President Muhammadu Buhari has pledged to consider the release of the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu.
The President said this during a meeting with a group of leaders from the southeast known as Highly Respected Igbo Greats.
Buhari made the promise on Friday when he received the delegation led by a First Republic parliamentarian and former Minister of Aviation, Mbazulike Amaechi, at the State House in Abuja.
“You’ve made an extremely difficult demand on me as leader of this country,” the President was quoted as saying in a statement by his media adviser, Femi Adesina. “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.”
Buhari opined that an unconditional release of Kanu would violate the principle of separation of powers between the Executive and Judiciary.
He noted his policy of non-interference with the Judiciary, adding that when the IPOB leader jumped bail, he had to be rearrested and brought back to face the charges against him.
“I said the best thing was to subject him to the system.” Buhari said.
“Let him make his case in court, instead of giving very negative impressions of the country from outside. I feel it’s even a favour to give him that opportunity.”
The President commiserated with Amaechi who recently lost his wife. He prayed that her soul would rest in peace.
In his remarks, Amaechi had described the situation in the South East as “painful and pathetic,” lamenting that businesses have collapsed, education was crumbling, fear has begun to manifest everywhere.
He pleaded for a political, rather than military solution, requesting that if Kanu was released to him as the only First Republic Minister alive, “he (Kanu) would no longer say the things he had been saying.”
The former minister promised to control Kanu, “not because I have anything to do with them (IPOB), but I am highly respected in Igbo land today.”
He stated that he had interfaced with Nnamdi Kanu in the past twice, and the latter rescinded orders earlier given on civil disobedience.
“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,” Amaechi said.
Kanu was first arrested in 2015 on charges bordering on terrorism, treasonable felony, managing an unlawful society, publication of defamatory matter, illegal possession of firearms, and improper importation of goods, among others.
He was initially detained and arraigned in court, but he fled the country in 2017 after he was granted bail for medical reasons.
The embattled IPOB leader was later sighted in Israel, but he was intercepted on June 27 and repatriated to Nigeria to face the charges for which he was arrested – about four years since he jumped bail.
His repatriation followed an operation conducted by Nigerian security operatives in collaboration with international partners.
On July 26, Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja adjourned the trial of Kanu until October 21 after the DSS failed to produce him in court.
She faulted the action of the security outfit and asked the prosecution to be diligent with dates whenever she gives one, stressing that it was important for Kanu to be present at his trial.
The judge had also made an order for regimented access to the defendant but declined the proposal of Kanu’s counsel that he should be transferred to a correctional centre.