On Wednesday, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) said it is premature to pardon Nnamdi Kanu, the embattled leader of the proscribed secessionist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra, adding that the IPOB leader is still standing trial for terrorism-related charges.
Malami spoke during a Channels Television’s current affairs programme, ‘Politics Today’. The AGF’s comment comes as Kanu is scheduled to appear before Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday.
Justice Nyako had on November 10, 2021, adjourned the trial of Kanu till January 19 and 20, 2022, for trial but the court granted an abridgement of time after a motion was filed in that respect.
On November 19, 2021, some respected Igbo elders, led by Minister of Aviation in the First Republic, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi, visited President Muhammadu Buhari in Aso Rock and requested the unconditional release of the detained secessionist leader.
Buhari had told them he would not want to interfere in the running of the judiciary but said he would consider their demand though “a heavy one.”
Malami had also on November 10, 2021, said a political solution cannot be ruled out to resolve the crisis surrounding separatist agitations in Nigeria.
But when asked on Wednesday night for the possibility of an out-of-court settlement to free the IPOB leader, the AGF said a political solution is not on the table at the moment.
Malami also said the idea of a pardon for Kanu is premature because he is still standing trial before a court of law.
He said, “Pardon is a function of conviction in the Nigerian context and as far as I know, Nnamdi Kanu has not been convicted yet so the idea of pardoning him is premature against the backdrop that the trials associated with him have not been concluded but one thing I can tell you is that he is standing trial and the trial continues as at today.”
On whether an out-of-court or political solution is on the table, Malami said, “I am not ruling out any possibility but that is not immediately on the table.”
Asked whether the release of Kanu would contribute to the healing of the South-East, the AGF said, “I have not accessed the security situation of that in terms of being a solution.”
Kanu, 54, was born on September 25, 1967, at Afaraukwu, Abia State. He had been arrested in 2017 for demanding the secession of the South-East zone from the Nigerian State.
However, he jumped bail in June 2018 before leaving for the United Kingdom, though he said that he fled because his life was no longer safe in Nigeria.
After about three years abroad, Malami at a press briefing in Abuja on June 29, 2021, announced that the IPOB leader was re-arrested in a foreign country and extradited to Nigeria.
His lawyers had said the IPOB leader was re-arrested in Kenya and whisked to Nigeria.
Upon his re-arrest and extradition in June 2021, he was re-arraigned before Justice Nyako for terrorism-related charges brought against him by the AGF office. Kanu has since been remanded in the custody of the Department of State Services in Abuja.
In May 2021, Malami appeared before a House committee to answer for suspect diversion of recovered laundered money intended for the consolidated revenue account along with other alleged improprieties. Malami and his office were accused of improperly funding the office budget with around ₦800 billion of recovered looted money by several Representatives including committee chair Adejoro Adeogun.