The Enugu State High Court Justice A. O. Onovo ruled on Thursday that the Southeast Governors’ Forum’s 2017 proscription of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) was unconstitutional.
Nnamdi Kanu founded IPOB, and the governors, led by former governor of Ebonyi State Dave Umahi, outlawed the organization. The Federal Government classified IPOB as a terrorist organization three days later.
Kanu asked the court to reverse the prescription, arguing that IPOB is a legitimate organization whose members are free to associate as they like.
Respondents in this case are the Federal Government and the Southeast Governors.
The action was filed by Barr Aloy Ejimakor, special attorney for Kanu.
The reliefs sought by Kanu are, “A declaration that the practical application of the Terrorism Prevention Act and the executive or administrative action of the respondents which directly led to the proscription of IPOB and its listing as a terrorist group, said IPOB being comprised of citizens of Nigeria of the Igbo and other Eastern Nigerian ethnic groups, professing the political opinion of self determination and the consequent arrest, detention and prosecution of Kanu as a member/leader of said IPOB, is illegal, is illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional and amounts to infringement of the applicant’s fundamental right not to be subjected to any disabilities or restrictions on the basis of his ethnicity as enshrined and guaranteed under Section 42 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and his fundamental rights as enshrined under Articles 2,3,19 & 20 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Enforcement and Ratification) Act.
“A declaration that self-determination is not a crime and thus cannot be used as a basis to arrest, detain and prosecute the applicant, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
“An order mandating and compelling the respondents, jointly or severally, to issue official letter(s) of apology to Kanu for the infringement of his said fundamental rights; and publication of said letter(s) of apology in three national dailies.
“An order mandating and compelling the respondents to, jointly or severally, pay the sum of N8,000,000,000.00 (Eight Billion Naira) to Kanu, being monetary damages claimed by the applicant against the respondents jointly and severally for the physical, mental, emotional, psychological, property and other damages suffered by the applicant as a result of the infringements of their fundamental rights by the respondents.”
Justice A.O. Onovo, while delivering the judgement, agreed with the applicant that the African Charter binds on Nigerian courts, hence self-determination is not a crime.
He held that the proscription is therefore unconstitutional.
On monetary damages, the court granted N8 billion damages to Kanu as well as apologies in national dailies. It however declined jurisdiction in stopping the criminal trial of Kanu on grounds that it is before the Supreme Court.
Ejimakor commended the court for being the last hope of the coming man. In his words, “We are grateful that justice had prevailed over this matter since 2017. The court has reaffirmed the hopes of the common man in the judiciary. You have saved thousands of lives.”