…One said his mother died of a heart attack following his detention
By Vincent Ujumadu, Awka
The case involving the embattled six students of Madonna University and their lecturer who were facing trial at the Federal High Court, Awka could not be heard yesterday due to the absence of the presiding judge, Justice Babatunde Quadri.
The defendants were detained in January this year at the Awka Prison and were later granted bail in July and the matter adjourned to October 7. They were in court yesterday, but following the absence of the Judge, the case was further adjourned to December 3, 2019.
The Madonna University 7 were facing an eleven-count charge of alleged false publication on the social media, which authorities of the university said were injurious to the image of the proprietor, Rev Fr, Emmanuel Edeh, and the institution.
Among those facing trial was Blackson Owhonda, who made a second class upper division in Mass Communication and was already doing his clearance in readiness for deployment for the one -year mandatory National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, scheme before his arrest.
He told Vanguard at the court premises that following his arrest and detention in prison custody, his mother suffered a heart attack and died, adding that he only knew about her death after they were granted bail in July.
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In an emotion-laden voice, Owhonda said: “I was arrested and was later released from the police custody. Later I was invited for interrogation at the Central Police Station, CPS, Onitsha. I left my place at Omoku, Rivers State for CPS, Onitsha because my conscience was clear. I went on my own to CPS, Onitsha and was detained and later transferred to Awka Prison.
“All these while, my mother did not know that I was in prison and whenever she asked why I had not come back, they told her that I traveled.
“However when I was away from them for too long and she was so much worried, they told her that I was under arrest and she had a heart attack and died instantly.
“After her death, they still kept me in the dark as nobody informed me she died on 5th April 2019 and it was after we were granted bail that I knew my mother was dead. I was told she was buried in June while I was still in prison.
“It was really not easy for me, especially when my father was blaming me for my mother’s death. I passed through a lot of trauma. It was even in prison that I came to know my course mates better because I was not relating to them much while we were in school.
“One of them Cyril Owhonda was indeed my friend and we were visiting each other. I live at Omoku and he lives in Port Harcourt. It was when I visited him and we were together in his house that the police arrested us.
“They took us to Choba Police Station where we were first detained. The policemen who took us to the station told their colleagues never to tell anybody who came for us that we were detained there.
“That same day, they took us to Warri, where they arrested Amechi Benedict and then locked me up at Warri Prison and took Cyril Owhonda to one of the hotels where they handcuffed him and tied his mouth with a cloth. The situation was like we were kidnapped.
“My father knows that I did not do anything wrong because he knows me very well. I had never got into trouble with anybody or got involved in any crime; talk more of speaking against the University I graduated from.
I studied Mass Communication and from first to the final year, I never had issues with the management of the university or faced any panel. Besides, Madonna university is not a place students could behave anyhow. So I was very careful and was just on my own.
“We were in prison when the final degree results came out and the information was conveyed to us that three of us made second class, upper division.”
According to him, “the management of Madonna university is yet to release our results and we are yet to go for the NYSC.”
He added: “ Before the arrest, I was yet to complete my clearance. I had done the security and the departmental clearance and what was remaining for me was just to complete the clearance with the Registrar before this problem started.”
“Sincerely speaking, I never knew about the write up that caused the whole trouble on the platform. I used to see write-ups, on the facebook and I was not contributing. The only time I commented on the platform was when former students got married and I congratulated them.”
He also gave reasons why he refused to apologize as demanded by the proprietor of the Madonna university. “Apologizing means that I committed the offence. Already, most of them know that some of us did not know anything about this issue and I cannot understand why they want me to apologize for something I did not do.