Foreign sponsors gave N1.5m to Kanu’s co-defendant for widows of IPOB members–Witness
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.
FG, through its first witness whose identity was shielded, 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, even 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 in 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 a bank 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 wether 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 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 FG after a Federal High Court in Uyo ordered his immediate release from detention and ordered DSS to pay him N5m as damages for detaining him illegally.
In the amended charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/383/2015, FG alleged that Chimezie and Kanu had between the months of March and April, 2015, imported the radio transmitter into Nigeria for the dissemination of Biafra programs, contrary to section 47(2) (a) of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C77, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
It alleged that the four defendants, alongside Kanu (now at large) and others 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 C77, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004”.
Besides, FG alleged in count-three that Madubugwu had sometimes in the month of October 2015, had in his possession at his house in Ubuluisiuzor in Ihiala LGA of Anambra State, one Emerald Magnum Pump Action Gun with Serial Number TS 870-113-0046 and one Delta Magnum Pump Action Gun with Serial Number 501, as well as forty-one cartridges/ammunition without lawful authority or licence and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 27(b) (i) of the Firearms Act, Cap. F28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
The defendants however pleaded not guilty to the three-count amended charge bordering on treasonable felony.