By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—-The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Wednesday, granted bail to 10 alleged members of the Indegeniuos People of Biafra, IPOB, who have been in detention since February 2.
The court, in a ruling that was delivered by Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, dismissed a five-paragraphed affidavit the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, filed for the Defendants/Applicants to be allowed to remain in prison custody.
The AGF had in the affidavit dated June 19, maintained that charges against the Defendants- Charles Okpo, Uchechukwu James, Azunna Nwankwo, Otobong Davies, Paul Mgboo, Anya Arosi, Onyemuche Omesu, Jeremiah Okora, Emmanuel Nnanna and Ikechukwu John- bordered on acts of terrorism.
Specifically, the Defendants who are all from Umuchiakuma Ikhechiowa in Arochukwu Local Government Local Government Area of Abia State, were in a three-count charge before the court, alleged to have on January 4, conspired with others at large and committed an act of terrorism, by setting houses belonging to one Princess Ikodiya Otta and one Chief Michael Ikpe, on fire.
The prosecution told the court that the aim of the Defendants was to endanger the lives of residents of the houses and other members of the community, and thereby committed an offence that was contrary to Section 17 of Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act, 2013 and punishable under the same section of the Act.
Besides, they were in the third count of the charge, accused of belonging to a proscribed organisation, the IPOB, and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 16(3) of the Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act, 2013 and punishable under the same section of the Act.
When the matter was called up for hearing, counsel to the Defendants, Chief Ibe Igwe, said he filed a motion pursuant to section 162 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, praying the court to release the Defendants on bail pending the determination of the charge against them.
The Defence lawyer told the court that contrary to allegations in the charge, he said the Defendants were arrested at their village football field, and subsequently transferred to office of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad.
He said their arrest followed an allegation by Princess Otta, who he identified as “a very big politician” in the community.
He told the court that the Princess was involved in the extra-judicial murder of one Engr. Chimezie Anyaoha.
The Defence attached as an exhibit, a petiton that members of Ihechiowa community wrote to the Inspector General of Police concerning the murder.
In an 11-paragraphed affidavit that was deposed by one Mr. Emmanuel Ikpe, a member of the community, he told the court that Policemen attached to the Princess had on January 4, shot and killed the deceased and also wounded one Mr. Okoro Okpo.
“That owing to this extra judicial killing, there was a spontaneous reaction from the villagers who besiege the residence of the nominal complainant and in the midst of commotion that ensured, the house of the nominal complainant was torched.
“That the community through their lawyer wrote a letter dated 30/01/2018 to the Inspector General of Police.
“That I know the defendants are farmers and have families to carter for and have been in detention since the incident.
“That I know that their families are suffering as a result of their absence”, the deponent added.
Meantime, the AGF who was represented by Mrs. Judith Obatomi, urged the court to deny bail to the defendants who were on June 6, transferred to Kuje Prisons on the order of trial Justice Binta Nyako.
The AGF contended that the charge against the Defendants is punishable with death upon conviction.
“We have evidence of several threats issued by the defendants to the nominal complainants and members of their families”, the prosecution submitted.
In his ruling, Justice Dimgba who is sitting as a vacation Judge, held that the charge against the defendants contained bailable offences.
The Judge stressed that the essence of bail is to ensure the attendance of a defendant to trial.
Consequently, he granted each of the Defendants bail to the sum of N5million with one surety.
The court held that the surety must be a Civil Servant in federal employment not below grade level 14.
Alternatively, the court held that the surety could be a business man that owns a landed property in Abuja that is worth the bail sum.
The defendants were ordered to surrender their travel documents to the court.
“The defendants must be of utmost good behaviour and maintain peace and decorum in their community. Any breach of this condition will attract automatic revocation of the bail”, Justice Dimgba held.
The case was adjourned till October 18 for trial.
One of the charge against the Defendants read: “That you, Charles Okpo, Uchechukwu James, Azuna Nwankwo, Otobong Davies, Paul Mgboo, Anya Arosi, Onyemuche Omesu, Jeremiah Okora, Emmanuel Nnanna and Ikechukwu John, all of Umuchiakuma Ikhechiuwa in Arochukwu Local Government Area of Abia State on or about the 4th of January, 2018 at-Umuchiakuma Ikhechiuwa community in Arochukwu Local Government Area of Abia State within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, along with others at large did belong to a proscribed organisation to wit: Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 16(3) of the Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act, 2013 and punishable under the same section of the Act”.