Wednesday 21 March 2018

Nnamdi Kanu’s co-accused, re-arraigned on fresh charges

The Federal Government yesterday re-arraigned four of Nnamdi Kanu’s co-accused, Bright Chimezie, Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi before a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on a three-count amended charge bordering on treasonable felony.

The four accused persons whose trial had been separated from that of the still being sought leader of Indigenous People of Biafra, (IPOB), Kanu, pleaded not guilty to the fresh charges initiated against them.

In the amended charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/383/2015, the Federal Government said the four accused persons, alongside Kanu and others still being sought “on different dates in 2014 and 2015 in Nigeria and London, United Kingdom, did conspire amongst themselves to broadcast on Radio Biafra monitored in Enugu and other areas within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, preparations being made by you and others at large, for states in the South-East and South-South zones and other communities in Kogi and Benue states to secede from the Federal Republic of Nigeria with a view to constituting same into a Republic of Biafra and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 516 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C77, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.”

Count-two of the amended charge dated March 16, federal government alleged that “Chimezie and Kanu had between the months of March and April, 2015, imported into Nigeria and kept in Ubuluisiuzor in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State, a Radio transmitter known as TRAM 50L, which they concealed in a container that was declared as used household items, contrary to section 47(2) (a) of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C77, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

Besides, Federal Government alleged in count-three that Madubugwu had sometimes in the month of October 2015, had in his possession at his house in Ubuluisiuzor in Ihiala LGA of Anambra State, one Emerald Magnum Pump Action Gun with Serial Number TS 870-113-0046 and one Delta Magnum Pump Action Gun with Serial Number 501, as well as forty-one cartridges/ammunition without lawful authority or licence and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 27(b) (i) of the Firearms Act, Cap. F28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.”

Earlier before the defendants entered plea, they had through their various lawyers alleged a plot by federal government to frustrate their trial.

They submitted that over one month after the court separated their trial from that of Kanu, federal government waited to serve them with a copy of the charge in the courtroom.

They further noted that the court had at the last adjourned date, ordered the prosecution to serve the amended charge on them, at least two weeks before the commencement of the trial.

According to lawyer to the first defendant, Chidiebere Igwe, “My lord, contrary to your order, this charge which was filed four days ago, was only served on us this morning”.

Also, lawyers to the 3rd and 4th defendants, P. A. N. Ejiofor and Maxwell Okpara respectively contended that the charge was legally defective, noting that section 390 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, provided that such charge must be served at least 7 days before trial.

Responding, Ejiofor stated, “My lord, it is our position that there is no charge before this court. It is incompetent because it was not brought within the time prescribed in the law.

“Refusal by the prosecution to serve us the charge on time was nothing but a deliberate ploy to continue to keep our client on detention

“The essence of the whole delay in serving us this morning is to frustrate this case.

“In view of this unnecessary delay occassioned by the prosecution, I urge my lord to grant my client bail at least on his health ground”.

Responding, the prosecuting lawyer, I, M. S. Labaran apologised for the late service of the charge on the defendants, saying he was unable to trace offices of their lawyers.

He had earlier drawn attention of the court to what he termed “a vexatious publication in the social media.”

He told the court that one Chinasa Nwobi, who he identified as an IPOB member, snapped and posted a picture of an Ignorant DSS operative involved in the case, urging other IPOB to target and kill him for masterminding the arrest of their members.

Labaran tendered a photocopy of the said social media publication.

However, lawyer to all the defendants challenged the claim which they said was aimed at distracting the court.

After listening to parties, the trial judge, Justice Binta Nyako held that the federal government knew what to do, stressing that the said publication had nothing to do with the proceedings before her.

The court subsequently remanded all the defendants in prison and adjourned till tomorrow to commence definite trial of the accused persons.

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