Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
Apprehension has seized some officials of British Foreign Ministry following the submission of report by a committee set up to investigate the alleged negligence of duty by the Ministry in handling the case of the Leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, who is also a British citizen.
Ikengaonline reliably gathered that the Foreign Affairs Select Committee Inquiry into the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO) handling of state level hostage situations has published its findings on the matter.
Bindmans LLP, on behalf of Kanu’s family, complained of the failures of the FCDO to take appropriate action in response to Mr Kanu’s torture, extraordinary rendition and arbitrary detention.
A source confided in Ikengaonline that the withdrawal of the former British envoy to Nigeria might not be unconnected with the investigation.
Kanu has been in detention at the Abuja headquarters of the Department of State Services, DSS, since his rendition from Kenya in June 2021.
Despite various court judgments ordering his unconditional release the Federal Government has refused to let him go.
His health, according to family sources, has been also deteriorating, hence the need to release him for immediate medical treatment abroad.
Both IPOB and Kanu’s family have accused the British Government of not doing enough to secure release for Kanu who is a British citizen.
According to the report sighted by Ikengaonline, Kanu’s family was represented by John Halford and Shirin Marker of Bindmans LLP, together with Charlotte Kilroy KC of Blackstone Chambers and Tatyana Eatwell of Doughty Street Chambers.
The report noted that while Britain had taken firm steps in securing release for her nationals detained in Iran and other parts of the world, no conscious efforts had been made to secure release for Kanu.
According to the report, the mandate of the Inquiry is to discuss the processes and approaches taken by the British Government in securing the release of detainees in Iran and elsewhere.
The submission examines the British Government’s approach in Kanu’s case and highlights the limited effectiveness of that approach in the face of the serious breaches of international law committed against Mr Kanu.
The submission also makes recommendations to the FCDO for better practice.
Below is a full text of the submission by the committee made available to Ikengaonline:
“Mr Kanu is a British national who ordinarily resides in the UK with his wife and children. On 19 June 2021, Mr Kanu was abducted from the airport in Nairobi, Kenya, and detained and tortured for around ten days in Kenya.
“He was then subjected to extraordinary rendition from Kenya to Nigeria, to face criminal prosecution in relation to his activities with the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
“Ever since, Mr Kanu has been detained in conditions that amount to torture at the headquarters of the Nigerian intelligence agency, in Abuja, Nigeria.
“He has been repeatedly denied access to medical assistance and to his legal team. Mr Kanu has requested Consular assistance from the British Government, but British High Commission officials have been permitted to visit him on only five occasions.
“Mr Kanu remains in detention despite the United Nations (UN) and the Nigerian Court of Appeal having concluded that he was subject to extraordinary rendition and calling for his release on the basis that his detention is arbitrary.
“The British government’s response:
“Despite the Nigerian Court of Appeal ruling and condemnation by the UN, successive Foreign Secretaries have been unwilling to reach any firm view as to whether Mr Kanu has been subject to extraordinary rendition, nor have they called for his release.
“On behalf of the family, Bindmans represented Mr Kanu’s family in a judicial review challenge to the former Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss’ unwillingness to reach a decisive view that Mr Kanu was a victim of extraordinary rendition and other human rights abuses by the Nigerian government, an approach maintained by her successor, James Cleverly.
“The judicial review hearing took place on 15 November 2022 and judgment is pending. This case will set an important precedent on whether the British Government is permitted to avoid making a decision on whether a British national is subject to fundamental breaches of international law, in spite of overwhelming evidence of violations of their rights.
“Recommendations in the submission:
“In light of Mr Kanu’s ongoing detention, the Kanu family hopes that the following recommendations made in the submission will be taken into serious consideration by the Inquiry and in turn by the British Government, leading to a positive shift in the FCDO’s current approach to its British nationals detained abroad:
“The FCDO should reassess its policy in respect of providing consular access to dual British nationals abroad, particularly in circumstances where there is a serious risk of torture, and where there are grounds to suspect that serious and egregious violations of international law have been committed by the state in question against the British national in their custody.
“The FCDO should ensure that it provides timely and unprompted updates to family members about the steps it is taking on their behalf.
“The FCDO should be open and transparent with family members about its justification for adopting a certain approach and disregarding others.
“The FCDO should adopt and implement a specific policy in respect of appropriate action to be taken on behalf of British nationals who have been subject to extraordinary rendition.
“The default position under that policy ought to be that, where British citizens have been extraordinarily rendered and/or tortured and then arbitrarily detained overseas, the British Government will take all available diplomatic and legal steps to ensure their release and return to the UK.”