OFFERS TO PROVIDE ”CONSULAR ASSISTANCE” TO THE IPOB LEADER
By Fidel Ozugha
The British Government has cleared the air on the assumption and speculation that Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, leader of a secessionist group, was arrested in his residence in Britain, even as a citizen. The Head of Communications of the British High Commission in Abuja, Nigeria, Dean Hurlock told The Punch newspaper that Kanu was neither arrested nor extradited from the UK, his base since 2017.
Mazi Kanu was arrested and extradited on Sunday by Nigerian Government from a foreign country and was arraigned before Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday for terrorism-related charges and has since been remanded in the custody of the Department of State Services. The British Government, however expressed readiness to provide ”consular assistance” for the IPOB leader.
According to Mr. Hurlock, “The British High Commission in Abuja is currently in the process of seeking clarification from the Nigerian government about the circumstances of the arrest.
“With regard to any questions about whether the British High Commission are providing assistance in this case, we can confirm that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office stands ready to provide consular assistance,” the British official said, adding that the British Government “expects any trial or legal proceedings to follow due process”.
On the clarification of “consular assistance”, the British official referred to the UK manual on ‘Support for British nationals abroad: A guide’.
The document read in part, “We can offer you information about the local prison or remand system, including visiting arrangements, mail and censorship, privileges, work possibilities, and social and welfare services. We can also explain where there are different regulations for remand prisoners and sentenced prisoners. For example, in some countries, prisoners are allowed to send more mail when they are on remand.
“We cannot get you out of prison or detention, nor can we get special treatment for you because you are British. If however you are not treated in line with internationally accepted standards we will consider approaching local authorities. This may include if your trial does not follow internationally recognised standards for a fair trial or is unreasonably delayed compared to local cases.
“With your permission, we can consider taking up a complaint about ill-treatment, personal safety, or discrimination with the police or prison authorities.
“Consular staff will keep in regular contact with you, either by visiting personally or by telephone/ letter. The frequency of visits will depend on local prison conditions and your personal circumstances.”
“If you are a dual British national in the country of your other nationality (for example, a dual Nigerian-British national in Nigeria), we would not normally offer you support or get involved in dealings between you and the authorities of that state. We may make an exception to this rule if, having looked at the circumstances of the case, we consider that you are vulnerable and we have humanitarian concerns.
“We would not normally attend a court case involving a British national, and we cannot influence the outcome of any trial,” it added.
Kanu, 54, and holder of Nigerian and British passports, had been having a running battle with the Nigeria Federal Government of Muhammadu Buhari, over his quest for the secession of the South-East geopolitical zone.
He was arrested and jailed but released from the Kuje Prison in Abuja after meeting bail conditions. The IPOB leader later jumped bail and fled the country and operated from overseas before he was reportedly captured on Sunday.
Kanu had also formed the Eastern Security Network which the police have accused of being the masterminds of attacks on police stations, prisons and symbols of democracy in the zone but Kanu had denied the allegations.
Before he jumped bail in 2017, Kanu was facing 11 charges including terrorism, treasonable felony, managing an unlawful society, publication of defamatory matter, illegal possession of firearms and improper importation of goods.
The case has been scheduled for July 26 and July 27 2021 for resumption of trial while Kanu has been remanded with the Department of State Services.
Efforts to reach Kanu’s lead counsel, Ifeanyi Ejiofor proved abortive as of the time of filing this report.