By Ikechukwu Nnochiri – Abuja
Association of Igbo lawyers has approached the Federal High Court in Abuja with an application to be joined as a party in a suit some Northern elders filed for exit of the South East region from Nigeria.
The Plaintiffs, Nastura Ashir Shariff, Balarabe Rufa’I, Abdul-Aziz Sulaiman and Aminu Adam, had in their suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/538/2021, maintained that the National Assembly is constitutionally empowered to set in motion a framework for a referendum to allow the South-Eastern region of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to decide on their bid for self-determination.
Cited as 1st to 4th Defendants in the suit are Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the National Asembly.
Specifically, the Plaintiffs, are seeking three principal reliefs from the court, among which include;
“A declaration that in view of the provisions of Articles 1, 2, 4, 14 and 20(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act 2004, the 2nd and 3rd defendants (the Senate President and House of Reps Speaker) have the power to call for a joint session of both Chambers of the 4th defendant to deliberate on the agitation for self-determination by the Southeastern states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
As well as, “An order directing the 2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants to provide a framework that will pave the way for the self-determination of the South-eastern states so as to leave the geographical entity called Nigeria before any further step is taken to further amend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
They claimed that their action was based on the need to end violence and destruction allegedly occasioned by the agitation for secession, championed by the Nnamdi Kanu-led Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB.
“Even before the emergence of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), there was a group at the south-eastern part of Nigeria known as the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) under the leadership of one, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike.
“The main objective of the group mentioned in the immediately preceding paragraph is also the creation of the Independent State of Biafra, away from the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Long before the emergence of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), there was a move by the people of the south-eastern part of Nigeria formerly Eastern Region led by the late Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu to secede from the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The secession attempt by the people of the then Eastern Region under the leadership of the late Col. Ojukwu was directly responsible for the first Nigerian Civil War between 1967 and 1970. The said civil war had claimed many innocent lives from both sides of the divide as well as the destruction of properties worth billions of naira which was detrimental to the growth and development of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The lessons of the civil war have faded in the minds of many Nigerians and a repeat of the carnage of the civil war is not necessary, going forward. The IPOB’s agitation for self-determination has turned violent against both the people of the south-east who are against their agitations and other Nigerians carrying out their lawful businesses within the south-eastern states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The IPOB through its militant arm — Eastern Security Network (ESN) — is responsible for the killings, expulsions and destruction of properties of other Nigerians not belonging to the Igbo tribe.
“Resolving, with finality, the existential question of self-determination of any part of Nigeria is now more urgent, imperative and prevails over and above the issue of amending the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria can be further amended at any time after the question of self-determination must have been resolved by Nigerians”, the Plaintiffs added.
However, the Igbo lawyers, led by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Chief Chuks Muoma, Ukpai Ukairo, Ebere Uzoatu and Hon Obi Emuka, in their joinder application, wondered why the Plaintiffs failed to join the South Eastern states in the suit.
They are therefore praying the court to join them as Defendants in the suit to enable them to represent the people of the southeastern region.
In the application they filed through Victor Onweremadu, the Applicants, argued that the suit has the capability to shape the life of the generation of Igbo people.
In a 12-paragraph affidavit in support of their application deposed to by one Ekenna Felix Jonathan, the Igbo lawyers averred: “That this suit is so crucial and a sensitive matter which concerns the Indigenous Igbo speaking tribe in Nigeria and has the capability to shape the life of the future generation of the people of the south-east of Nigeria and other Indigenous Igbo speaking tribe in Nigeria.
“That the Igbo Lawyers Association represented by the applicants are an Indigenous association of lawyers from the south east of Nigeria and other Indigenous Igbo speaking tribe in Nigeria.
“That the Igbo Lawyers Association and its objective is to represent the interest of the Igbo people which said people are Indigenous in the south east of Nigeria. Thus, the association is interested and is a necessary party to be joined.
“That It will serve the interest of justice if the Honourable court grants the application and join the applicants as defendants in the suit and that the plaintiffs will not be prejudiced if the application is granted”.
Meanwhile, Justice Inyang Ekwo has set down November 1 to hear the suit.