Nine years after 19 members of the Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), including a cripple, were arrested; they have remained in detention without bail or conviction. In this report, Nation correspondent, Nwanosike Onu in Awka, reports on the intrigues that have delayed their trial and the tension the development has generated in the South-East zone…
There is tension amongst members of the Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) following the continuous detention of 19 of its members in prisons in Anambra State since 2007 when they were arrested.
Out of the number, one is a cripple while another is a female, who, according to a recent report, has fallen sick as a result of lack of medical attention.
It would be recalled that the affected persons are facing a seven-count charge, bordering on treason, acts of terrorism and kidnapping.
They were arrested by the security agencies in Anambra State nine years ago when they allegedly declared the Republic of Biafra when the group was still under the leadership of Chief Ralph Uwazuruike.
Since then, the agitated members alleged that the suspects had been abandoned or neglected at various prisons in Ekwuluobia, Awka and Onitsha as they have been denied bail.
Reacting to the tension caused by the development, the new leader of MASSOB, Comrade Uchenna Madu, has expressed worry even as he lamented that affected members have families who they were supposed to take care of.
He also lamented the continuous adjournment of their case at the Federal High Court, Awka, pointing out that this has further complicated the matter.
Following the delay in the dispensation of justice on the matter, MASSOB said this week it had concluded arrangements to petition the National Judicial Council (NJC) over the issue.
The detained MASSOB members, according to their leader, are Sebastian Amadi, Ikechukwu Chikwem, Peter Igbokwe, Uchenna Nicholas, Uche Idika, Casmir Odokara, Eni Kalu, Chidiebere Ekwem.
Others are Chima Asoh (a cripple), Ojimba Anyanwu, Ndubuisi Okanu, Emmanuel Orji, Michael Okezie, Ikechukwu Aghari, Mmaduabuchi Asika, Chinwike Irondi, Chukwuma Kalu, Innocent Orji and Onyekachi Orji (female).
When their case came up in Awka on Monday this week, the presiding judge was absent, a development that made the affected MASSOB members to cry openly, wondering why they should be in detention for nine years without being granted bail.
According to Madu, “the pro-Biafra detainees had been languishing in prison since 2007. Three judges had handled their matter, yet they had not been granted bail.
He said the case started with Justice Peter Olayiwola who handed over to Justice Ojukwu before Justice M.I. Abubakar took over.
Later on, Justice Abubakar was transferred to Abakaliki in Ebonyi State, yet he had not allowed the new Judge in Awka to handle the matter as he comes occasionally from Abakaliki to preside over the MASSOB case.
“Since nine years, the prosecution has called only three witnesses and our lawyer has not been allowed to call any witness,” he said, adding, “What surprised us was that the judge said he would transfer the case file from Awka to Abakaliki which, to us, will make the attendance to court sittings more difficult for us.”
“We are also surprised that he wants to transfer the case to Abakaliki when we had taken a fresh plea from the new judge in Awka.”
“At the last sitting, Justice Abubakar was absent and we were informed that he had adjourned the matter to October 26, 2016.”
“As far as we are concerned, the Judge has abused the rights of the detainees by refusing to grant them bail and deliberately frustrating the hearing of the matter.”
“Why can’t he allow the new Judge presiding here in Awka to continue with the matter, the MASSOB leader queried?
Last week, the MASSOB leader called on the governors of Anambra and Imo states to facilitate the release of the detained MASSOB leaders in the interest of justice and equity.
Meanwhile, MASSOB has warned Anambra State Government to stop linking it with any form of bribery or other acts capable of undermining the integrity of Ndi Igbo.
The group debunked claims from certain quarters that it met with Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano, recently for alleged gratification.
According to the movement, “our attention has been drawn on a destructive rumour going round Anambra State that Governor Willie Obiano had induced MASSOB with monetary leverage to compromise the activities and the struggle for Biafra actualisation”.
“The reformed MASSOB can never be bought or hijacked by political elements; we cannot compromise or sabotage the struggle for emancipation and survival of our people”.
“MASSOB warns the Government of Anambra State to stop dragging the name of MASSOB or Biafra to the mud. We have not sent anybody or group of people to represent MASSOB in any capacity in their dealings with pro Biafra groups”.
“Anybody or group of people who claim to represent or sent by MASSOB in any capacity in dealings with Anambra State Government is fake, including some members of staff of Anambra State Government.”
“In as much as MASSOB is willing to partner or work with other Igbo groups, state governments and individuals, it must be for Igbo and Biafra’s interest not compromising the ultimate hope of Ndigbo.”
“MASSOB will continue to represent the genuine interest of Ndigbo with all selflessness, total commitment and consistency,” Madu said. (The Nation)