Okey Sampson, Aba

The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has challenged the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, Abuja to continue the trial of four of its members for treasonable felony, saying its counsels have filed a notice of preliminary objection to their trial.

A statement by Comrade Emma Powerful, Media and Publicity Secretary of IPOB said the pro Biafra group instructed her lawyers to challenge the court’s jurisdiction and ask it to strike out the charge of ‘treasonable felony’ against the defendants based on what a prosecution witness said that “agitating for self-determination or secession is not a crime known to any Nigerian law.”

Powerful said the witness, simply identified as AB to hide his true identity, as directed by the presiding judge, is a DSS officer that claimed that he “investigated” Bright Chimezie, one of the defendants, after he was arrested by the DSS at Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

He said led in evidence by prosecution counsel, the witness also testified that Mr Chimezie was an IPOB ‘Welfare Officer in charge of giving money donated by IPOB members to assist widows of IPOB members killed by security agents during their demonstrations on self determination’, adding that “IPOB was not an illegal group and belonging to it was not illegal when Chimezie was arrested”.

The IPOB publicity secretary said it was as a result of the testimony of the prosecution witness that the group’s lawyers challenged the jurisdiction of the court and the striking out of the case since what the defendants were arrested for and are being tried is not a crime known to any Nigerian law.

“If according to the government witness, IPOB was not an illegal group when Nnamdi Kanu was arrested in October 2015, why then is the trial going ahead?  Or is it because of the irrational fear of the success that Biafra will become or the morbid Hausa/Fulani hatred for IPOB and Nnamdi Kanu. Justice Binta Nyako must as a matter of public decency dismiss the frivolous charges, acquit the defendants and apologise to IPOB on behalf of the Nigerian judiciary. 

“We the worldwide family of the Indigenous People of Biafra wish to draw the attention of the civilised world to what transpired at Justice Binta Nyako’s court in Abuja on Thursday, March 22, 2018 at the commencement of the trial of four innocent Biafrans. The world must know that they are standing trial for offences not known to any law in Nigeria.

“The four IPOB family members standing trial have been in illegal detention for nearly three years, with proper trial only commencing now on March 22, 2018. Thankfully and for the first time in public, the key witness for the Federal Government of Nigeria admitted in court that being a member of IPOB was not a crime when the defendants were arrested”, the statement said.

It will be recalled that Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of IPOB who has been missing since soldiers stormed his home last year, was also arrested for the same offence.