The Senator representing Abia South, Eyinnaya Abaribe, has accused the Chief of Army, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, of frustrating his role as a surety in the bail granted the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, by a Federal High Court in Abuja.
Abaribe stated this in a fresh motion he filed before the court where he and Kanu’s two other sureties had been ordered to explain the IPOB leader’s whereabouts.
The senator had earlier filed a motion seeking to be discharged as Kanu’s surety, but the trial judge, Justice Binta Nyako, directed during the previous proceedings of October 17, 2017, that the senator could not withdraw his suretyship until Kanu was produced before the court.
Kanu, who is being prosecuted alongside others on charges bordering on treasonable felony, was on Monday absent from court for the second time after the alleged invasion of his home in Abia State by soldiers on September 14, and had been declared missing by his family since then.
But Abaribe was present in court on Monday.
He stated in a fresh motion filed through his lawyer, Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume (SAN), on November 17, 2017, that he should not be held responsible for the unavailability of Kanu to attend court for his trial, but alleged that Kanu’s unknown whereabouts was caused by the “whimsical, capricious, subversive and extrajudicial self-help” embarked upon by the Chief of Army Staff.
The senator maintained that the Chief of Army Staff was aware of the pending charges against Kanu when he allegedly deployed soldiers to “forcefully and violently” invade the IPOB leader’s home in Afaraukwu Ibeku-Umuahia, in Abia State on September 14, 2017.
He noted that the conduct of the COAS with deployment of the soldiers were with “most probable effect” of preventing him (Kanu) from attending court to continue his trial.
He said he opted to be Kanu’s surety out of “patriotic consideration of assisting the judicial process to defuse the tension already generated in the polity.”
His lawyer, Ume, argued in the motion that the Chief of Army Staff’s “extrajudicial self-help conduct obviously frustrated the proceedings and course of administration of justice (in the bail and bail bond granted and executed in Charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/383/2015).”
The lawyer maintained that the “actions have brought the honourable court to some ridicule and its power appear nugatory.”
The senator therefore sought in the fresh motion, an order, directing the Chief of Army Staff to explain to the court why the Attorney General of the Federation should not “be compelled to initiate contempt charges/proceedings against him for his extrajudicial self-help conducts.”
He also sought an order compelling Buratai to produce Kanu in court “and to explain to the satisfaction of the honourable court the circumstance surrounding his whereabouts.”
Abaribe had entered into a N100m bail bond with the title papers of his Abuja property used as guarantee, in order to secure the release of Kanu on bail.
Abaribe stands to lose the property if he is adjudged to have failed to adequately play his role as a surety.
But in his motion, the senator insisted that Buratai should bear the payment of the bail bond if Kanu was not produced in court.
He therefore sought, “an order of the honourable court compelling the Chief of Army Staff, on failure to produce the 1st defendant/2nd respondent (Kanu), to pay to the court, the sum in the bail bond earlier executed by the applicant on behalf of the 1st defendant/2nd respondent.”
Abaribe also asked the court to compel Buratai “to offset all expenses” he (Abaribe) had incurred in the proceedings as well as pay to him (Abaribe), damages of N10m “for the psychological trauma the applicant has gone through following the extrajudicial self-help actions of the Chief of Army Staff.”
Arguing in his written address, Abaribe’s lawyer, Chukwuma-Machukwu, contended, “We humbly submit to Your Lordship that due to the whimsical, capricious, subversive and extrajudicial self-help embarked upon by the Chief of Army Staff, the applicant (Abaribe) was not informed, neither would he have known, or discovered the whereabouts of the 1st defendant (Kanu) as a result of which, his suretyship was frustrated.”
A lawyer in Ume’s law firm, Mr. Okechukwu Nliam, narrated his version of the circumstances leading to Kanu’s disappearance.
He noted that the manner of the alleged invasion of Kanu’s home by soldiers, leaving many dead with their corpses littering the compound and the pulling out by midnight of September 14, 2017, was suspicious.
He stated that since the military action, Kanu had not been seen or heard from “either privately or publicly up till date.”
He said, “That surprisingly and in an extrajudicial self-help bravado, from September 11 to 14, 2017, obviously before the announced scheduled date of the said Operation Python Dance (Egwu Eke) II, the Nigerian Army on the instruction of the Chief of Army Staff deployed truck-loads of heavily armed soldiers, armoured tanks and other intimidating offensive military weapons in the home town and residence of the 1st defendant/2nd respondent (Kanu) at Isiama, Afaraukwu-Ibeku, Umuahia, Abia State.
“That the entire community and the residence of the defendant, where he resided with his parents in the palace of his father, His Royal Highness Eze Israel Kanu, the traditional ruler of the community, were in a manner of an extrajudicial self-help bravado surrounded and occupied by soldiers and armoured tanks.”