Mr Bruce Fein, international counsel for Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, has demanded the presidential candidates of the Labour Party, All Progressives Congress, and Peoples Democratic Party, Peter Obi, Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar, respectively, to pledge to uphold the rule of law if elected in 2023.
Fein stated this in an open letter addressed to the trio, which was made available to our correspondent by Kanu’s special counsel, Barr Aloy Ejimakor, in Abuja on Tuesday.
Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, is in the custody of the Department of the State Services. He is being tried over alleged running a proscribed group, jumping bail and treason.
Despite court rulings and the UN Working Group’s Opinion exonerating Kanu from various charges preferred against him by the federal government, Nigeria has refused to release him from detension.
Fein, in the letter of warning, urged the presidential candidates to pledge to release Kanu as a commitment towards ending ‘Nigeria’s pariah status as an enemy of all mankind’.
The letter, entitled ‘RE: Ending Nigeria’s international outlaw status’, reads:
“You three are each seeking the presidency of a nation that is operating outside the law. Indeed, Nigeria’s complicity in torture, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, and other jus cogens norms of international law make it an enemy of all mankind. The Nigerian Constitution itself embraces ‘justice’ as a pillar of the social order. Section 17 (1).
“I am urging all three of you to pledge if elected president to end Nigeria’s pariah status as an enemy of all mankind by exacting compliance with jus cogens norms of international law. Towards that end, I am urging you to pledge the immediate and unconditional release of Nnamdi Kanu as directed by the July 20, 2022, authoritative Opinion of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
“Among other things, the Opinion found that Nigeria is arbitrarily detaining Mr Kanu in violation of sixteen (16) human rights covenants. The Opinion is automatically binding on Nigeria because the prohibition of arbitrary detention is a jus cogens norm of international law, like proscriptions against torture, extrajudicial killings, or genocide.
“If you ascend to the presidency without the immediate and unconditional release of Nnamdi Kanu, you will become an international outlaw subject to corresponding punishment and sanctions.
“Sitting presidents have no criminal law sanctuary. Both Omar Bashir of Sudan and Mohammed Gaddafi of Libya were indicted by the International Criminal Court while occupying the presidencies of their respective countries.
“Your minds should fasten on an equally compelling reason for the immediate and unconditional release of Nnamdi Kanu. Decency, security, and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen.
“In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher.
“For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man or woman to become laws unto themselves.
“You can choose to be a firefighter by pledging, if elected, to order the immediate, unconditional release of Nnamdi Kanu; or you can choose to be part of the fire by refusing the pledge and defiling the rule of law.
“You should also be adamant about Nigeria’s compliance with the unstayed judgment of the Federal High Court (Umuahia) condemning Nigeria’s attempted assassination of Mr. Kanu in 2017. Dante warned, ‘The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis declare their neutrality.’
“Moreover, the forthcoming elections will command legitimacy only if you demand the immediate and unconditional release of Nnamdi Kanu as mandated by the Working Group Opinion resting on universal international law. If you do not, you will be risking a fate like the Last Emperor of China, Puyi.
“I am available to discuss with each of you at a mutually agreeable time and venue Nigeria’s compliance with the Working Group’s authoritative Opinion and protocols for negotiating a new chapter in Nigeria’s tortured history that honors government by the consent of the governed and unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
“I look forward to a constructive response.”