By Vincent Ujumadu
Succour has, at last, come the way of the embattled six students of Madonna University, Okija, Anambra State, and their lecturer on Wednesday.
The prosecution announced to the delight of their parents that it had dropped all the charges against the defendants, who had been standing trial at the Federal High Court, Awka, since February last year.
The students were arrested at various locations in the country between November 2018 and January 2019 and then charged to court in February last year over an opinion they allegedly posted on Facebook.
Madonna University authorities considered the posts to be injurious to the image of the institution.
At the resumed sitting, on Wednesday, the prosecution counsel, Chief Arthur Obi-Okafor (SAN), asked for the suspension of all the charges against the students and the lecturer, who were all in court.
He also asked for two weeks adjournment to enable the prosecution perfect the signing of all the documents relating to the withdrawal of the case, a request the presiding judge, Justice Babatunde Quadri granted and subsequently adjourned further sitting to March 27.
The defence counsel, Mr. Christopher Igwe, said although the matter was to be withdrawn, signing of the relevant documents must have caused further shift of the case.
He expressed optimism that it would be done on March 27.
“The information at our disposal is that by the time we come back on the adjourned date, the Attorney-General of the Federation and others would have signed the necessary documents setting the defendants free,” Igwe said.
He commended the prosecution for “showing signs of sincerity” in handling the matter and expressed satisfaction that the case was gradually coming to an end.
He said that once the issue of the withdrawal was finalised, property of the defendants in the custody of security operatives, including telephones, laptops and other personal effects, would be handed over to them.
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A parent of one of the defendants, Chief Christopher Onyejekwe, said he was happy that the students’ ordeal was gradually coming to an end.
He noted that the boys had suffered so much and that what they needed most was kindness from authorities of Madonna University.
He suggested that while waiting for the final lap of the court processes, the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria should intervene by prevailing on the proprietor of Madonna University, Reverend Father Emmanuel Ede, to set the students free unconditionally to enable them to pursue their careers.
“Fr. Ede should be made to show love to these students even if they offended him in any way.
“He is old enough to be their grandfather and he should act as a father to all of them,” Onyejekwe said.