The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, on Thursday, asked the Federal High Court in Abuja to trash a suit seeking to compel him to produce the ‘missing’ leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu.
A team of lawyers representing the embattled pro-Biafra agitator had in the suit, prayed the court to order Buratai to produce their client either dead or alive.
The lawyers who were led by Mr Ifeanyi Ejiofor, told the court that they had not seen or heard from their client since September 14 when the Nigerian Army invaded his house “on a murderous raid, where life and mortar bullets were fired on unarmed and defenceless populace, leaving 28 persons dead and abducting many”.
Pursuant to section 40 of the Federal High Court Act, F12, LFN 2005 and section 6(6) (1) (4) of the 1999 constitution, as amended, Kanu’s lawyers applied for “an order of Habeas Corpus ad subjiciendum, commanding the Respondent (Buratai), to produce the Applicant in Court”.
However, in a counter-affidavit he filed in opposition to the suit, Buratai told the court that Kanu was never in custody of the Nigeria Army.
He maintained that contrary to claims in the suit, soldiers who were deployed to the South-East for ‘Operation Python Dance II, did not have any contact whatsoever with Kanu on September 12 or 14, or anytime thereafter as alleged.
The counter-affidavit read in part, “That the applicant (Kanu) is not and has never been in his custody or in the custody of any person, officer or institution receiving instruction directly or indirectly from him.
“That the applicant was not at any time whatsoever arrested, taken into custody or detained by the Officers and men of the Nigerian Army.
“That the officers and men of the Nigerian Army did not have any contact whatsoever or confrontation or any operational engagement with the applicant on September 12 or 14, 20l7 or any other date thereafter, contrary to the allegations in the affidavit in support of the application.
“That the allegation of invasion of the South-Eastern part of Nigeria by officers and men of the Nigerian Army, especially the applicant’s home and or residence is totally false.”
He told the court that during “a peaceful movement” that formed part of Operation Python Dance II, soldiers, on September 14, pursued a truck loaded with arms and ammunition into a compound which was identified in the suit as jointly owned by Kanu and his father.
He alleged that the fleeing truck and its occupants ran over Army barricade and defied soldiers’ order stopping them to be searched.
“That while on a peaceful movement on the said September 14, 2017, the soldiers randomly conducted stop-and-search operations as are necessary and it was during one of such exercises in Umuahia, Abia State, that it flagged down a truck, which as it turned out later, was loaded with arms and ammunitions of varying degrees and descriptions.
“Rather than comply with the stop order, the driver and other occupants of the truck recklessly ran over the barricade mounted on the road by the soldiers and sped off, whereupon the soldiers at the point gave a hot chase and called for reinforcement to enable them pursue and arrest the fleeing vehicle. The soldiers did not fire any shot at the fleeing truck in order to prevent the loss of lives.
“That the truck loaded with the arms and ammunition was pursued into a compound which has now been described in this application as belonging to and under the control of the applicant (Kanu) and his father.
“That it was the legitimate attempt by the officers and men of the Nigerian Army to arrest the fleeing occupants of the truck and impound the truck that precipitated the deliberate igniting of the ammunition in the truck by persons now believed to be IPOB members.
“That the act of the IPOB members resulted in sporadic explosions within the said applicant’s compound”, the affidavit further stated.
“Throughout the duration of the Operation Python Dance II, officers and men of the Nigerian Army obeyed the Rules of Engagement and Code of Conduct to the letter as there was no reported case of indiscriminate shooting, unlawful arrest, detention or torture, contrary to the wild, bland, untrue, incorrect, bogus and insipid allegations contained in or oozed out in the affidavit of Prince Mandela Umegborogu Esq.
“The allegations of firing of live bullets on the applicant’s relatives, killing of scores of persons, wounding and arrest of many, attack and invasion of applicant’s home, barricade at Isialangwa, arrest and torture of civilians by officers and me of the Nigerian Army, as stated by the deponent, are a figment of his imagination as same are not true.”