IPOB protest in Nnewi disrupted by Police
We expect non-conditional release for him —Rights group
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Nwabueze Okonkwo & Chimaobi Nwaiwu
ABUJA—Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court in Abuja has fixed January 29 to determine whether or not the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, should be released on bail pending his trial.
Kanu is answering to a six-count treason charge that was preferred against him by the federal government.
This came as the protest in Nnewi by members of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, was yesterday disrupted by the Police Area Command in Nnewi, after a heated argument between the police and members of IPOB.
Kanu is facing trial alongside two other pro-Biafra agitators, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi.
Justice Tsoho adjourned ruling on the defendants’ bail applications after he entertained arguments from their lawyer and that of the federal government.
Counsel to the defendants, Mr. M. U. Udechukwu, argued that the charge levelled against his clients are bailable, saying they ought to be presumed innocent until their guilt is established.
He predicated the consolidated bail applications on the provisions of Sections 35 and 36 of the 1999 constitution, as amended, as well as sections 158 and 162 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
Udechukwu contended that the offence against the accused persons does not attract capital punishment upon conviction.
However, the federal government, through the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, Mr. Mohammed Diri, opposed the release of the defendants on bail.
FG insisted that the accused persons would jump bail once out of detention, alleging that Kanu, who it said has dual citizenship, “illegally sneaked” into Nigeria from the United Kingdom.
It will be recalled that the defendants had on January 20, pleaded not guilty to the six-count charge, even as Justice Tsoho remanded them in prison custody.
The trio were in the charge that was signed by the DPP, alleged to have committed treasonable felony, an offence said to be punishable under Section 41(C) of the Criminal Code Act, CAP C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
FG alleged that the accused persons were the ones managing the affairs of the IPOB which it described as “an unlawful society.”
Kanu who is also the Director of Radio Biafra and Television, was specifically alleged to have illegally smuggled radio transmitters into Nigeria.
The IPOB leader has been in detention since October 14, 2015, when he was arrested in Lagos by security operatives shortly after he arrived Nigeria from his base in the UK..
One of the charges
One of the charges against him read: “That you, Nnamdi Kanu and other unknown persons, now at large, at London, United Kingdom, between 2014 and September, 2015, with intention to levy war against Nigeria in order to force the President to change his measures of being the President of the Federation, Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation as defined in Section 3 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) by doing an act to wit: Broadcast on Radio Biafra your preparations for the states in the South- East geo-political zone, South-South geo-political zone, the Igala community of Kogi State and the Idoma/Igede community of Benue State to secede from the Federal Republic of Nigeria and form themselves into a Republic of Biafra, and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 41(C) of the Criminal Code Act, CAP C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.”
IPOB protest disrupted
On the disrupted protest at Nnewi, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, were said to have marched from Onitsha to Uruagu Nnewi to protest the continued incarceration of the their leader and Director of Radio Biafra, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu when police disrupted them.
The IPOB members were said to have marched from Onitsha to St. John the Cross Catholic Church, Uruagu, Nnewi, where they were accosted by the police led by the Nnewi Police Area Commander, Mr. Hanzad Amiyi who insisted that they must not enter into Nnewi township, or they will face the wrath of the police.
Mr. Amiyi who led over 20 Pick-up vans and five white saloon cars, filled with combat ready policemen, was, however, civil to the protesting IPOB members, but maintained his stand that the surging IPOB members must not enter into the industrial city.
The policemen were said to have been drafted from all the towns that make up Nnewi Police Area Command, including, Orifite, Ozubulu, Ihiala, Ekwulobia, Ukpor, Osumenyi, Okija and Nnobi, among others.
However, while the argument on whether they should be allowed to pass or not was going on between the IPOB leaders who refused to speak with newsmen, other IPOB members were chanting songs against the Federal Government, Nigerian Police and Army, DSS and other security agencies.
When the argument became more heated, more police vehicles filled with policemen arrived the scene and used their vehicles to block the Old Owerri Road, Nnewi, by the Catholic Church, creating a little space so that vehicles coming into and exiting Nnewi could pass through.
Their action made vehicular movements very slow, while some policemen positioned themselves for possible battle against any attack on the Area Commander and some Divisional Police Officers who joined him in dispersing the IPOB members.
Meanwhile, the Media and Publicity Officer of IPOB, Mr. Emma Powerful described the action of the Nnewi Police Area Command as barbaric and senseless, adding “it is only in Anambra State in the whole of South East that the police will stop people who are engaged in peaceful protest as the same police have always confirmed that IPOB members are peaceful in their conduct.
“The Federal Government should go and build more prisons to contain us. We will never stop our protests until Mr Kanu is released and the sovereign state of Biafra is achieved. They are wasting their time. Are they tired of killing us? Why are they now peaceful in their approach to us? We blame Anambra State government for our ordeal in the hands of the security agencies. They gave them power to be killing us.
“We will never relent in our struggle. Biafra must be achieved and Mr Kanu will be freed unconditionally otherwise, we will make this country ungovernable. This government will never rest or know peace until they leave us alone and release our leader ,” he said.
However, the Nnewi Area Commander who refused to speak with newsmen on his reason for not allowing the IPOB members entry into Nnewi township simply said: “We don’t want to use tear gas on them, we want to be peaceful with them since they have shown maturity but they are not allowed into Nnewi township unless they get clearance from the State Police Command, Awka. Only on that condition will we allow them and moreover, they are coming from Onitsha, they should go back to where they are coming from.”
Efforts to speak with the IPOB leader failed as he refused to speak with newsmen.
However, the refusal of the IPOB leader to speak with newsmen on their argument with the police infuriated other members of the group who described him as “not being a worthy leader.”
While some said he was just elected a leader yesterday (Sunday), others said he would frustrate the group if he continued the way he was going, with his claim of being a pastor.
Members of IPOB equally told him that he should resign if his plan was to frustrate the group, wondering why he had to engage in any kind of discussion with the police, an action they believe gave the police the impetus to send them back because according to them, “they discovered that he was afraid. He ought to have told the world our ordeal in the hands of the police.”
Throughout the period of argument between the police and the IPOB leaders, their leader was waving his Bible and raining curses, while onlookers described him as a “real Biafran activist,” and clapped for him.
A case for unconditional release
In another development, a human rights group, International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law, Intersociety also yesterday stated that it is not expecting anything less than a non-conditional bail for the detained leader of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu whose case is currently pending at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Reacting shortly after yesterday’s court proceedings in Kanu’s bail application, during which the court reserved ruling for Friday this week, Intersociety said its prediction was based on the fact that denying him bail would amount to abuse of his fundamental human rights and committing an offence on top of allegations leveled against him, adding that he could be given either a bail attached to no condition or one with a light condition such as asking him to deposit his international passport or asking him to produce a credible surety, for formality sake.