By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – A team of lawyers representing the embattled leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, has asked the Federal High Court in Abuja to compel the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, to produce their client in court dead or alive.
Kanu’s lawyers, led by Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, told the court that they have not seen or heard from their client since September 14 when the “Nigerian Army invaded the Applicant’s house on a murderous raid, where life and mortar bullets were fired on unarmed and defenseless 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, to produce the Applicant in Court”.
The lawyers, in the suit that has Kanu as the Applicant and Buratai as Respondent, told the court that their request was predicated on the following grounds:
“That the Applicant is the Leader of th IPOB, a group largely made up of People from South-Eastern part of the Country, mostly Biafra extraction; who are at all times materials lawfully exercising their constitutionally guaranteed rights to self determination, freedom of Association and peaceful Assembly.
“The Applicant was arrested on the 14th day of October, 2015 and consequently arraigned in Court along other Defendants on the 20th day of January, 2016, on 11 (Eleven) Count charge of Treasonable felony, conspiracy to Commit treasonable felony, belonging to an unlawful society, importation of goods, publication of libelous matters, etc. Six out of this eleven count charge had since the 28th day of March 2017, been struck out by the Court, including allegation of belonging to an unlawful Society.
“The Applicant was granted bail on the 25th day of April, 2017, by His Lordship Hon, Justice Binta Nyanko. The Applicant is still enjoying the bail granted him by the Court seized of the matter, when the Prosecution filed an application on the 25th day of August 2017, requesting the Court to revoke the bail granted the Applicant.
e. Hearing on the matter is slated to commence on the 17th day of October, 2017.
“On the 12th September, 2017, the Nigeria Military Soldiers acting under express command handed down by the Respondent, violently invaded the Applicant’s home in Afara-ukwu Ibeku, Umuahia Abia State, wherein scores of his relative were brutally wounded and many killed.
“On 14th day of September, 2017, the Nigerian Military led by Soldiers of the Nigerian Army invaded the Applicant’s house on a murderous raid, where life and mortar bullets were fired on unarmed and defenseless populace, leaving 28 persons dead and abducting many.
“The Applicant who was in the house during this bloody onslaught by the Soldiers, has not been heard from or seen after this bloody attack in his home by the Agents of the Respondent since the 14th day of September 2017.
“That the invading Soldiers in their desperate bid to ensure that the Applicant is caught in the attack climbed stairs to his bedroom upstairs to shot him; walls of his bedroom were riddled with bullets.
j. The invading Soldiers who had direct contact with the Applicant on this fateful day (14th day of September 2017) should be in a position to produce the Applicant before the court. It is either the Respondent’s rampaging Soldiers abducted the Applicant during this raid or must have killed him in the process.
“Section 40 of the Federal High Court Act empowers this Court to Order that a Writ of Habeas Corpus ad Subjiciendum; (A Writ directed to someone detaining another person and commanding that the detainee be brought to Court) be issued on the Respondent, to produce the Applicant in Court, particularly now his substantive criminal trial is coming up on the 17th day of October, 2017”.
They maintained that the Court was vested with inherent powers Under Section 6(6) (a)- (d) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as (Amended 2011) to entertain the application and grant reliefs sought herein.
Besides, in a supporting affidavit that was deposed by one Prince Mandela Umegborogu, he told the court that he was told by Kanu’s younger brother, Emmanuel, that on September 12, “Soldiers of Nigerian Army, numbering about 200 ( two hundred) fully armed to the teeth invaded the residential home of the Applicant in Afarauwku- Ibeku, Umuahia, in Abia State”.
“That the invading Soldiers were deployed to the South-Eastern part of the Country by the Respondent in a covert operation tagged Operation Python dance II (Egwu eke II), an exercise exclusively under the Respondent’s command and control.
“That the Soldiers who also drove in a purpose-built sophisticated armored personnel carrier, fired live bullets on the relatives of the Applicant, leaving scores brutally wounded, and arrested many.
“That the said Military deployment to the South-East was approved, without any history of arms resistance by the Applicant’s members or combatant attacks on Military personnel and installation from the civilian populace.
“That during the bloody attack/invasion of the Applicant’s home, scores were killed and others forced to abandon their sleep and run for cover in nearby bushes, which include nursing mothers, pregnant women, children and the aged.
that on that same day, September 12, dozens of supporters of the Applicant who were on a courtesy visit to him, were also barricaded at Isialangwa and tortured on the same day.
“That the Applicant was emotionally traumatized and visibly tortured on account of heavy causalities recorded in this unprovoked attack from the invading Soldiers.
“That on September 14, the Nigerian Soldiers invaded the Applicant’s home for the second time, unfortunately on a brutal but murderous raid that left 28 (twenty eight) persons dead, and over 48 (forty eight) arrested and taken away to an unknown destination.
“That the Applicant was sitting right inside his bedroom when the Soldiers invaded his home.
“That the Soldiers in their desperate efforts to ensure that the Applicant who is their main target is gunned down, climbed the stairs to his bedroom upstairs to shot him.
“That the wall of the Applicant’s bedroom is riddled with bullets holes till date. Attached and marked as Exhibits EK1, EK2, EK3, EK4, EK5 EK6, EK7 and EK8 are photographs showing with sufficient clarity the impacts of this assault on the Applicant’s home.
“That the by virtue of this contact the soldiers had with the Applicant in his room on this 14th day of September 2017, the soldiers must know where the Applicant is, his fate and state of health”.
He told the court that “the rampaging Soldiers”, busted into Kanu’s room in the course of the “bloody attack and shoot at everything on sight, including living objects”.
Attached and variously marked Exhibits EK9, EK10, EK11, EK12, EK13 and EK14, in the suit, were photographs and video footage the deponent said was evidence of the “dastardly attack on the home of the Applicant, including the bullets holes in his bedroom”.
He said: “That the trigger happy Soldiers shot sporadically into the air, for about forty minutes, before forcing their way into the Applicant’s house.
“That the Applicant only managed to alert his Lawyer- Bar Ifeanyi Ejiofor on the war-like deafening sounds of guns, being fired into the air, which shooting was targeted at the unarmed and defenseless members of the Applicant’s household, and IPOB members who were on a visit to the Applicant’s house.
“That his Lawyer Bar. Ifeanyi Ejiofor quickly issued a statement drawing the attention of the world to the bloody attack going on in the Applicant’s house, which statement was promptly published by reputable online media houses”.
According to the affidavit, the soldiers took away many dead bodies and arrested over 48 persons.
Kanu’s lawyers told the court that search so far conducted by the Applicant’s siblings had not been yielded any fruit, as the Applicant is still missing, adding that the palace of their aged father, housing the Applicant’s apartment, inclusive of the Applicant’s building, was shattered with mortar bullets.
They told the court that they have made several entreaties to the Respondent to direct his Soldiers to release the Applicant or his body for a befitting burial if he was killed in the onslaught, saying their effort has not yielded fruit.
According to them, Kanu was eagerly preparing to appear in court for his trial on October 17, before his house was invaded by soldiers, adding that he was never invited by any security Agency to respon to any criminal allegation, “before this unprovoked bloody assault in his home”.
The affidavit further read: “That the murderous raid in the home of the Applicant is targeted at eliminating him and not to arrest him.
“That if the intention of the Respondent was to arrest the Applicant, they would have quietly done that without killing unarmed and defenseless civilian populace found in the Applicant’s house.
“That the Applicant and the members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) are non-violent and unarmed group, agitating for their right to self determination.
“That the IPOB do not carry arms neither are they into any form of armed struggle, and do not have history of violence. That the present situation is serious, thus requiring the immediate intervention of this Honourable Court.
“That unless this Honourable Court intervenes, and command the Respondent or its agents, privies, howsoever called, to produce the Applicant in Court they will still continue to keep the Applicant, without allowing him access to his family members and Solicitors”, it read.