By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—The Federal Government, on Thursday, opened its case against four pro-Biafra agitators,-Bright Chimezie, Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi- who hitherto faced trial alongside the ‘missing’ leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu.
At the hearing, a witness whose identity was shielded and code named Mr AB, told the court that the first defendant, Bright Chimezie had received N1.5 million from sponsors of IPOB for the welfare of widows of dead IPOB members.
FG narrated how it uncovered and seized a Radio Transmitter the IPOB leader imported into the country with the intention of using same to broadcast preparations 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.
The first prosecution witness, PW-1, who is an operative of the Department of State Service, DSS, was simply identified by the court as Mr. AB, as he gave his evidence behind a screen.
He told the court that the said Radio transmitter known as TRAM 50L, was imported into the country by Kanu and concealed in a container that was declared as used household items.
The PW-1 said investigations by DSS revealed that it was the 1st defendant, Chimezie that took delivery of the container in Lagos and on Kanu’s instructions, moved it to the residence of the 3rd defendant, Madubugwu, at Ubuluisiuzor in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State.
He said the DSS discovered that both Chimezie and Madubugwu were key members of the IPOB.
The witness told the court that further investigation revealed that Chimezie had before his arrest, acted as the welfare officer of the IPOB, adding that he had on several occasions, received money from sponsors of the sessionist group abroad, for the welfare of widows of dead IPOB members.
The PW-1 who said he had been an investigator with the DSS for over six years, told the court that the 1st defendant had in a statement he made upon his arrest, admitted that he had between July and August 2016, received over N1.5million from IPOB sponsors outside the country, through an account domiciled with Skye Bank Plc at Apapa Area in Lagos, adding that he accordingly disbursed the fund to the beneficiaries.
While being cross-examined by Chimezie’s lawyer, Mr. Chukwudi Igwe, the witness said he had no idea that the defendant made statement at one DSS office in Uyo Akwa Ibom state, where he was arrested.
The witness said he did not visit Uyo for further investigation after the defendant made his statement at the DSS headquarter, saying he did not also extend investigation to the Wharf in Lagos where the said container allegedly landed.
He said “My lord, I did not extend my investigation to the Wharf where the container he took delivery of landed, so, I wouldn’t know whether the container was cleared in the wharf or smuggled in.
“I did not also investigate whether the 1st defendant’s name was in the Bill of lading.”
Igwe persuaded the court to compel the witness to read the statement his client made before the DSS in Uyo.
According to the statement, the defendant was arrested on 14 September, 2016, where he went to take up a job in Uyo.
The statement read that the defendant did not know the content of the container until Kanu came back to the country from the United Kingdom and the container was opened.
Meantime, trial Justice Binta Nyako adjourned the case to March 28 to hear the 1st defendant’s bail application, and May 21 for continuation of the trial.
It will be recalled that Chimezie’s name was added to the charge after it was amended by Federal Government after a Federal High Court in Uyo ordered his immediate release from detention and ordered DSS to pay him N5 million as damages for detaining him illegally.