The Southeast was grounded yesterday as the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Nnamdi Kanu was denied bail by the Federal High Court in Abuja.
IPOB had announced a sit-at-home in solidarity with its leader and there was almost total compliance.
But it was not without the incident.
While the case was ongoing in Abuja, suspected IPOB members attacked a truck, killing at least one person in Delta.
But IPOB said its members were not responsible for the attacks in the Southeast and urged the region and security agencies to fish out the perpetrators.
It denied enforcing the Monday sit-at-home that is crippling the region’s economy.
“As our leader said, what is happening in our land is sacrilegious and there is no sense in anyone claiming that IPOB has turned against the people we are fighting for,” the group said.
Kanu, who is being tried for an alleged treasonable felony, had applied for bail.
Ruling yesterday, Justice Binta Nyako held that the defendant did not deserve to be granted bail the second time having abused the one.
The judge said: “Until the issue of absence of the defendant for his trial, with all the bail conditions breached, is determined, the instant application of the defendant for bail will at best be premature and it is refused.
“However, the defendant is at liberty to refile the application.”
The judge noted that substantial progress had not been made in the trial because of the many interlocutory applications filed since commencement in 2015.
According to her, over 19 such applications have been filed by parties.
The judge asked parties to allow the case to proceed to trial to enable the charge to be determined one way or the other.
Justice Nyako struck out the amended charge.
Lead defence lawyer, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), drew the court’s attention to the amended charge, which he said was the seventh by the prosecution intended to further delay the case.
Prosecuting counsel, David Kaswe, faulted Ozekhome’s claim that the amended charge was intended to delay proceedings.
He suggested that the trial could proceed pending when the amended charge was adopted.
He said the amendment did not substantially alter the existing charge, a position Ozekhome countered.
The SAN said: “In the new amended charge, they attached a lot of new pieces of evidence and documents, including the pictures of lawyers waiting to have a meeting with the defendant which they took with their hidden cameras.”
Justice Nyako said the court had taken judicial notice of the amended charge and that trial could not continue on the previous charge.
Following the judge’s observation, Kaswe applied to withdraw the amended charge, following which the judge struck it out.
The prosecution had, in the amended charge, listed some lawyers in Kanu’s legal team, including Ifeanyi Ejiofor and Maxwell Opara, as accomplices.
It claimed that the lawyers were constantly in contact with Kanu after he jumped bail and fled the country.
Further hearing in the case has been adjourned till May 26.
Suspected IPOB members attack truck
There was tension in Ugbolu community and environs in Delta State following an attack by suspected IPOB members on two trucks, a commercial motorcycle and an Audi car.
They blocked the Ugbolu/Illah Road at Mile 5, shooting indiscriminately.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the driver and his conductor were killed and a truck was set ablaze.
Motorists and residents fled into the bush for fear of being hit by stray bullets.
A commercial driver, Mr John Okafor, told NAN that the attackers blocked the road and ordered the truck driver to alight.
“They used logs of wood to block the road and searched every vehicle plying the route, saying they were enforcing orders of the IPOB.
“When the cement truck got to the spot, they stopped it, dragged the driver and his boy out and beat them up.
“After I left the scene, I heard that the attackers killed the driver and his conductor. I didn’t ply the route again out of fear,” Okafor said.
Another eyewitness, Mr Tony Emezuaka, a commercial motorcyclist, told NAN that the attackers set the truck on fire after killing the driver and his boy.
Emezuaka, who said he witnessed the incident, confirmed that the truck loaded with bags of cement was razed before the attackers fled the scene.
The spokesperson of the Police in Delta, Bright Edafe, confirmed the attack, saying only one person was killed.
Southeast on standstill
Many parts of the Southeast were on lockdown due to Kanu’s court appearance and fear of attack by hoodlums.
Abakaliki, the capital of Ebonyi State, was grounded following the sit-at-home declared by IPOB.
All the banks in the city were locked.
There was total compliance in Imo State. Schools, banks and public institutions were closed.
It was the same in Abia and Anambra states.
IPOB hails security agencies
Also yesterday, IPOB commended security agencies for flushing out criminals in the Southeast claiming to be its members.
The group said such hoodlums deserved to be treated as such due to their stubbornness.
In a statement by its spokesman Emma Powerful, IPOB urged the security operatives to be professional in dealing with such characters so innocent citizens would not be caught in the crossfire.
The separatist group also urged stakeholders of the region to unite to fight criminals trying to blackmail and demonise it.
The statement reads in part: “IPOB volunteers don’t enforce non-existent Monday sit-at-home.
“It’s not in doubt that IPOB issued Monday sit-at-home order to solidarise with our leader but upon pleas by our mothers and elders based on its adverse effects on the economy of our people, we quickly rescinded it.
“Anyone still enforcing Monday sit-at-home is not a genuine IPOB member but a dissident and doesn’t deserve any mercy.
“We have severally threatened to deal with these dissidents giving us a bad name.
“So, we even commend security agencies for dealing with such hoodlums in the manner they deserve because of their stubbornness.
“IPOB is a disciplined and responsible movement. We don’t know where such hoodlums are coming from and what agenda they are pursuing but certainly not Biafra’s agenda.
“We, therefore, ask the security agencies to stop referring to such dissidents as IPOB members because they don’t belong to us.
“They should stop associating us with criminals that have no connections whatsoever with IPOB.
“We equally advise them to be professional in dealing with such characters so that innocent citizens are not caught in the crossfire.
“It should be noted that IPOB volunteers are not in the market or streets; they know their duty posts – in the bushes and forests of Biafraland protecting our farmlands from the terrorists masquerading as herdsmen in our territory.”
The group urged the Southeast to join forces against rising criminality.
IPOB added: “We are calling on the stakeholders of the eastern region to come together and fight these criminals trying to blackmail and demonise IPOB.
“We don’t know them and have absolutely nothing to do with them.
“These criminals are kidnapping, snatching cars and killing innocent citizens claiming they are IPOB and ESN members while they are not.
“They deserve no mercy. They are not worthy to live. Whoever is sponsoring them should be brought to book.
“ESN and IPOB volunteers are not permitted to do anything that will threaten the lives of Biafrans and this is a fundamental principle and policy of IPOB.
“Anybody involved in killing and taking lives is not worthy to belong to this hallowed family and IPOB cannot allow such a person to be in our midst.
“As our leader said, what is happening in our land is sacrilegious and there is no sense in anyone claiming that IPOB has turned against the people we are fighting for.”