A Magistrates’ Court sitting in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, on Tuesday freed 44 members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) arrested by soldiers attached to the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta.
The court declared that the three-count charge of conspiracy, breach of public peace and unlawful gathering filed against them by the police could not be proven by the prosecution.
Penawei Mukoro, the presiding magistrate, thereafter discharged and acquitted the accused for want of evidence.
Mukoro, according to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in her ruling held that all the accused persons had no case to answer as the prosecution was unable to make a prima-facie case against them.
The detained members of the IPOB were arrested in October 2016 while meeting at a popular lounge along the Okaka Area of the state capital.
Lt. Col. Olaolu Daudu, the spokesman of JTF at the time, said the soldiers trailed members of the “separatist” group to Lakeview Club along Mabinton Estate, while planning to establish the Bayelsa State chapter of the banned organisation.
Mr. Kinsley Nwosu, counsel to the accused IPOB members had argued before the court a “no case submission,” describing the arrest and trial of the IPOB members as a deliberate attempt to intimidate and violate the fundamental rights of the people to freedom of assembly.
He maintained that the Nigerian Police failed to produce a credible witness to substantiate the charges against the IPOB members.
“This is a case of serious intimidation. The prosecution could not produce credible witnesses,” he said.