An Enugu East Magistrates Court presided by Magistrate A. N. Chioke has remanded 140 members of the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) over an alleged treason.
The defendants, who were brought to the court in three 608 buses and one 18-seater bus, were said to have conspired to commit treasonable felony.
They were however, arraigned outside the court for about two hours as the court room could not accommodate them.
The offence was said to be punishable under Sect. 516 (A) of the Criminal Code CAP C38, Laws of Federal Republic of Nigeria 2004 as applicable in Enugu State.
When the charge was read, the defendants pleaded not guilty.
One of the defense counsels, Osita Abalu, applied for their bail on the grounds that there was no evidence to back up the charge.
Mr Abalu said the prosecution had failed to provide probable cause why the defendants should be remanded in court in line with Sect. 234 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Laws (ACJL) of Enugu State, 2017.
He urged the court to exercise its powers under Section 225 of the same law and grant bail to the defendants.
Mr Abalu said though the offence for which the defendants were charged was punishable with life imprisonment, Section 88 of the ACJL, the Magistrates Court was qualified to grant bail.
He also urged the court to order the release of the four buses conveying the defendants to the venue of the burial.
Counsel to the 107 defendants, F.C. Okeke, told the court that it was ridiculous for the prosecution to claim that the defendants attempted to overthrow President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr Okeke said the defendants were arrested on their way to a burial and wondered how that could translate to over throwing the government.
“President Muhammadu Buhari is in Abuja, Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is in Enugu while the defendants were arrested in Nsukka,” he said.
The counsel described the charge as trumped-up and meant to deny the defendants of their fundamental rights.
Mr Okeke said the prosecution deliberately brought the matter to the Magistrates Court just to punish them.
“An accused person cannot be brought to a court when such court has no jurisdiction to entertain the matter just to punish them.
“That is the essence of the ACJL of Enugu State. The law does not want an innocent soul to suffer.
“The defendants were arrested with no evidence; not even a razor blade. They were going to a burial,” he said.
Mr Okeke urged the court to grant them bail in the most lenient means.
However, the prosecution counsel, Paschal Nwachukwu, urged the court to discountenance the bail application.
Mr Nwachukwu said the law empowered prosecutors to bring defendants to a magistrate for remand.
He said a court could not grant bail in a matter it had no jurisdiction.
In her ruling, Mrs Chioke declined jurisdiction in the case and remanded the defendants in Enugu Prisons and urged the defense team to make application in the appropriate court.
The magistrate ordered the release of the four vehicles to their owners on bond and on the provision of proof of ownership and particulars.
“The charge the defendants are remanded for is treasonable but the prosecution did not list any exhibit of weapon of warfare against them.
“The only document against them before the court is the charge sheet. This looks to me like a trumped up charge,” Mrs Chioke said.
JUSUN Strike: Governors, Speakers, Buhari’s CoS Meet
Representatives of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) and the Conference of Speakers of State Assemblies, on Thursday, met with President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Ibrahim Gambari, in Abuja, over the ongoing nationwide strike of judiciary workers.
Speaking with State House reporters at the end of the meeting which held at Mr Gambari’s office at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, who is also the Deputy Chair of the NGF, appealed to the striking workers to call off their strike in the interest of the nation.
The governors along with the Labour Minister, Chris Ngige, had earlier postponed a meeting scheduled to be held with the leadership of the striking workers indefinitely on Thursday.
Judiciary workers had embarked on the indefinite nationwide strike on April 6 in protest against the denial of the judiciary of financial autonomy especially by state level.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Mr Tambuwal told reporters that the governors had met with the speakers and the Chief Judges of various states, and would continue to engage the leadership of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria over the strike
“We’ve just finished talking to the Speakers, and indeed the State Chief Judges, and the Judiciary, to continue to engage and the Minister of Labour is also engaging with the striking bodies to appeal to them, to appreciate the fact that we have made progress.
“We’re appealing to them in the interest of this country, they should call off the strike”, he said.
According to the governor, a lot of progress had been made in the negotiations and hopefully the matter would be put to rest by next week.
“We’re here with the chairman and leadership of the Speakers’ Conference. The Solicitor General of the Federation, and SSA to Mr President on Niger Delta, who has been a member of the Technical Committee on the implementation of the autonomy of state legislatures and the judiciary.
“Together with the Chief of Staff to the President, we have just finished a meeting on how to put finishing touches and dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s, on the final implementation of the financial autonomy of the state legislatures and the judiciary.
“We have made reasonable progress and we have agreed, after receiving the final report of the technical committee, to meet on Monday, because of the urgency of the matter and finally, resolve whatever issues are there,” he said.
He also expressed the commitment of those in leadership positions to build viable institutions for the country.
“Well, I can assure you that all of us are committed to building institutions, particularly our parliaments and the judiciary in our respective states, as democratically elected governors, and we are doing whatever it takes to make sure that the issues are resolved.
“As I told you before, some of the issues are constitutional and when matters have to do with the constitution, you have to be sure of what you’re doing that you’re actually following the Constitution,” he said.
Mr Tambuwal said the governors had always been in support of the autonomy of state legislature and judiciary.
He added, “From the very beginning, during the 8th Assembly, under the leadership of Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker Dogara, the NGF under Abdulaziz Yari then, met with them and supported the financial autonomy for the state legislatures and the judiciary.
“And that is why with that support, we were able to achieve the passage of this amendment by the National Assembly and the state legislatures across the country.
“So, the governors are unequivocally in support of the autonomy of these institutions.’’
JUSUN had scaled up its battle for financial autonomy after it obtained a court judgment affirming the constitutional provisions granting financial autonomy to the judiciary in January 2014.
In their bid to ensure compliance with the judgment, the workers embarked on a protracted three weeks nationwide strike in January 2015.
They had called off the strike after governors and other stakeholders made commitments to meet workers’ demands, pledges that were largely jettisoned.
Buhari Suspends Magu As EFCC Acting Chairman
Ibrahim Magu has been suspended as Acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by President Muhammadu Buhari, the BBC reports.
Magu spent the night in a police cell at the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) Headquarters in Abuja.
Oshiomhole Rejects Supreme Court Verdict, Says No Govt in Bayelsa from Friday (Today)
The National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, has rejected the judgement of the Supreme Court on the Bayelsa State governorship election.
He faulted the judgement while addressing a press conference in Abuja, shortly after the apex court sacked the candidate of the APC, David Lyon, as the governor-elect in Bayelsa.
The APC national chairman stressed that the implication of the judgement delivered by the Supreme Court was that nobody was qualified to be sworn in as governor of Bayelsa State.
“If as the Supreme Court has ruled, David Lyon cannot now be sworn in as governor and as the person who has the highest number of votes and the spread to be sworn in, it simply means from tomorrow (Friday) there will be no government in Bayelsa State,” he said.