INDIGENOUS People of Biafra (Ipob) leader Nnamdi Kanu has filed a fresh suit against the federal government asking that he be allowed to wear his native isi-agu Igbo attire in court whenever he appears in his ongoing trial.
Highly controversial, Mr Kanu has been campaigning for the recreation of the independent republic of Biafra which broke away from Nigeria between July 1967 and January 1970 during the civil war. His campaign, which has led to the phenomenal growth of Ipob, has set him at odds with the Nigerian government who him arrested and put on trial for treason.
While the case was still pending, Mr Kanu was granted bail in April 2017 on health grounds but skipped his bail after flouting the conditions given to him by the court and fled Nigeria. In a dramatic development, in June last year, Mr Kanu was abducted in Kenya and flown to Nigeria, where he has since been arrayed in court in Abuja, with fresh charges added to the pending ones.
Since his arrest, Mr Kanu has been appearing in the same clothes he was arrested in when he was abducted in Kenya. Despite the court telling the Department of State Security to allow him a change of clothing, security agents gave refused to allow Mr Kanu wear isi-agu in court, saying it would be making a political statement.
To challenge this stance, Mr Kanu has filed a suit before the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, insisting that preventing him from wearing his native Igbo attire amounts to an infringement on his fundamental human rights. He accused the federal government of subjecting him to discrimination based on his ethnic group, noting that other persons on trial were allowed to wear clothes of their choice without any form of inhibition.
His suit sought: “An order directing the respondents, jointly and severally, to immediately allow the applicant to have a change of clothes in their detention facility or at any time he appears in public for his trial. An order of this court directing the respondents, jointly or severally, to allow the applicant to start wearing any clothes of his choice, more so, to allow him to wear his traditional Igbo a attires (isi-agu) and/or other Igbo traditional attires of his choice.
“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents, their authorised agents by whatever name so called, from further disturbing or interfering with the rights of the applicant to dignity of human person and freedom from discrimination or in any way infringing on the constitutional rights of the applicant as guaranteed by law or from making any attempt capable of violating the applicant’s rights as guaranteed under the constitution”.
Justice Binta Nyako had on February 16, summoned the director of legal services at the DSS to explain why Mr Kanu was denied access to new clothes and his eye glasses. He then explained that the clothes were rejected because it contained an insignia associated with the Ipob, adding that the clothes that were brought for Mr Kanu in detention, had lion’s heads emblazoned on them.
When Mr Kanu was asked what he would like to wear, he replied from the dock that he wants to wear the clothes of his people Isi-Agu. However, Justice Nyako denied this request, saying she would only allow Mr Kanu to wear plain clothes without any inscription on them.