- Uwazuruike berates IPOB leader, says he’s nobody
Alex Enumah in Abuja and Amby Uneze in Owerri
The secret trial of the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, and three others finally commenced yesterday, with the court providing shields obstructing journalists and the public from getting a glimpse of witnesses, counsel and even the trial judge.
The trial however also witnessed a stiff opposition from the defendants challenging the competency of the charge against them.
Kanu and his co-accused, Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuis, are currently facing an amended 11-count charge slammed against them by the federal government.
The charges range from treasonable felony, terrorism and illegal possession of firearms.
They however pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
At the last adjourned date the trial judge, Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court, Abuja, had ruled that witnesses in the matter would be shielded from the public.
But at the resumption of the trial yesterday, not just the witnesses but the judge and counsel in the matter were all shielded from public view.
Counsel to the 1st defendant, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, informed the court of pending applications seeking to quash the charges against the four defendants.
He also said there was another application challenging the competence of the charge against the defendants.
Ejiofor therefore asked the court to take a look at the proofs of evidence and juxtapose same with the substantive charge to see if it warranted the continuous detention of defendants.
The counsel, while arguing that there were no facts to sustain the charge, expressed fears of the defendants on the possibility of getting justice in any of their motions.
“The defendants have been crying that they are not getting any justice from the courts from the ruling so far. The motion is ready for hearing but the court is not taking it,” the counsel said.
Alleging threat to lives of the defendants and others, Ejiofor said some of the relatives of the defendants who visited the defendants at the Kuje prison where they are held in custody were arrested and are being detained by the Department of State Services (DSS) for two months now.
According to him, “The information we are getting is that most of them have been killed by operatives of the DSS. My client is no longer safe in custody.
“The DSS counsel, Labaran, should make their corpse available to us for burial. The matter is before the court and the DSS must respect the court.”
Speaking further, another defence counsel, Mr. Maxwell Okpara, similarly accused the DSS of making the process of visiting the defendants cumbersome.
He disclosed that the DSS subject lawyers to rigorous questioning and make them fill two separate forms, with detail information before been allowed to see their clients in prison custody.
Okpara therefore, prayed the court for a pronouncement on the visiting procedures for easy access to their clients.
Responding, the prosecution counsel, Shuaibu Labaran, while denying knowledge of the allegation, describing it as an attempt by the defence to frustrate the proceedings of the matter.”
He therefore urged the defence to detach him from the difficulty they are encountering with the DSS.
Though, the court did take the applications of the defendants, Justice Nyako however ordered the prosecution counsel to file his reply and serve it on the defence.
The court therefore adjourned the matter till January 12 for adoption of all the processes.
Justice Nyako also asked the defence counsel to bring all the issues raised against the DSS properly before the court.
“If you said some relatives of the defendants were arrested and some of them killed, put the allegation in writing, you know what to do for the court to make pronouncement,” the judge held.
She urged the prosecution counsel to prevail on the DSS to treat the case against the defendants like any other case and that the lawyers should be allowed access to their client.
Meanwhile, a large crowd of demonstrators demanding the release of the IPOB leader and other accused gathered outside the premises of the headquarters of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Also, the leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, has blasted the leader IPOB, Kanu, over the accusation of his group that he (Uwazuruike) was colluding with the federal government to testify against him (Kanu) in court in Abuja.
In a swift reaction to the accusation, Uwazuruike told journalists at his residence in Owerri, yesterday that Kanu should face his trial and stop opening his mouth so wide over his ordeal, adding that what he was currently facing had not matched his own (Uwazuruike)ordeal with the federal government in the past over the issue of Biafra.
According to him: “Who is Kanu?
Kanu is a nobody. I discovered him in 2009 in London, 10 years after I had championed the Biafran cause. I appointed him to head the Radio Biafra in London. By then, he was squatting with a Ghanaian woman. He had no house. I rented an apartment for him in London and gave him money to buy a car. He was into internet crimes when I met him.
“He (Kanu) was not in school, he had no degree. That was why I appointed other four people to work with him in Radio Biafra and the four who had higher degrees said they would not work under him, because he was not educated but I convinced them to work with him (Kanu) because that was the person I had in mind before coming to London. You journalists are the ones flaming him up as somebody. If I or Kanu dies today, the struggle for Biafra cannot die, a bigger person will take over.”
The MASSOB founder continued: “Who is he (Kanu) that I will travel to Abuja to testify against him. It is idiotic. It is stupid. The present day Biafra is my product. I introduced it in 1999. Ojukwu gave me the franchise. It is not Kanu that I can handover to. He was using that Radio Biafra against me. I get embarrassed when people call me to talk about Nnamdi Kanu. “Anybody working for Biafra today is working for Ralph Uwazuruike. I don’t compete with mediocres. I am a professional of 30 years in the Nigerian bar.”
He advised Kanu to face his trial and stop talking too much, adding that he applies non-violence in his approach and those who use the name of Biafra to cause violence are not his members and they do not belong to the Biafran cause.
“I’m using non-violence that is why I am still here. I was the first Igboman that was charged for treasonable felony by the federal government. I stayed in prison for two and half years and I was being tried by the same women (Justice Binta Nyako) at the federal high court and when my mother died, they gave me 90 days to go and bury her but I buried her within 70 days and came back to the prison and they said I was a mad man. That is the truth about my struggle for the Biafran cause. And I am still on it,” he said.
Meanwhile, a statement issued yesterday by the IPOB’s spokesman, Emma Powerful alleged, that Uwazuruike and some ‘unscrupulous’ elements in Biafraland were already working with President Muhamadu Buhari and the DSS to undermine Kanu.
The statement read in part: “The IPOB intelligence unit across the country has uncovered plans and names of those to be used by the federal government to testify against our leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.”
Continuing, the statement read, “IPOB had announced the coaching of a Ghanaian and Camerounian inside the DSS facility at VGC Abuja before the DSS changed tactics to use Chief Raphael Uwazuruike the leader of MASSOB/BIM and and one Mr. Chijioke Mbaneri from Enugu State.”
IPOB described Uwazuruike’s alleged involvement in the said plot as unfortunate, noting that Uwazuruike was among those championing the cause of Biafra before the sudden change.
“To buttress our points, Uwazuruike and others have been in contact with the DSS headquarters in Owerri and Abuja to perfect this heinous crime against humanity but right now they are in Abuja to consolidate the whole arrangements to testify against the people of Biafra and Kanu. We are therefore calling on everybody, Biafrans all over the world to call Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, Mr. Chijioke Mbaneri and their associates to order,” IPOB stressed.