Igbo monarchs urge Buhari to listen to IPOB

You must drop separatist idea, President insists‎

Kanu loses bail bid 

From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Godwin Tsa,  Abuja

Igbo traditional rulers under the auspices of the South East Council of Traditional Rulers, have advised President Muhammadu Buhari to listen to the grievances of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), with a bid to finding lasting solution.

This is even as the President told those contemplating the break up of the country to have a rethink.

The monarchs assured the President that they would continue to engage and preach to IPOB and other agitators on the need to embrace dialogue.

According to the South East monarchs led by Dr. Eberechi Dick, “every problem of the nation can be best resolved through peaceful dialogue and respect for the rule of law.”

Dr. Dick who spoke on behalf of the monarchs added: “While we reassure Your Excellency of our total belief in one united and indivisible great nation of ours called Nigeria, we also want to call the attention of the Federal Government to some of their mentioned grievances for serious considerations, which includes neglect of the South East in the Amnesty Programme, deplorable state of Federal Roads and other infrastructure in the South East.

“Relegation of oil producing states of the South East in NDDC projects and exclusion of the South East in key federal appointments.”‎

The group also called on Buhari to intervene in the activities of Fulani herdsmen in the zone.

The traditional rulers thanked the Buhari administration for awarding contracts for the construction  and maintenance of the Niger Bridge and federal roads within the South East geo-political zone, but requested for the rehabilitation of Aba-Ikot Ekpene, Onitsha – Enugu, Owerri Port Harcourt, Owerri Aba, Abakaliki federal roads. ‎

They assured President Buhari of their unalloyed support for his leadership and programmes and the fight against insecurity in the country.‎

Buhari in his response warned that the question of having another country out of Nigeria was misplaced.

“From 1914, we have more than 200 cultures living with one another. God has endowed this country with natural resources and talented people.  We should concentrate on these and be very productive,” he said.

The President assured that the South-East would also benefit from the new railway architecture being put in place by his administration.

On their request for more representation for the South-East in his government, the President said that he was “very conscious of the sensitivities of the South East”, on account of which, he gave the region’s four out of five states senior ranking ministers in the federal cabinet.

Meanwhile, attempt by the embattled leader of IPOB, to breathe the air of freedom has again hit the rock.

On resumption of his trial, a Federal High Court, in Abuja, refused to release Kanu, Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi.

They were arrested and arraigned on 11-count charge bordering on treasonable felony and alleged involvement in acts of terrorism.

After entering their plea of not guilty to all the counts, they, through their lawyers applied for bail pending trial pursuant to sections 158, 162 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 , as well as section 35 and 36 of the 1999 Constitution( as amended).

It was their contention that the charges against them were not only bailable offences, but also not felony punishable with death.

The defendants further argued that the presumption of innocence under the Nigerian Constitution was in their favour, adding that their release from detention would enable them to properly defend the charge against them.

The defendants expressed their readiness to produce reasonable sureties before the court.

However, the prosecution counsel, Mr. Shuaibu Labaran, told the court that the defendants would constitute “a threat to national security,” once freed from prison custody.

In her ruling yesterday, Justice Nyako, held that charge against the defendants “are very serious in nature,” and therefore not ordinarily bailable.

Detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, alleged, yesterday, that the Federal Government was plotting to line up foreigners to testify against him in an alleged treason trial.

Besides, Kanu, through his counsel, has once again, kicked against a proposed secret trial.

Speaking through one of his lawyers,  Mr. Maxwell Okpara, Kanu claimed that most of the proposed witnesses to be lined up against him by the Federal Government have been “imported from neighbouring countries.

“My lord, we have uncovered their plan to bring Ghanaians and people from Cameroon to appear in this court to testify against the defendants. We, as Nigerians, will resist that plot. It cannot work. That is why they are insisting that they should testify behind a screen. That plot has failed, it will not work,” Okpara said.

“Irrespective of what the charge is, the court has to exercise its discretion one way or the other,” the judge held, adding that some of the charges against the defendants could attract life imprisonment if proved by the Federal Government.

Justice Nyako also dismissed contention by the defendants that President Muhammadu Buhari had openly directed that they should not be released on bail. “The offences are serious in nature and carry severe punishment if proven. “I hereby refuse bail of the applicants.

But in the alternative, I hereby order accelerated trial of this matter to almost commence immediately, but not later than two months,” the judge held.

Shortly after the ruling was delivered, FG, applied for all the witnesses to be allowed to testify behind screen.

It also prayed the court for identities of the witnesses not to be revealed in any record of the proceeding.

The defendants, however, opposed the application, contending that granting such request would amount to a gross violation of their rights to fair hearing. “We vehemently oppose secret trial of the defendants.

They were accused in the open; we also request that they be tried in the open. The defendants need to see those testifying against them eye-ball-to-eye-ball. We are ready for this trial,” Kanu’s lawyer, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor submitted.

Specifically, FG had in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/383/2015, alleged that the quartet conspired to commit treasonable felony contrary to and punishable under section 516 of the Criminal Code Act, CAP.C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2014.

FG alleged that they committed the offence along with others now at large, on diverse dates in 2014 and 2015, in Nigeria, London and United Kingdom.

It told the court that the defendants conspired among themselves to broadcast on Radio Biafra which is monitored in Enugu and its environs, preparations they were making for states in the South-South zones and other communities in Kogi and Benue states, to secede from the Federal Republic of Nigeria with a view to constituting same into a Republic of Biafra.

Whereas, FG identified Kanu as the arrow-head behind the “hate broadcasts,” it fingered Onwudiwe as the National Coordinator of the IPOB movement.

The defendants had on November 8, pleaded not guilty to all the charges against them, even as the court adjourned to hear their bail applications.

Kanu was previously facing a six-count treason charge with Madubugwu and Nwawuisi, before FG amended the charges to include Onwudiwe as one of the defendants.

Justice Nyako is now the third judge to handle the trial. Recall that the former judge handling the matter, Justice John Tsoho had on September 26, disqualified himself from presiding over trial of the defendants.

Justice Tsoho who earlier denied the defendants bail, premised his decision to hands-off the case on a petition pending against him before the National Judicial Council (NJC). Kanu and his co-accused persons had, in their joint petition, alleged that Justice Tsoho indulged in act of “judicial rascality,” by delivering conflicting rulings on the same subject matter. They alleged that the judge summarily reversed his previous ruling that barred the Federal Government from masking all the witnesses billed to testify against them.

The defendants maintained that the judge denied them fair hearing on the day he gave FG the nod to produce “masquerades” to testify against them.

Justice Ahmed Mohammed who was the first judge Kanu was taken to by the FG, had in a bench ruling he delivered on December 23, 2015, also distanced himself from the matter. Kanu who was hitherto the director of Radio Biafra and Television, ‎has been in detention since October 14, 2015, when he was arrested by security operatives upon his arrival to Nigeria from his base in the United Kingdom.

The defendants were alleged to have committed treasonable felony, an offence punishable under Section 41(C) of the Criminal Code Act, CAP C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria. The FG alleged that they were the ones managing the affairs of IPOB which it described as “an unlawful society.” Kanu was alleged to have illegally smuggled radio transmitters into Nigeria, which he used to disseminate “hate broadcasts,” encouraging the “secession of the Republic of Biafra,” from Nigeria.

The IPOB leader earlier denied the charges, even as the court, on January 20, ordered remand of the defendants at Kuje Prison ‎in Abuja. Count one of the charge against the defendants read: “That you Nnamdi Kanu, ‘M’, Onwudiwe Chidiebere ‘M’, Benjamin Madubugwu ‘M’, David Nwawuisi ‘M’ and others now at large, on diverse dates in 2014 and 2015 in Nigeria and London, United Kingdom, did conspire amongst yourselves to broadcast on Radio Biafra monitored in Enugu and other areas within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, preparations being made by you and others at large, or states in the South East and South South zones and other communities in Kogi and Benue states to secede from the Federal Republic of Nigeria with a view to constituting same into a Republic of Biafra and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 516 of the Criminal Code Act, CAP.C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2000.”

Immediately after the ruling was delivered, FG, applied for all the witnesses to be allowed to testify behind screen. It also prayed the court for identities of the witnesses not to be revealed in any record of the proceeding. The defendants however opposed the application, contending that granting such request would amount to a gross violation of their rights to fair hearing. “We vehemently oppose secret trial of the defendants. They were accused in the open, we also request that they be tried in the open. The defendants need to see those testifying against them eye-ball-to-eye-ball. We are ready for this trial”, Kanu’s lawyer, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor submitted. Similarly, one of the defence lawyers,

Mr. Maxwell Okpara, told the court that most of the proposed witnesses were foreigners he said the government imported from neighbouring countries. “My lord, we have uncovered their plan to bring Ghanaians and people from Cameroon to appear in this court to testify against the defendants. “We as Nigerians will resist that plot. It cannot work. That is why they are insisting that they should testify behind screen. That plot has failed, it will not work”, Okpara stated.

After listening to all the parties Justice Nyako fixed December 13 to rule on FG’s application. Specifically, FG had in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/383/2015, alleged that the quartet conspired to commit treasonable felony contrary to and punishable under section 516 of the Criminal Code Act, CAP. C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2014. FG alleged that they committed the offence along with others now at large, on diverse dates in 2014 and 2015, in Nigeria, London and United Kingdom. It told the court that the defendant conspired among themselves to broadcast on Radio Biafra which is monitored in Enugu and its environs, preparations they were making for states in the South-South zones and other communities in Kogi and Benue states, to secede from the Federal Republic of Nigeria with a view to constituting same into a Republic of Biafra. Whereas FG identified Kanu as the arrow-head behind the “hate broadcasts”, it fingered Onwudiwe as the National Coordinator of the IPOB movement. The defendants had on November 8, pleaded not guilty to all the charges against them, even as the court adjourned to hear their bail applications. Kanu was previously facing a six-count treason charge with Madubugwu and Nwawuisi, before FG amended the charges to include Onwudiwe as one of the defendants. Justice Nyako is now the third judge to handle the trial. It will be recalled that the former judge handling the matter, Justice John Tsoho had on September 26, disqualified himself from presiding over trial of the defendants. Justice Tsoho who earlier denied the defendants bail, premised his decision to hands-off the case on a petition pending against him before the National Judicial Council, NJC. Kanu and his co-accused persons had in their joint petition, alleged that Justice Tsoho indulged in act of “judicial rascality”, by delivering conflicting rulings on the same subject matter. They alleged that the judge summarily reversed his previous ruling that barred the Federal Government from masking all the witnesses billed to testify against them. The defendants maintained that the Judge denied them fair hearing on the day he gave FG the nod to produce “masquerades” to testify against them. Justice Ahmed Mohammed who was the first judge Kanu was taken to by FG, had in a bench ruling he delivered on December 23, 2015, also distanced himself from the matter. Kanu who was hitherto the Director of Radio Biafra and Television, ‎has been in detention since October 14, 2015, when he was arrested by security operatives upon his arrival to Nigeria from his base in the United Kingdom. The defendants were alleged to have committed treasonable felony, an offence punishable under Section 41(C) of the Criminal Code Act, CAP C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria. FG alleged that they were the ones managing the affairs of the IPOB which it described as “an unlawful society”. Kanu was alleged to have illegally smuggled radio transmitters into Nigeria, which he used to disseminate “hate broadcasts”, encouraging the “secession of the Republic of Biafra”, from Nigeria. The IPOB leader earlier denied the charges, even as the court, on January 20, ordered remand of the defendants at Kuje prison ‎in Abuja. Count one of the charge against the defendants read: “That you Nnamdi Kanu, ‘M’, Onwudiwe Chidiebere ‘M’, Benjamin Madubugwu ‘M’, David Nwawusi ‘M’ and others now at large, on diverse dates in 2014 and 2015 in Nigeria and London, United Kingdom, did conspire amongst yourselves to broadcast on Radio Biafra monitored in Enugu and other areas within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, preparations being made by you and others at large, or states in the South East and South South zones and other communities in Kogi and Benue States to secede from the Federal Republic of Nigeria with a view to constituting same into a Republic of Biafra and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 516 of the Criminal Code Act, CAP.C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2000”.

He appreciated the good work of the Ministers from the region in the federal government, saying that they were doing very well for the country.

He appealed to the traditional rulers from the South East to persuade their people to give his government a chance and to continue to serve as beacons of culture and traditions of their people.

The President assured the delegation that kidnapping and cattle rustling, which he described as “unfortunate” will be the government’s next target, now that “we have managed to calm down the North-East.”

Noting the commendation for his administration’s war against corruption and insecurity by the traditional rulers, Buhari expressed frustration at the endless nature of some ongoing trials, citing some of the cases as going far back to the tenure of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

“We are asking the judiciary to clean itself. Nigerians are tired of waiting. They want some actions,” he lamented.

The President said he hoped that the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria and Attorney-General of the Federation will come to some form of agreement by which specially designated courts will give accelerated hearing to some corruption cases that are pending, arguing that “we want Nigerians to know we are serious.”

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Fuente: DAILY SUN