Some prominent Igbo professionals yesterday urged the Federal Government to immediately release Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) leader Nnamdi Kanu.
They made the demand at a news conference in Abuja under a Pan-Igbo group, Nzuko Umunna.
Their statement was jointly signed by former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Chukwuma Soludo; Prof. Pat Utomi; Chidi Odinkalu; Law Mefor; Rev. Fr. Jude C.; Udenta Udenta; Ebere Onwudiwe; Emeka Ugwu-Oju; Ferdinand Agu; Tony Nnadi; Sam Amadi; Innocent Chukwuma; Collins Ugwu; and Andy Wabali.
The group of professionals said the continued detention of Kanu and their associates was no longer acceptable and a violation of his fundamental human rights.
They condemned the use of disproportionate force and live bullets by law enforcement agencies which resulted in the killing and maiming of unarmed IPOB/MASSOB members.
The group called on the law enforcement agencies to take steps to ensure that those responsible are held accountable.
They said: “We visited to hear his own point of view, and we also shared our views with him. Our interactions with Nnamdi Kanu and his colleagues were frank and fruitful.
“We believe that Nigeria has all the potentials to be great and one of the most prosperous nations on earth.
Like most countries of the world, it has its own internal contradictions, challenges of national cohesion and development.
“Nigeria has never been more divided than now, with the agitations for self-determination becoming more strident and desperate.
“It is our considered view that much of the increasingly desperate agitations are in response to the failures of the dysfunctional/looting elite and poor governance in the context of a failing state that offers increasingly vanishing opportunities and hope for its youth and future generations.
“We do not condone violence, criminality or brigandage of any sort, nor should any state do so. However, by failing or refusing to address the fundamental issues and instead concentrating on the symptoms, Nigeria runs the grave risk of turning the entire country into a large prison yard or a police state.”
The group also condemned the Federal Government for failing to obey court orders.
According to them, the government’s decision to obey favourable court rulings is unhealthy for the peace and democracy of Nigeria.
The group said there was a clear design to place Kanu beneath the law and basic constitutional guarantees of due process.
“Government has declined to obey the orders of properly constituted courts in Nigeria for his release. Nnamdi Kanu is not above the law; but nor should he be put beneath it.
“A situation where the state refuses to obey clear and legitimate court orders for his release and holds him until it gets a favourable order moves the goalposts endlessly through endless amendment of the charges against him; and now seeks to try him in secret clearly constitutes circumstances that would fall well short of the constitutional guarantees of due process.
“These also would raise questions about our country’s adherence to human rights, the rule of law and transparent judicial process. We worry that there is now a clear design to place Nnamdi Kanu beneath the law and basic constitutional guarantees of due process,” they said.
They added that Nigeria cannot thrive in an atmosphere devoid of democratic freedom of speech.
“No country has prospered by suppressing legitimate agitations or democratic expressions. Nigeria has greatly come short on these counts.
“Most discerning patriots have come to the conclusion that Nigeria as currently structured and governed is unsustainable and drifting to a failed state status,” they added.