….as Anambra lawyers drag IPOB to AGF over election boycott order
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – Leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, has queried the competence of amended five-count treasonable charge the Federal Government lodged against him and four other pro-Biafra agitators-Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu, David Nwawuisi and Bright Chimezie- before the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Kanu and his co-defendants are expected to enter their fresh plea to the amended charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/383/2015, before trial Justice Binta Nyako, on October 17.
Whereas the original charge had only four defendants, with Kanu as the 1st accused person, FG, through the Department of Public Prosecutions, Federal Ministry of Justice, amended the case to include Chimezie who was alleged to have between the months of March and April, 2015, imported into Nigeria, a Radio transmitter known as TRAM 50L.
FG alleged that the transmitter was concealed in a container that was declared as used household items, contrary to section 47(2) (a) of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C45, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
Aside the inclusion of the 5th defendant in the case, particulars of allegations FG levelled against Kanu and the three other pro-Biafra agitators remained unchanged.
Specifically, FG alleged in count-one of the amended charge, that Kanu and his co-defendants, as well as other persons currently at large, “on diverse dates in 2014 and 2015 in Nigeria and London, United Kingdom, did conspire amongst yourselves to broadcast on Radio Biafra monitored in Enugu and other areas within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, preparations being made by you and others at large, for states in the South-East and South-South zones and other communities in Kogi and Benue States to secede from the Federal Republic of Nigeria with a view to constituting same into a Republic of Biafra and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 516 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2000”.
In count three, FG alleged that Kanu had “on or about the 28th April, 2015 in London, United Kingdom did in a broadcast on Radio Biafra monitored in Enugu, Enugu state and other parts of Nigeria within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, referred to Major General Muhammadu Buhari, GCON, President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a paedophile, a terrorist, an idiot and an embodiment of evil, knowing same to be false and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 375 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C. 38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004”.
Meanwhile, Kanu, who will be facing four out of the five amended charges, has declared his determination to get the charges quashed for being “grossly incompetent” and for “want of diligent prosecution”.
The IPOB leader, through his team of lawyers led by Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, accused FG of violating an express order of the trial court that forbade any of the parties from filing any form of interlocutory application pending the commencement of full-blown trial of the defendants.
Ejiofor accused FG of deliberately stalling the case while fishing for evidence against the defendants.
According to him, rather than to open its case on June 22, FG, served an amended five-count charge on the defendants, “in clear breach and violation of an order the court made on April 25, 2017, wherein his Lordship warned, that the court will not entertain further interlocutory application or process capable of delaying the trial”.
He alleged that FG joined the 5th defendant, Chimezie, in the case after a Federal High Court in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State had on May 24, not only ordered his immediate release from custody of the Department of State Service , DSS, but equally directed that he should be paid N5million as damages having been illegally detained for period that exceeded the constitutional provision.
Besides, the IPOB leader has filed a motion asking trial Justice Nyako to vary some of his bail conditions which he maintained were arbitrary and unconstitutional.
Justice Nyako had in a ruling on April 25 released Kanu on bail after he had spent a year and seven months in detention, though the court okayed his co-defendants to remain in prison custody.
The court which stressed that it released Kanu on health ground, however compelled him to produce three sureties, including “a Jewish leader” and a “highly placed person of Igbo extraction”, who all deposited N100million each.
He was formally released to Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, a Jewish High Chief Priest, Immanuu-El Shalom and a Chartered Accountant residing in Abuja, Mr. Tochukwu Uchendu, on April 28.
As part of his conditions for bail, Kanu was expressly barred by the court from attending any rally or granting any form of interview.
“I must stress it here that the defendant must not attend any rally. He must not be in a crowd exceeding 10 persons”, the Judge warned.
Justice Nyako held that Kanu who was arrested by security operatives upon his arrival to Nigeria from the United Kingdom on October 14, 2015, must sign an undertaken to make himself available for trial at all times.
He was further ordered to surrender his Nigerian and British international passports, even as the court compelled FG to return to him, his wedding ring and reading glasses.
In his motion for variation of the bail conditions, Kanu contended that some of the conditions were directly in conflict with his constitutionally guaranteed fundamental human rights and therefore ought to be set-aside.
However, the motion which the court ought to hear on the next adjourned date may be overtaken by events, as a member of the prosecution team hinted to Vanguard that FG was weighing the option of applying for Kanu’s bail to be revoked immediately he enters his plea to the amended charge on October 17.
Meanwhile, a group of lawyers under the aegis of Anambra State Lawyers in Defence of Democracy, ASLADD, have petitioned the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, asking him to commence a “high-powered clinical investigation into activities of the IPOB”.
The petitioners, while condemning IPOB’s position that governorship election will not hold in Anambra state on November 18 as scheduled, urged the AGF “to deploy all the instruments and powers of the Nigerian State” available to him, to tackle the IPOB.
The petition read in part: “The IPOB have taken a position that they would “boycott” the forthcoming Anambra 2017 elections. We do not have any problem with them on this position. However, our challenge with IPOB is their seeming inability to appreciate the meaning of the word “boycott” as it relates to Anambra election. We are worried that their mode of propagating their “No referendum, no election” mantra suggests that the word “boycott” has another meaning assigned to it in their own dictionary which is “disruption” of all legitimate activities of government and electioneering activities calculated at striking terror in the minds of the citizens who have made up their mind to discharge their civic duty on the 18th day of November, 2017.
“Sir, the Nnamdi Kanu led IPOB are always quick to raise the green banner of “non-violence” and take refuge under its canopied ambience whereas their official dissemination channel, Radio Biafra, is a flowing river of hate-speeches, incitement to violence and war.
“Hate speech leads to war and war leads to deaths and, therefore, IPOB preaches violence. In the South-East [especially in Onitsha which is our commercial nerve centre], the IPOB miscreants extort money from traders after intimidating them. IPOB hoodlums illegally mount roadblocks to force other citizens to buy their Biafra flags and insignia not minding whether such citizens subscribe to their separatist ideology or whether such citizens have the money to pay for the said flags. They harass citizens and threaten them with violence.
“They intimidate them to close their shops. IPOB street urchins have on two remarkable occasions disrupted campaigns rallies and have most infamously invaded and desecrated St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Ekwulobia in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State where the Governor was to worship [with their chants of no referendum, no election]. Indeed, they have a rich history of mischief.
“This is potentially dangerous. IPOB is exposing the Igbo to another war and this is unacceptable.
“As the Chief Law Officer of the country and the number one defender of our constitution and rule of law, you will agree with us that all these acts complained of [in their aggregate] rudely strike at the root of democracy and constitute a grave threat to the operation of the Nigerian Constitution in the Eastern part of Nigeria especially in Anambra State in view of the governorship election holding later in November. This has now crystallised to a weighty responsibility on your shoulders more so when these acts complained of mostly draw their inspiration from the activities of Nnamdi Kanu who has literally rumpled all the conditions to which his bail was tied and is now revelling in contempt of the Federal High Court with unprecedented and scandalous impunity.
“Speaking from the Bar, we are convinced that the security reports [on IPOB activities] from the security agencies in Anambra State [Onitsha in particular] cannot contradict these complaints we have tabled before you unless the commanders have not been alive to their responsibilities”.
ASLADD equally copied their petition dated August 14 to the United Nations Mission in Nigeria, Ambassador of the United States to Nigeria, The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, The European Union Mission to Nigeria, National Human Rights Commission, The Inspector-General of Police, The Defence Headquarters, The Director-General, State Security Service, The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, The Federal House of Representatives, South-East Governors Forum and Anambra Council of Traditional Rulers.