worry that there is now a clear design to place Kanu beneath the law and basic constitutional guarantees of due process.
“Without the rule of law, no sustainable economic progress can take place. The charge of treasonable felony, which is now levied against Kanu has previously been used against Joseph Tarka and Obafemi Awolowo.
“His trial reminds us of the travails of these historic figures in our country and, indeed, of the more recent military-era treason trial of President Obasanjo. Not many people believe that Kanu and his colleagues can receive a fair trial based on the law. This makes them political prisoners or prisoners of conscience.”
They also took a swipe at the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government and accused it of reneging on its promise of change it made to Nigerians during the 2015 general election.
They warned that the country was gradually drifting towards a failed state and added that as a ruling party, the onus was on APC to deliver on its most fundamental contract with the Nigerian people.