It is no longer news that Nnamdi Kanu has been arrested, brought back to Nigeria, presented in court and remanded in prison custody until July 27.
It was a surprisingly quick turn of events for the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) who since jumping bail in 2017 has been ensconced in the safety of his London home from where he had been spewing vitriol on the Nigerian state and instigated the formation of the Eastern Security Network (ESN), which has been accused of attacking civilians police formations and INEC offices in the South East region.
His rearrest has surprised most Nigerians and even officials in the diplomatic circle. For now, it has not been confirmed where Kanu was arrested and how he ended up back in Nigeria to face the gavel of Justice Binta Nyako.
The last time Nigeria tried to retrieve one of its erring citizens from the UK in a clandestine operation, it did not end well.
It was 1984. General Muhammadu Buhari was Head of State and former Minister of Transportation, Umaru Dikko, accused of siphoning six billion dollars from public funds, was hiding out in London.
Nigerian intelligence agents liaised with their Israeli counterparts to track down Dikko. They scoured London to locate his residence and when they found him, arranged for an Israeli doctor to put him under and intubate him to prevent him choking while being transported. A Nigerian Airways plane was flown to London’s Stansted Airport to ferry Dikko home if successfully captured.
The operation hit a snag when Dikko’s abduction outside his house was witnessed by his private secretary. She called the police promptly and the police ordered extra vigilance at all exits ports in the UK.
Dikko was bundled into a van where the Israeli doctor intubated him. The doctor and Dikko went into one crate, two Mossad agents went into another. The van was driven by Nigerian intelligence agents to Stansted.
Their attempts to get those crates on board the waiting plane failed. One, the crates were not marked as diplomatic packages and the agents did not have the necessary documentation that identified the crates as such. Because of these lapses, the UK customs were able to search the crates without breaching diplomatic protocols and were shocked to find four men in the boxes.
The fallout of that incident was damaging. For two years the UK cut off diplomatic ties with Nigeria, bluntly rejected a formal extradition request for Dikko that the government letter submitted.
Even though details are still sketchy, it is clear Mr Kanu’s reappearance in Nigeria followed a different route. For one, it was successfully executed and that makes a whole lot of difference. Intelligence officials are keeping a tight lid on the details of the operations but what seems clear is that if he had been abducted from the UK, the UK government would have raised alarms over it. They haven’t yet.
One thing Nigeria learned from the Dikko affair was that they simply could not afford to fail with such missions that could have serious diplomatic consequences.
There are suggestions that other security agencies might have facilitated the arrest and transportation of Kanu back to Nigeria. That would not be unusual.
“From the Nigerian Government’s side of things, Kanu was rearrested following cooperation between Nigerian security services and other security agencies which would presumably include the UK security agencies and the Interpol,” a UK-based Nigerian lawyer told Daily Trust. “Nigeria could secure the support of the Interpol to arrest a fugitive, one who has committed an offence in Nigeria but has fled the country. Kanu fits the bill.”
Considering that Nigeria and the UK are both member countries of Interpol it means that cooperation can happen between both countries.
However, considering Kanu is also a British citizen, it would be hard for the country to give up one of its citizens, especially considering there is no known extradition trial.
“There is nothing stopping a UK citizen from being extradited to another country so long as the UK has an extradition arrangement with that country,” the UK-based lawyer said. “However, we need to know certain things. Extraction between Nigeria and the UK is governed by a legal arrangement called “The London Scheme for Extradition within the Commonwealth.” It is an agreement that allows extradition to take place within the commonwealth, of which, as you know, Nigeria is a member. However, such extradition must satisfy certain legal requirements. One of the conditions is that there must be a formal request for extradition; a decision by a UK minister (Secretary of State of Home Affairs) whether the request will be certified; a decision by a judge whether to issue an arrest warrant; the person wanted is arrested; a preliminary judicial hearing is held; then an extradition hearing; and finally, the Secretary of State decides whether to order for extradition. If these steps are satisfied, extradition can take place.”
It is clear Nigeria did not follow this route with Kanu as that would have been too long a process. Apart from the Umaru Dikko extradition request, Nigeria has made only one other similar request to the UK.
In 2019, Nigeria tried to have one Bankole Ogunnowo extradited for a series of offences arising out of a purported ‘sham marriage’ to a British woman of Nigerian descent. After trundling on for a year, largely due to delays on the part of Nigerian authorities to submit the right documentation, a British judge denied the request on the grounds that the documents presented were shambolic and the Nigerian prison system was so horrendous that detention within it would amount to degrading and inhuman treatment.
What seems to emerge in the murky waters of Kanu’s sudden reappearance in Nigeria is that there were no special covert operations involved which could have compromised diplomatic relations.
It would seem that Nigerian authorities, through sheer luck and carefully planning, created a situation that put Mr Kanu in limbo in a place where he was a sitting duck and was picked up to face trial for his alleged crime.
Having jumped bail before and continued to foment trouble from his foreign hideouts, it is clear Kanu will not be going anywhere this time until a court finds him not guilty. The law is an ass and that could yet happen and one of the most wanted men in Nigeria could walk free. But for now, his rearrest is a major score for this government and paves the way for the continuation of his trial that has stalled since he jumped bail in 2017.