Wednesday, 6th December 2023

Five pro-Biafra agitators die celebrating Kanu’s release

By Lemmy Ughegbe (Abuja), Iyabo Lawal (Ibadan), Lawrence Njoku (Enugu), Chukwujekwu Ilozue (Onitsha), Uzoma Nzeagwu (Awka), Gordi Udeajah (Umuahia) and Charles Ogugbuaja (Owerri)
18 December 2015   |   2:42 am
WHAT began as a celebration by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in Onitsha over the release from detention of the Director, Radio Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu,...
Pro-Biafra protesters during their celebration in Enugu over Kanu’s release …yesterday.

Pro-Biafra protesters during their celebration in Enugu over Kanu’s release …yesterday.

• Court orders Radio Biafra director’s unconditional freedom
* OPC warns demonstrators against shifting base to Yorubaland

WHAT began as a celebration by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in Onitsha over the release from detention of the Director, Radio Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, yesterday, ended in blood and tears when soldiers allegedly shot and killed five members of the group.

Reports say 30 others sustained various degrees of injury.

The celebration which also took place across major cities in the South East followed Justice Adeniyi Ademola of Federal High Court Abuja Division’s ordering Kanu’s unconditional release from the Department of State Security (DSS)’s custody.

Ruling on a bail application filed and argued by his lawyer, Mr. Egechukwu Obeta, Justice Ademola ordered Kanu’s immediate release.

In reaching that decision, Justice Ademola had also set aside an order he earlier granted the DSS to detain Kanu for an additional 90 days to enable the security agency to complete their claimed investigation of Kanu over alleged terrorism and terrorism-financing.

The judge held that the continued detention of Kanu after three months without trial, violated Section 158 of the Administration of Criminal Justice (ACJ) Act 2015 and Section 35 of the 1999 constitution.

According to Justice Ademola, there is no law that grants leave to the DSS or any other security agency for that matter to detain anyone beyond the period stipulated by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, when in actual fact there was no intention to put the person on trial.

“From the available facts before the court, it is clear that the DSS either lacked enough materials to prosecute the applicant in a law court or yet to make up their mind on prosecution.

‘‘Detaining the applicant for more than three months without trial runs contrary to Section 34 of the 1999 Constitution as amended and such an act must not be allowed in the interest of the rule of law.

“Constitution remains the supreme law. It does not permit detention of a Nigerian citizen for a period spanning over two months without charging the citizen before the law court. This court has the duty to protect the constitution and one of the duties is to admit a citizen of this country on bail when his right to freedom is being violated,” Justice Ademola said.

But the Judge faulted Kanu’s claim that Terrorism Prevention Act 2013 (Amended) was illegal, adding that the Act was a potent legislation to check acts of terrorism.

Meanwhile, worried about the security situation in Nigeria, the Pan-Yoruba militant group, Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) has alerted security agencies to alleged moves by the pro-Biafran agitators to shift their campaign to Yorubaland.

The killings in Onitsha led to panic among motorists, commuters and the general public along the busy Niger Bridge area, through the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway.

It was learnt that a large number of supporters of IPOB on hearing about Kanu’s release, had gathered at the statue of the late Biafran leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu in a large procession.

An eyewitness, Festus Uyanna, said trouble started when the jubilating IPOB members at Bridge-Head Market, were asked to discontinue their march towards the Niger Bridge by the soldiers , “but they bluntly refused and continued to advance towards the bridge.”

He said it was when the jubilating pro-Biafra agitators failed to stop their march to the bridge that the soldiers started shooting sporadically “in a bid to scare the crowd away but  at the end five IPOB members were shot dead.”

In a statement from the National Coordinating Council of the OPC signed by Akinpelu Adeshina, copies of which were made available to reporters  in Ibadan, the pan-Yoruba group stated that it was “compelled to make this call given the precarious and heightened security situation in the country and the world over.

The statement read in part:  “As much as we believe in the right of every person and group to self-determination, we are of the firm belief that this particular event is mischievously conceived and earmarked to be hosted in any part of Yorubaland.

“It is true that the Yoruba are a liberal, peaceful and accommodating people, yet we are no fools and should not be treated as fools. The South West part of Nigeria is the most secure and peaceful part of Nigeria today and should therefore not be turned into a theatre of war or avoidable crisis.

“For too long, the Yoruba have accommodated all other tribes and nationalities like good hosts.  We have not minded the odium and other atrocities committed against our people, and on our ancestral land.

“Never in history has it been recorded that a Yoruba person or group crossed the Niger River into either the northern or eastern part of the country to go and vilify, desecrate or insult any of their paramount rulers for political or any other reasons.

“The leeway to do business and own property which the Igbo and other nationalities enjoy in Yorubaland has not been reciprocated for the Yoruba elsewhere, thus, it would only be fair to warn anyone or group that if our relationship cannot be mutually beneficial, it should in no way be injurious to us as a people.

“The recent infractions of the Fulani cattle-herders in Yorubaland are the last slap to the cheek that we are ready to accommodate as a people.

“We see the attempt to bring the World Igbo Day celebration – in whatever guise – which is normally celebrated on the 29th September annually to the Yorubaland as a mischievous and diabolically crafted attempt to cause chaos in and destabilise Yorubaland; and this we will repulse and reject with everything at our disposal.

“In conclusion, we call on all Yoruba elders, leaders of thought and the commoners to wake up to the realities of the day and stand up to be counted in this effort to maintain the continued peaceful and harmonious existence that has always been the pride of the Yorubas.”

The killings in Onitsha notwithstanding, members of the Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of
Biafra (MASSOB), IPOB and other Igbo groups yesterday took to the streets in Enugu in jubilation over Kanu’s release.

Meanwhile, apex Igbo Socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo has hailed the judiciary over the release of Kanu and called on the Federal Government to immediately begin the implementation of the 2014 National Conference resolutions to end injustices and marginalisation in the country.

Also, Kanu’s father Eze Isreal Kanu has expressed joy over the release of his son, giving thanks to God , the courts and IPOB leaders among others.

“I am grateful to the court that ordered his release but I am not yet in a position to say what follows next hence I leave that to IPOB,” he told reporters.

In another development, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo has commended the military for its efforts in handling insurgency as well as the pro-Biafra protests.

Okorocha who made the disclosure on Thursday when he visited 34 Field Artillery Brigade, Obinze, near Owerri noted that the military had readjusted to the existing realities and thus gained the respect and admiration of the public.

Okorocha told the Brigade Commander, Brig. – Gen Kay Isiaku, that the state government would work closely with the command to achieve desired peace in the area.

In his remarks, the brigade commander thanked the governor for the promise to rehabilitate the barracks, pledging g that the command would partner other agencies of the government to assist them carry out their functions.