Report from Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu
Irked by the continued detention of their leader, Chief Benjamin Onwuka, and 10 others “without fair-hearing and speedy trial” by the police and the judiciary, members of the pro-Biafra group, the Biafra Zionist Federation (BZF), on Monday enlisted the support of human rights organisations including the Civil Liberties organisation (CLO), Amnesty International, London, as well as the United States Consul General in Nigeria to facilitate their release.
Onwuka and others had been arrested by the police earlier at the premises of the the Enugu Radio station they were while trying to forcefully take over the station for the sole purpose of announcing the rebirth of the Republic of Biafra.
During the scuffle that ensued between the police and members of the BZF, two persons including a police officer and a member of the group reportedly lost their lives. The 11 persons arrested in the process had remained in custody.
However, attempts by their counsel and Zonal Director of the CLO, in the South-east, Olu Omotayo, to secure their release has met a brick wall.
THISDAY checks revealed that when the criminal charge preferred against them came up at the Federal High Court sitting in Enugu on December 8, it was adjourned to December 18 for argument on the bail application.
However, on the said date, the case was further adjourned to February 9, 2015 as the court could not sit.
Apparently dismayed by the situation, the group in a well worded petition addressed to the CLO and copied to several groups including Amnesty International, claimed that the delay in ensuring the speedy trial of the accused persons was a ploy to frustrate their agitation and also to keep their leaders in detention till after next year’s general election.
The petition, which was signed by the group’s National chairman, Cyril Onyia, expressed regret that several years after the civil war, the nation was yet to effectively put an end to the issues that led to the war.
“The main reason that gave birth to the Biafra agitation about 50 years ago, which are the lack of protection of the lives and properties of the people of the Eastern Nigeria and their right to freedom of worship are still prevalent. We are killed in thousands and attacked in our places of worship in different parts of Northern Nigeria and in all these, the federal government has failed woefully to take care of the situation.
“None of those committing these atrocities have ever been charged to court for murder, arson or treason, despite their recent annexation of parts of Nigeria and raising their flag. Our crime is that we are demanding for justice, equality, freedom, protection of lives and properties of our people and our right to freedom of worship.
“The detention of our leader and 10 others is an inspiration to us and we shall continue to demand for their unconditiinal release,” they noted, adding that before coming up with the letter, they had embarked on peaceful protest across the states of the defunct Eastern Nigeria.
Tuesday, 30 December 2014