As Kanu is brought to court in handcuffs
Court rejects Kanu’s request for seized passports, money
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Ugochukwu Alaribe, Nwabueze Okonkwo & Francis Igata
ABA—The protest embarked on by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, over the prolonged detention of their leader, Nnamdi Kanu, yesterday, turned bloody in Aba, Abia State, as a combined team of security agents, comprising soldiers and policemen allegedly fired shots at the protesters, killing six members of the group and arresting 20.
Also in Enugu, the Police in the state yesterday, arrested 25 members of the IPOB, who had gathered at the Naira Triangle in preparation for a protest march.
Vanguard gathered that the protesters had, as early as 9am, converged at National High School, along Port Harcourt-Aba road, from where they usually march to other areas of the city when security agents swooped on them. Sources said the IPOB members were in prayer session when the soldiers and their police counterparts invaded the area and arrested some leaders of the group.
In the confusion, several protesters were injured while 10 were feared dead.
Eyewitnesses told Vanguard that the casualty figure would have been higher had some of the protesters not escaped. According to them,“the protesters as usual, gathered at the school to pray before taking off, but soldiers and policemen invade the area. There was heavy shooting. I saw more than three dead people. Many others were injured.”
The situation caused tension in the area as shop owners and residents scampered to safety. Motorists avoided the stretch between Crystal Park Hotel junction and National High School in order not to be caught in the crossfire.
An IPOB official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the security agents arrested the group’s Aba Coordinator identified as Ikechukwu and some of his assistants.
The official, who disclosed that 20 IPOB members were being detained by the Police, insisted that they would not relent until their detained leader is released as well as the actualization of an independent state of Biafra, adding that the protest would continue until Friday.
At the time of filing this report, over 30 members of the group were reportedly receiving attention at various hospitals in the city.
When Vanguard visited the area, stern looking soldiers and policemen were seen at strategic positions while a convoy over 30 patrol vans later took the arrested protesters away.
Contacted on phone, spokesman of the Abia State Police command, DSP Ezekiel Onyeke, told Vanguard that he was yet to be briefed on the incident.
The protest march which they had tagged “mother of all protest marches” was nipped in the bud by security agents who stormed the venue where they were trooping in numbers.
The Naira Triangle was almost covered with a sea of heads when the security operatives struck and dispersed them.
Canisters of tear gas were shot at the gathering which snowballed into physical show of strength between the IPOB members and security agents.
But for the application of extreme professional caution by the security agents, the fracas could have resulted in many loss of lives.
Although many of the IPOB members sustained injuries, many took to their heels as the police released shots of tear gas into the crowd.
The media and publicity officer of IPOB, Emma Powerful decried the attitude of the security agents towards its members, saying the group is not a violent group and were assembling for a peaceful protest march.
Groups condemn killings
Civil society organizations in Abia State under the auspices of Abia Human Rights Agenda yesterday condemned what it described as the killing of defenceless protesters in Aba.
The group called on the Chief of Army Staff, Major General Tukur Buratai and the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase to cause investigation into the dastardly acts and prosecute those found culpable, to serve as a deterrent to others.
Addressing newsmen in Aba, the group; Foundation for Environmental Rights and Advocacy, FENRAD; Society for Economic Rights and Social Justice, SERSJ; Human Rights, Justice and Peace Foundation, HRJPF; among others; contended that over 15 persons have lost their lives in pro-Biafra protests in the city, describing the situation as unacceptable and called on security agents to respect the rules of their engagements.
Spokesmen for the groups, Nelson Nwafor, Innocent Nwokocha, and Cassius Ukwugbe, described the killings as the height of human rights violations by those who are paid to protect lives and properties, asserting that the killing of unarmed citizens is a heinous crime against God and humanity.
According to the CSOs, “Over 10 people lost their lives during the protest against the detention of the Director of Radio Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu. Several others sustained various degrees of injuries as security agents clashed with protesters. Security agents must restrict themselves to the rules of their engagements in crisis situation.”
Drama in court
Meantime, a mild drama took place within the premises of the Federal High Court in Abuja, as the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, whose trial was billed for yesterday, refused to remove his handcuffs.
It took the intervention of his lead counsel, Chief Chuks Muoma, SAN, to persuade Kanu to step-down from the prison van that brought him to court for trial.
Though he eventually succumbed to persuasion by his lawyer to alight from the prison van, however, Kanu, swore that he would not allow anybody to remove the handcuffs which he wore into the court room.
Also yesterday, trial Justice John Tsoho, dismissed an application by the detained leader of the IPOB, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, for an order compelling the Department of State Services, DSS, to release some items that were forcefully seized from him on the day he was arrested.
Among the items Kanu wanted the court to help him retrieve from the security agency included his British and Nigerian passports, as well as $2,200 and N87, 000.
The IPOB leader who is facing treason charge, made the oral application through his lawyer, Chief Chuks Muoma, SAN, on a day the Federal Government applied for protection of the identities of witnesses that were billed to testify against him.
Muoma contended that the items were not among the exhibits the prosecution listed in his proof-of evidence before the court.
He argued that the fact that the prosecution had by way of an affidavit evidence, deposed that investigation had been concluded on the matter, and did not include the seized items among the materials it would rely upon to establish the guilt of the defendant, meant they would not be needed during the trial.
The application was vehemently opposed by the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, Mr. Mohammed Diri, who insisted that the proper procedure was for the defendant to write an application to the Attorney General of the Federation, requesting for the said items to be released to him if it would not be used in the course of the trial.
“If the application is brought to the AGF, it is for us at that level to look at the relevance of the items vis-à-vis the prosecution of this case, and reply accordingly. At this point in time, evidence has not been adduced in this court,” Diri argued.
Placing reliance on section 10(7) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, the DPP, maintained that Kanu could only make such application at the end of his trial.
He said: “It should be made at the close of the case of the prosecution. As to the two passports, the proof of evidence before this court indicates that despite the fact that the 1st defendant carries Nigerian and British passports, he sneaked into the territory of the Federal Republic of Nigeria without using any of them.”