Senator Abaribe probably scored an own goal with Nnamdi Kanu. Here's how.
He let his heart get the better of his head.
“It was stated that the person to sign the bond must be a senator. The reason was simple too. They assumed that none of us will have the courage to come out and sign the bail. I came out and I did it”, Abaribe remarked defiantly, to rousing applause from his audience during a recent 'meet and greet' with diaspora Abians in the United States.
The other sureties who signed Kanu’s bail bond are Jewish High Chief Priest, Immanuu-El Shalom Okabemadu and a Chartered Accountant who resides in the capital city of Abuja, Tochukwu Uchendu.
Kanu is facing trial for charges bordering on treasonable felony, secession and illegal possession of firearms in a federal court in the nation’s capital city of Abuja.
On April 25, 2017, presiding Judge Binta Nyako granted Kanu bail with stringent conditions to boot.
The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) was told not to grant interviews, hold rallies or conduct affairs in a crowd of no more than ten persons.
Weeks after his application was granted, Kanu made sure to flout all his bail conditions.
He held rallies, set up a private army, spewed hate speeches at gatherings and incited violence when he could.
His incendiary rhetoric would culminate in bloody clashes between members of his IPOB and soldiers in September.
On September 14, 2017, after soldiers invaded Kanu’s residence in Umuahia, the Abia State capital, the separatist agitator disappeared into thin air.
There have been reports that he’s fled to the UK where he retains the status of a citizen.
His lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, denies the claim, however, saying Kanu is being held by the federal government.
The government has denied it is holding Kanu and soldiers say they have no idea where he is as well.
Kanu’s disappearance now means his sureties, including Abaribe, face the real prospect of arrests if they can’t produce him for continuation of his trial.
Abaribe has admitted that he’s now in trouble.
“Those of us who signed the bail are now in trouble because we don’t know where he is”, Abaribe says.
Chief Okoi-Obono Obla who is President Buhari’s Special Assistant on Prosecution says “the implication of the failure of Kanu to appear in court on the next adjourned date on those who stood sureties for his recognizance is that his recognizance shall be forfeited.
“The court also may issue a warrant of arrest where a defendant (Kanu) bound by a recognizance or bond fails to appear before a court or police station. It follows that if Kanu fails to appear before the Federal High Court on the next adjourned date, the Judge will likely issue a warrant for his arrest.
“It follows that Kanu’s three sureties will be ordered to pay N100M each. Where sufficient cause is not shown by the sureties or the persons bound and the penalty is not paid, the court may recover the penalty from the person bound or from his estate if he is dead, in the manner laid down in the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, for the recovery of fine.
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“However, where the penalty is not paid and cannot be recovered in the manner laid down by the law, the person bound shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months”,Obono-Obla added.
As the Kanu trial resumed on Tuesday, October 17 with the man’s whereabouts still unknown, Abaribe told the Judge that he’s no longer interested in standing as surety for the run-away secessionist.
The senator also pleaded that his N100M bail bond be forfeited.
In yet another prayer, Abaribe asked that he be given time to produce Kanu.
Kanu’s lawyer, Ejiofor, insists he has no idea where his client is at the moment.
"The Nigerian Army invaded his house and killed 28 people. I do not even know if he is alive or dead. The soldiers are in a better position to tell us," Ejiofor said.
The army has denied it killed anyone in Kanu's home on the day.
The Kanu trial was adjourned to November 20, 2017 with Senator Abaribe handed three options:
1. Produce Kanu in court and then apply to be discharged as a surety.
2. Be ready to forfeit N100M bail bond.
3. Be given more time to produce the defendant.
As the wall closes in on Abaribe, the senator could be forgiven for cursing his luck. However, he continues to defend his decision to stand as surety for the eccentric Kanu whose group has since been proscribed as a terrorist sect in Nigeria.
“Because they said it was a senator that had to do it, I came and signed it. All the people who were sending money to him from abroad, no one could have come there to sign the bail bond”, says Abaribe in defense of his decision.