THE re-arraignment of the detained Leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, literally set the polity astir, yesterday.
On a day that Kanu pleaded not guilty to the seven-count amended charge the Federal Government preferred against him before the Federal High Court, Abuja, economic activities in major cities of the South-East zone were paralysed as people observed the sit-at-home directive of the IPOB.
In the court proper, security agents stopped journalists from covering the arraignment. A host of eminent Nigerians and lawyers were also barred from the courtroom.
Kanu, who was docked before Justice Binta Nyako, pleaded not guilty to the charge after it was read to him in the open court because what he did was not a terrorism offence in London where he did it.
Though his team of lawyers led by Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, earlier filed a motion for his release on bail pending the determination of the case, the application was not heard.
Rather, Ejiofor notified the court of the existence of a preliminary objection he filed to quash the charge, which he maintained was grossly incompetent.
Kanu, in his objection, asked the court to discharge and acquit him of all counts in the charge.
He contended that the court lacked the requisite jurisdiction to try him on the basis of an incompetent charge.
The embattled IPOB leader argued that there was no proof of evidence attached to the amended charge against him;
Kanu said: “That no allegation was made in any of the counts of the amended charge that the alleged sundry acts of the defendant/applicant were physically carried out by him, within the geographical space or territorial boundaries of Nigeria;
“That the only element requisite to constitute and found liability for incitement is the actual words allegedly uttered by the Defendant/Applicant;
“That the alleged acts for which the Defendant was charged, do not constitute terrorism offences in London, United Kingdom, where they were allegedly committed.”
Meanwhile, shortly after he took his plea, Kanu’s lawyer, Ejiofor, applied for his client to be transferred from custody of the Department of State Services, DSS, to Kuje Correctional Centre.
Though the request was refused, Justice Nyako, however, amended a previous ruling of the court that directed the DSS to grant Kanu access to two of his lawyers, every Monday and Thursday of the week.
Justice Nyako extended the order to make room for Kanu to have three visitors on each of the visiting days, even as she fixed November 10 to hear the motion seeking to quash the charge.
Journalists, others barred
Meantime, Kanu’s re-arraingment came on day the DSS denied journalists access into the courtroom to cover the proceedings.
Though our reporter and six others were initially cleared at the main gate of the court to enter the premises, upon his arrival at the door leading to the courtroom, arm-wielding operatives of the secret service denied him entry.
The operatives insisted their action was based on “order from above.”
They made it clear that no journalist would be allowed to enter the courtroom till the end of the proceedings.
“You people can go to your press centre and wait till the end of the matter, after then, you will receive briefing on what happened,” one of the hooded operatives stated.
Another operative of the DSS mentioned that it was the trial judge that expressly ordered that no journalist should be allowed into the courtroom.
“We wanted to allow you people in, but the judge said we should not try it. She said the list of journalists accredited to cover the case was not sent to her beforehand,” he added.
Security agents drawn from the DSS, Nigeria Police Force, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and the Nigerian Army, had as early as 4am, blocked all roads leading to the high court premises, which is adjacent the Federal Ministry of Justice Headquarters.
Though staff members of the court were initially barred by the heavily armed security operatives, they were, subsequently, cleared to enter their offices after they protested.
Stern looking DSS operatives had specifically threatened to deal with any journalist recording or taking pictures of the unfolding drama.
Cameramen from major television stations in the country, including those from the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, were ordered to shut down and face it on an uncompleted building opposite the court premises.
Aside from journalists and lawyers, representatives of apex Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, led by a former Governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, were also denied entry into the court premises.
The lawmaker representing Anambra South senatorial district, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, and a former presidential candidate/convener of #Revolution Now protest, Omoyele Sowore, were equally blocked at the gate by security men.
Those allowed into the court premises included a British envoy in Nigeria and Kanu’s American lawyer, Bruce Fein.
Kanu, who is equally a British citizen, was in June, arrested in Kenya and brought back to Nigeria for continuation of his trial.
The amended charge against him borders on incitement, treasonable felony and terrorism.
Kanu, who wore a white Fendi designers clothe, was ushered into the courtroom by security operatives at exactly 10 am.
Scores of his supporters besieged the main gate to the court premises, chanting and dancing his praise songs.
The Federal Government had in the amended charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/383/2015, which was signed by a team of government lawyers led by the Director of Public Prosecutions of the Federation, Mr. M. B. Abubakar, alleged that Kanu had in furtherance of an act of terrorism, issued a deadly threat that anyone who flouted his sit-at-home order should write his or her will.
The Federal Government alleged that as a result of Kanu’s directive, banks, schools, markets, shopping malls and fuel stations were not opened for businesses, with vehicular movements grounded in the South-East region of the country.
It said the action amounted to an offence contrary to and punishable under 1(2) (b) of the Terrorism Prevention Amendment Act, 2013.
Federal Government alleged that Kanu had “on or about April 28, 2015 in London, United Kingdom, in a broadcast on Radio Biafra monitored in Enugu, Enugu State and other parts of Nigeria within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, referred to Major General Muhammadu Buhari, GCON, President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as a paedophile, a terrorist, an idiot and an embodiment of evil, knowing same to be false and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 375 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C. 38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.”
He was 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
He was alleged to have between 2018 and 2021, through Radio Biafra, professed to be a member of IPOB, a proscribed organisation in Nigeria, and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 16 of the Terrorism Prevention Amendment Act, 2013.
In count five of the charge, FG alleged that Kanu had on April 22, 2021, in London, United Kingdom, on Radio Biafra monitored in Enugu and other parts of Nigeria, done an act of terrorism “in that you incite the other members (followers) of the Indigenious People of Biafra, IPOB, a proscribed organization in Nigeria, to look for security personnel, their family members through a Radio Biafra on 102.1FM monitored through the IPOB Community Radio, and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 1 (2) (h) of the Terrorism Prevention Amendment Act, 2013.
Attached in support of the amended charge dated October 14, included a seven-paragraphed affidavit of completion of investigation deposed to by one Loveme Odubo, a prosecutor in the Federal Ministry of Justice.
FG equally lined up five witnesses to testify in the matter, among who are officials of the DSS and one Ronald S. who was identified as the manager of a Hotel in Lagos.
Kanu’s trial paralyzes activities in S/ East
As expected, Kanu’s arraignment paralysed economic and social activities in the South-East geo-political zone as most people observed sit-at- home.
Unlike the weekly Monday sit-at-home ordered by IPOB, which has been taking place since August 9, 2021, during which skeletal commercial activities were taking place, the entire zone was totally shut yesterday.
The lock-down happened as the apex Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, said that it will not relent till Kanu and his members regain their freedom.
Ohanaeze spoke via a press statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Chiedozie Alex Ogbonnia.
The group said: “We are unrelenting in our resolve to ensure that the FG toes the path of wisdom by conceding to the proposal for Dialogue and Alternative Dispute Resolution, which will ensure the unconditional freedom of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and all members of IPOB detained across Nigeria.”
Moreso, Ohanaeze noted that progress is being made in the case of Nnamdi Kanu as the IPOB leader was present in court today for his trial.
In the statement titled, ‘’Ohanaeze wins as FG produces Nnamdi Kanu in Court,’’ the group opined that the government has bowed to pressure by producing Kanu leader in court.
The statement read: “The diplomatic engagements by Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide under the able leadership of Professor George Obiozor has apparently yielded a positive result as the Federal Government has through the Department of State Security bowed to the overwhelming demands of Ndigbo by producing the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu in Court.
“This is one step forward in Ohanaeze’s determined moves towards ensuring that the Afara Ukwu Prince is set free in no distant time. The Monitoring Team of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide led by former governor of Anambra State, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Chief Nwosu, Ezeigbo 1 of Abuja, and Barr. Goddy Uwazurike were also in court to monitor proceedings and report back to the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo.”
South-East stands still for Kanu
The entire region stood still yesterday as the IPOB leader was standing trial in Abuja.
Across the five states of the zone, there was a total lockdown. The streets were completely empty as residents remained indoors in full compliance with the sit-at-home order.
There were no vehicular movements except for few vehicles that occasionally passed by.
No market or shop was open around the states as residents stayed indoors.
Banks and schools both private and public were all shutdown.
The capital city was completely shutdown.
In Umuahia, there were no incidents of violence anywhere in the capital city.
Similarly, the sit-at-home recorded full compliance in Aba the commercial capital of the state as markets, banks, schools and motor parks were all shutdown. The roads were also empty as residents remained indoors.
Enugu deserted as Kanu’s trial begins today
Business activities in Enugu State were also shut down. Major roads in the state also remained deserted as no vehicular movement was seen.
correspondent who monitored the situation, observed that all markets, banks, government offices, schools were under lock and key as of the time of filing this story.
A businessman, Mr Ikechukwu Ogbodo, expressed delight over the total compliance of Southeasterners to show solidarity with Kanu.
“I am happy for what Ndigbo did today. I know it is not easy to stay a day without going out for business but it’s time to show the world that we need to be separated from Nigeria. Nnamdi Kanu is not a terrorist but a freedom fighter. We will continue showing solidarity as part of our support to him”, he said.
Economic activities paused in Abakaliki
The sit-at-home order crippled both economic and social activities within the Abakaliki metropolis, Ebonyi State. Shops, banks, filling stations, supermarkets, public markets around Kpirikpiri and Ebebe junction, the International Market, eateries and Federal Government facilities were under lock and key in the state.
Abakaliki metropolis was a ghost town as residents refused to leave their homes.
Major streets within the metropolis did not bubble with its usual activities.
There was no visible loading and off loading in and around motor parks in the state, and no private and commercial vehicles were seen entering the state.
Imo shut down completely
Imo State experienced what a top civil servant called “an unprecedented degree of compliance with the sit-at-home order, issued by the IPOB.”
Intelligence noticed that no life was seen at both the Federal and State Secretariat complexes in Owerri.
While the streets of Owerri were completely deserted, it was also discovered that all the shops, markets, petrol stations, motor parks and schools were shut.
Public and private hospitals opened for business but like a staff (names withheld) of the Federal Medical Centre, FMC, Owerri, said: “Some of us are working. Call it skeletal operation, if you like, as most of the staff stayed away, either as a result of palpable fear of the unknown or their inability to get transport to ferry them to their places of work.”
Similarly, no national newspaper found its way to Owerri, yesterday, as all their offices remained under lock and key, Around Rotibi Street area of operation, no vendor turned up for business.
Several calls made to persons in some rural communities in the state also showed that the the sit-at-home order was effective.
Onitsha, Nnewi stand still for Kanu
Onitsha the commercial city and Nnewi the industrial town of Anambra State, were also at standstill as residents and traders stayed in their homes.
The Onitsha-Asaba express way from Niger Bridge Head, Onitsha, Onitsha-Enugu expressway from Onitsha end and Onitsha-Owerri express way and Nnewi-Uga-Okigwe expressway, were deserted.
Intelligence gathered that youths suspected to be supporters of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and sympathizers of IPOB, blocked the four expressways that leading and exiting South-East from other states of the federation to enforce the sit-at-home directed by IPOB in solidarity with Kanu.
Markets, banks, tertiary institutions, secondary and primary schools and government institutions located in Onitsha and Nnewi were all shut as the cities were calm.
There was no report of violence and making of burn fire so far in both Onitsha and Nnewi but the roads were totally blocked as newspaper vehicles taking newspapers in and outside Onitsha and Nnewi were not allowed to enter and exit the cities. All entreaties and explanation to allow them passage were rebuffed by the youths said to be members and sympathizers of Kanu and IPOB.
Security men were no where to be found on the roads in Onitsha and Nnewi as the normal joint patrol of combined team of security agencies or single patrol was not seen on in Onitsha and Nnewi.
Even people who trek to different destination because of lack of commercial vehicles and tricycles, on other days of the site at-home, including Monday weekly site at-home suspended by IPOB were not seen on the streets and roads making long distance movements in Onitsha and Nnewi on Thursday.
Some market leaders, said that they accepted the site at-home in solidarity with Mazi Kanu appearance in court but appealed that IPOB should find a way of ensuring the termination of Monday weekly sit-at-home, to enable the traders and people prepare for Christmas that is fast approaching.
Our son committed no offence –Nnamdi Kanu’s community tells FG
Meanwhile, the Afaraukwu Community in Umuahia North Council area of Abia State, has called on the Federal Government to release Nnamdi Kanu because he committed no offence to warrant his detention.
President-General of Afaraukwu community, Chief Ikechukwu Ndubueze, accused the Federal Government of a plot to jail the IPOB leader in order to destabilize Igbo land.
He noted that Kanu did not jump bail but fled as the military raided his residence in 2017, stressing that nobody would have waited to be killed because he was on bail.
Ndubueze further stated that it is unfair to continue to detain Kanu while bandits are allegedly pampered and negotiated with by the government.
His words: “We strongly believe that our son, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, did not commit any offence known to law. We demand that the Federal Government should release our son because he was kidnapped. If they say he was extradited, let them tell us the country that extradited him. We will sue the Federal Government before he is brought to court in November. They must tell us the offence he committed.
“In 2017, they said he jumped bail. Everybody saw what happened, how our community was raided by the military. Mazi Nnamdi Kanu did not jump bail. Would any person have waited for the military to raid his house because he was on a court bail? Nobody would have done that. Mazi Nnamdi Kanu did what he was supposed to do to save his life. Now, I don’t know the reason the government, who said kidnapping is a capital offence, still went ahead to do international rendition against our son and tell us that he was extradited.
“Sometimes, I wonder where the Attorney General, Abubakar Malami read his own Law. The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed also said that bandits are better than IPOB. These are the same bandits that they kill people daily and you are comparing them to agitators. Where is Nigeria headed if a government official can publicly applaud bandits? When you look at these things, you will know that it is a ploy to destroy Igbo nation. The federal government should release Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.”
Those who made FG, DSS produce Kanu in court did Nigeria, DSS great service – IPOB
Meanwhile, the IPOB yesterday said that those who made the Federal Government and the DSS, to bring its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, to court did Nigeria and DSS a great service.
IPOB also said that Kanu’s appearance in court. Biafrans could now heave a sigh of relief that he is alive and urged the Federal Government to do the needful by releasing him unconditionally.
A statement by IPOB’s Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, read in part: “The global family of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, ably led by our prophet and great liberator, Mazi Nnamdi Okwuchukwu Kanu, wishes to commend all the honourable men and women, including renowned groups in the world who lent their voices in advising the Federal Government and the Department of State Services, DSS, to produce him in court today (yesterday) in Abuja.
“Those who played a role in producing our leader in court have done Nigeria and DSS a great service. Thank God they listened to wise counsel and did not fail to produce our leader in court.
“Now that he appeared in court, and Biafrans can confirm that he is alive, Nigeria must do the needful and release him unconditionally.
“We commend Biafrans and friends of Biafra for showing solidarity to our leader in today’s (yesterday) sit at home. We appreciate your cooperation and support for this noble project which God Almighty, Chukwu Okike Abiama, has destined us to pursue and we must come out victorious.
“Sacrificing one day to show solidarity for our leader who has sacrificed so much for us all is not too much. We also thank Dr Bruce Fein, the IPOB lead counsel in USA for taking much of his time to come to Abuja and solidarize with our great leader, Mazi Kanu.
“We also appreciate our team of lawyers in Nigeria, especially Barr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, Barr Aloy Ejimakor and other lawyers too numerous to mention, who appeared in court today for our leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
“Our immense thanks also go to former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Chief Goddy Uwazurike and others who showed solidarity to our leader in Abuja court.
“We will not fail to appreciate the media for their tireless efforts in giving publicity to the trial, despite intimidations from security agent’’
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