Symbol of justice
After 37 days in captivity, the 101 members of the Biafran Zionist Movement who were clamped into prison custody for allegedly re-declaring the state of Biafra in the South-east were Tuesday granted bail by the Enugu State High Court.
The group made up of young men including some aged men of about 65 and 70 years, were arrested on November 5 this year by the police why marching round the state capital city.
Led by an England-trained lawyer, Benjamin Onwuka, the group had carried Biafran flags and were chanting freedom songs, claiming to have re-declared the Republic of Biafra to be mainly made up of the five states of Abia, Imo, Anambra, Ebonyi and Enugu.
Leader of the group, Onwuka, was said to have earlier served as one of the leaders of the Movement for the Actualisation of a Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) under Chief Ralph Uwazurike before they reportedly fell out. Uwazurike is an Indian-trained lawyer.
THISDAY checks revealed that some notable leaders in the South-east region had intervened on their behalf pleading with the police and the state government to drop the charges against them on the grounds that they were non-violent but were merely expressing their opinions.
Apparently in a bid to heed to the intervention, the state high court presided over by Justice L. Okereke granted the activists bail with a proviso that they shall regain their freedom after their surety has deposited N1,000,000.
He added that the surety has to be a civil servant above grade level 14, a member of the National Assembly from the South-east zone or a member of the state House of Assembly as well as a reputable traditional ruler.
Although the defence counsel, Okologu Njoku, had moved for their bail, he however failed to convince the court that what warranted the action of his clients was occasioned by peculiar or coercive circumstances as the presiding judge made it clear that the bail was at the court’s discretion.
In granting the bail, Justice Okereke stated that the prosecution failed to intimate the court why the bail should not be granted adding that they were not even represented in court.
Njoku had earlier argued that his clients did not commit any crime against the state as they were not caught with any weapon of destruction like gun, axe, club, machete, etc, adding that their action did not constitute insurrection neither were they angling for war.
In an interview with journalists after the court ruling, the group’s second-in-command, Charles Edeson, expressed joy that his members would now breathe fresh air again after being detained for so long.
He pointed out that Nigeria did not deserve to be among the comity of nations where human rights are observed, alleging that Nigeria violates the rights of its citizens, hence their agitation for self-rule and autonomy.
“We were intimidated, arrested and detained because we aired our views. We said what we believed; we don’t believe in Nigeria, we believe in Biafra.
“We are not hiding, we know definitely that one day, Biafra will be actualized,” Edeson said.
Hundreds of men and women thronged the court in solidarity for the detained BZM members who they believed were fighting for the emancipation of the people of South-east who are predominantly the Biafrans.