- Sixteen members of the European parliament have asked the European Union High Commission to challenge President Muhammadu Buhari on the detention of Nnamdi Kanu
- The MEPs called for independent investigation into the alleged killing, torture and illegal arrest of members of the Indigenous People of Biafra by security operatives
Some members of the European parliament (MEP) have risen in support of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Nnamdi Kanu.
The MEPs – 16 in number – in a joint letter have asked the European Union High Commission to take action on human rights abuses against members of the IPOB.
The letter addressed to the High Representative and vice president of the EU high commission Federica Mogherini said the unlawful detention of Kanu and the violence against IPOB members by Nigerian government must be looked into.
The letter which was dated Monday, December 19, said Kanu has been illegally imprisoned since October 14, 2015, despite being acquitted of all charges brought against him by the Department of State Services.
It was signed by Julie Ward, Ana Gomes, Bart Staes, Beatriz Becerra, Brando Benifei, Catherine Stihler, Ernest Urtasun, Eva Joly and Hilde Vautmans.
Others signatories to letter include: Jude Kirton-Darling, Kati Piri, Miapetra, Kumpula-Natri, Michèle Rivasi, Nessa Childers, Pascal Durand and Philippe Lamberts.
The letter read in parts: “The authorities accused Kanu and his two co-defendants, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi, of trying to overthrow the Nigerian head of state by broadcasting secessionist propaganda on the underground media outlet Radio Biafra, which campaigns for the independence of Biafra from Nigeria. Kanu, Madubugwu and Nwawuisi deny all charges brought against them.”
“On 19th October in Abuja, the Chief Magistrate, Honourable Shuaibu, discharged Kanu of all criminal charges including the allegation of managing and belonging to an unlawful society, criminal intimidation and of criminal conspiracy. Shuaibu granted Kanu bail, of which all the conditions were met, but the Department of State Services refused to release him,” the letter said.
The MEPs said charges of criminal conspiracy, engaging in unlawful society and criminal intimidation were then withdrawn on December 16, 2015, but still Kanu, Madubugwu and Nwawuisi have not been released.
“On 17th December 2015, Justice Adeniyi Ademola ordered the unconditional release of Kanu from the custody of the Department of State Security Services, but this was not enacted.
“Kanu’s counsel has since appealed to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to help ensure his safe release, but to no avail. A court case on 5th October 2016 was later adjourned to 8th November, which has now been amended to 9th February 2017, due to the Nigeria Department of State Services failure to bring Kanu to court,” it said.
It also accused the Nigerian government of sending warnings to the ECOWAS community court sitting in Abuja not to intervene in Kanu’s continued detention and trial.
“It is clear that the fundamental human rights of Kanu, Madubugwu and Nwawuisi are being grossly violated. Human Rights Watch have reported of the violation of the defendants’ rights, including their right to a fair trial.
“What is more, the Nigerian Government is also reportedly violating the human rights of Biafran activists. Scores of Biafrans are in detention for attempting to hold or participate in peaceful assemblies,” the letter added.
It further accused the Nigerian government and security forces of using excessive force against pro-Biafran activists who have embarked on peaceful protest in Nigeria.
Referring to Amnesty International’s reports on cases of arrests, disappearance and torture of IPOB members by security operatives, the MEPs said, it is unfortunate that no investigations have been carried out.
“The right to peaceful assembly and association, as well as the right of freedom of expression, is protected by the Nigerian constitution. International human rights standards also require that law enforcement officials must, as far as possible, apply nonviolent means.
“It is clear that the Nigerian authorities are not operating with respect to the Nigerian constitution or the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.
The letter also said: “On behalf of the European Union, especially in respect to the EU-Nigeria partnership, the Nigeria EU Joint Way Forward, the developments of the 6th Nigeria-EU ministerial dialogue and the fact that Nigeria is a recipient of EU aid, we call upon you to:
"Advocate for the immediate and safe release of Nnamdi Kanu and co-defendants Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi,"
They also called on the EU High Commission to challenge the actions of the President Muhammadu Buhari, and the DSS in regards to the detention of Kanu, Madubugwu and Nwawuisi.
They called for an impartial investigation into the arrest, enforced disappearance, torture and killing of supporters and members of various pro-Biafran groups and denounce the unacceptable violence against Biafran supporters by Nigerian security forces.
They also urged the EU to do more to push the Nigerian government to safeguard human rights in Nigeria by calling for guarantees on the freedom of expression of all Nigerian citizens, including their right to protest without harm, and the termination of violence towards Biafrans.