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Lawyers urge trial of hate speech authors

By Joseph Onyekwere (Lagos) and Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi (Jos)   |   13 June 2017   |   3:46 am

President, Northern Emancipation Network, Abdul-azzez Suleima (left); President, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Shettima Yerima and North Central Coordinator, Arewa Citizens Action for Change, Mohammed Eneji Abdulhamid, at the presentation of a joint paper on the Igbo’s persistence for secession in Kaduna .

• Quit notice invalid without mandate, says SAN

Igbo lawyers have expressed “shock” over the statement credited to 16 Northern groups asking Ndigbo to vacate the North, demanding immediate arrest and prosecution of the ring-leaders of the groups.

In a statement by its President, Chief Chuks Ikokwu, the lawyers under the aegis of Otu Oka-Iwu (Law Society) asked the Federal Government to “take urgent steps to unmask the persons behind those faceless groups as well as their sponsors.”

The association described as “curious” the fact that the declaration was “made inside the symbolic Arewa House in Kaduna State. “We hereby call on the Federal Government to take immediate steps to arrest and prosecute the authors of the hate declarations and inciting statements, which are capable of throwing the country into a needless conflagration that will do no-one any good,” they stated.

Describing the statement as “reckless and provocative,” the law society noted that Nigeria is a constitutional democracy that is not within the purview of fellow citizens to abridge the freedom of movement and the right to property donated to all citizens by the constitution.

According to them, that can only happen in a failing state, thereby giving vent to agitations by several groups like Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Movement for the Actualisation of the Independent State of Biafra (MASSOB).

The group said: “The Federal Government must in the instant case prove that it is capable of securing lives and property by speedily bringing the perpetrators to justice.

“This has also given fresh impetus to the clamour for the restructuring of the Federation. The Federal Government must set in motion the process for the restructuring exercise to enthrone true federalism as against the present unitary system as well as douse tension in the polity exacerbated by marginalization and inequality.”

The association however urged the Igbo nation especially Igbo youths to remain calm and law-abiding, adding that every effort will be made to ensure that the authors of the hate speech are brought to justice.

Similarly, a constitutional lawyer, Mr. Gabriel Ofodile Okafor (SAN) has said that “the quit order” issued by the group of Northern Youths is a welcome development. He said it is, however unfortunate that they cannot claim to represent either the political class or the traditional institution, describing the quit notice as invalid as it is without any mandate.

Okafor, who spoke to The Guardian in Jos, added however that on the other hand, if they are the ‘hand of Isaac but the voice of Esau’ in the declaration, each group should be allowed to go its own way as they categorically proclaim that the North is fed up with being in the same country with ‘acrimonious’ Igbo partners.




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