President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to consider the request for the release of Nnamdi Kanu after meeting with a group of leaders from the South East under the aegis of Highly Respected Igbo Greats.
He made the pledge 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.”
An unconditional release of Kanu who is the leader of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), and currently standing trial, according to the President, runs contrary to the doctrine of separation of powers between the Executive and Judiciary.
Stressing his policy of non-interference with the Judiciary, he said when Kanu jumped bail, got arrested and was 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’s even a favour to give him that opportunity.”
The President condoled with Amaechi who recently buried his wife and 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He stated that he had interfaced with Nnamdi Kanu in the past twice, and the latter rescinded orders earlier given on civil disobedience.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 told his host.
Other people in the visiting delegation were former Anambra State Governor, Chukwuemeka Ezeife; Bishop Sunday Onuoha of the Methodist Church, former President of Igbo socio-cultural group, Aka Ikenga, Goddy Uwazurike; and Mr Tagbo Amaechi.
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.
Photo: President Muhammadu Buhari takes a group photograph with respected leaders from the South East at the State House in Abuja on November 19,