The leadership of Intersociety has been totally vindicated over its last night (20th October 2015) statement exposing flaws inherent in the widely reported news of Citizen Nnamdi Kanu’s conditional bail and continued detention by the Department of the State Security Services (DSS). The information about the conditional bail was half-baked and reportorially anomalous. For example, the following questions were not answered in the said media report: Was Nnamdi Kanu arraigned before a named Chief Magistrate Court or charged before a named Federal or FCT High Court? If he was so arraigned or charged, what charges were preferred against him? Who stood as prosecution team, AGF or DSS legal department? Were the charges bailable if he was arraigned before a Magistrate Court? Who was the presiding authority, Chief Magistrate or a Judge? Are the charges against him, if any, known to the 1999 Constitution or its subsidiary criminal laws, with their penalties clearly defined in written law? What date is the returned or adjourned date? Was Citizen Nnamdi Kanu represented by any legal team and what are the identities of members of his legal team, if any?
However, at 7:15am this morning (21st October 2015), Intersociety received a mail from Barr Vincent Egechukwu Obetta, who is Counsel to detained Biafran self determination activist; acknowledging that other teeming Nigerians shared same sentiments and questions raised in our referenced statement. He answered our probing questions as follows:
(1) That Citizen Nnamdi Kanu of Radio Biafra & IPOB was arraigned before the Abuja Municipal Magistrate Court, Wuse Zone 2; on 19th October 2015 and granted bail. (2) That he was granted bail with stringent conditions including getting a civil servant of Grade Level 16 that has a landed property within Abuja metropolis and in the sum of N10million as his bail surety. (3) That Citizen Nnamdi Kanu was charged with following alleged misdemeanor offenses: Criminal Conspiracy, Managing & Belonging to Unlawful Society and Criminal Intimidation contrary to Sections 97, 97b and 397 of the Penal Code (applicable in Northern Nigeria). (4) That the matter was adjourned to 18th of November 2015 for trial. (5) That processes to fulfill the deliberate and stringent bail conditions have since commenced but could not be completed before the close of work yesterday (20-102015) and would continue today (21-10-2015).
We condemn in its totality the stringent bail conditions imposed upon the bail granted to Citizen Nnamdi Kanu by the Presiding Magistrate of the Abuja Municipal Magistrate Court. It is an elementary knowledge in law and criminal justice system in Nigeria that there are categories of criminal offenses that can be tried by the Magistrate Courts or their equivalents and the High Courts. They are simple offenses with maximum of six months imprisonment; misdemeanor offenses with minimum of six months (as case may be) and maximum not exceeding three years imprisonment; and felonious offenses with three years as minimum and capital punishments (i.e. death penalty or life imprisonment) as maximum. In the trial jurisdiction categorization, Magistrate Courts are empowered with trial competence in simple offenses and misdemeanors and a number of felonies.
The Magistrate Courts (with their various classification) are forbidden from prosecuting certain categories of felonious offenses such as treason, treasonable felony, murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, armed robbery, sedition, rape, terrorism, etc. Following the foregoing, therefore, it is totally condemnable for the Presiding Magistrate to have handed down such stringent bail conditions over misdemeanor allegations that are softly bailable. We further hold that the Presiding Magistrate is a parasitic and arrange Magistrate possibly remote-controlled by desperate and primordial elements within the Federal Executive Arm and its security establishment so as to keep Citizen Nnamdi Kanu in perpetual confinement using manipulated judicial process as its escape route.
To attach such stringent bail conditions in alleged offenses that are clearly misdemeanor and softly bailable is a clearly sign of executive jittery and undeniably persecutorial. To ask a civil servant in Grade Level 16 with a landed property within Abuja metropolis to stand for Citizen Nnamdi Kalu as a bail surety, is very deliberate and another way of applying Decree 2 of 1984, which the present President maximally applied then to mass-jail Nigerians without limitations. The possibility of getting a serving civil servant of Grade Level 16 working for the same Federal Government may most likely be a suicide mission; not to talk of the attached condition that such civil servant must have a landed property within Abuja metropolis.
Our questions are: What is the cost of an empty plot of land within Abuja metropolis? What is the current market value or worth of a landed property within Abuja metropolis and can it be afforded by a serving civil servant of Grade Level 16 without bureaucratic theft? How much is the official take home monthly salary of a Federal civil servant of Grade Level 16 in Nigeria? Even if obtained through the country’s rampant bureaucratic corruption, can such civil servant boldly and dangerously take the risk? Why must a N10 million bond surety be further added in Citizen Nnamdi Kanu’s bail conditions over misdemeanor allegations that are softly bailable with lighter sentencing on conviction?
While we commend Citizen Kanu’s lawyer (Barr Vincent Egechukwu Obetta) for his courage and boldness in defending the detained self-determination activist as well as his prompt response and clarifications to our reservations trailing his conditional bail and continued detention; we also advise that a return with a motion should be made to the same Abuja Municipal Magistrate for immediate variation and lowering of the harsh bail conditions so given. Where the possibility of meeting up with bail conditions clearly becomes unachievable both in practical aspect and before the Magistrate Court, an appeal should be effected at the High Court for such stringent bail conditions to be quashed or lowered.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman
International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety)