By Chinedu Adonu
ENUGU – A Magistrate Court sitting in Enugu North, Enugu State, Tuesday, ordered the Attorney-General of Enugu State and the Nigeria Prisons Service to produce members of the Ralph Uwazurike-led Biafra Independent Movement, BIM.
The 32 MASSOB-BIM members were arrested on May 22 during their celebration of Biafra anniversary in Enugu, and were subsequently arraigned on treason charges.
However, the matter has suffered two adjournments on the instance of the Police owing to the failure of prison officials to produce the accused persons in court.
It was gathered that when the matter came up on Tuesday, it was same story as none of the accused persons was brought to court, prompting the defence counsel, Barr. C. O. Obiekwe to bash the Attorney General and the Nigeria Prisons Service.
He told the court that the Federal Government in collaboration with the Attorney-General of Enugu State and the Nigeria Prisons “are doing everything not not set them free, knowing that they have not committed any offence.
“We are practicing democracy not the dictatorship that is being displayed in this matter. This is one of the cases that portrays this government as anti-democracy
“I have gone to the Department of Public Prosecution, DPP, and I was told in confidence that they have concluded their job and sent their report to the Attorney-General.
“However, every effort I made to see the Attorney-General has failed. I have gone there up to six times. The last I went, he said he does not want to see anybody, that he was tired.”
Obiekwe did not spare the Nigeria Prisons, who he insisted had no genuine reason not to bring the accused persons to court.
“Prison authorities have no genuine reason, the other time they said they had no staff, this time no vehicle. By my checks, they brought 17 other accused persons to court today, so why did they not go back to bring the other 32 persons.
“These people are freedom fighters, they have not committed any offence known to law; that’s why I call this government dictators, I’m ready to face them.”
However, Mr. Ude Ambrose, a Senior Prison Assistant, who was in court said the accused persons were not produced owing to logistics challenges.
“We have over 102 inmates going to court today. Some went to Obollo-Afor, Amagunze, and several other places. So, there is shortage of vehicles.
“We prefer Fridays, because we have less cases. Other days we used to have 60-40, but today, we have the highest number. Most of our vehicles are engaged,” he told the court.
After listening to them, the presiding Magistrate, His Worship Okoro Sam ordered that the accused persons must be brought to court on July 26.
“It is hereby ordered that the accused persons be brought to court on the next adjourned date for the Attorney-General’s advice,” the court held.
Meanwhile, counsel to the defendants told journalists after the court sitting that he was aware of a deliberate plot to perpetually incarcerate the Biafra agitators.
“On the 3rd of July, they brought half, knowing that if they did not bring all of them, the court will not hear the matter. Today, they did not bring even one, and the court was frustrated.
“We have reliable information that they were confined to prison, because the people who want them there do not want them to go on bail.
“That is why on the day of arraignment, they suddenly changed the charge from unlawful assembly to treasonable felony.
“They have tried several times in High Court and they were told that these people were not committing any treasonable act, what you have to charge them is simple offences if you think they have committed any. They don’t want to do that.
“They brought the correct charge this time, that is unlawful assembly, but suddenly, in the court they changed it to treason, knowing full well that there was no force, according to the law.
“So, what they are doing is to frustrate the agitators, this is not democracy. This is dictatorship.
“Let’s wait till 26th of this Month to see the Attorney-General’s comments, which has not come out, but this case will be two months on 22nd of this month,” Obiekwe fumed.