718 views | Kenechukwu Ofomah | May 28, 2021
Awka – A coalition of Human Rights Lawyers and concerned stakeholders on Thursday, raised alarmed over the alleged incarceration, prison detention without trial and gross abuse of human rights of over eighteen citizens of Igbo extraction allegedly for crimes they did not commit.
The group is asking that the persons be taken to court, their offences heard and they be given a speedy trial instead of leaving them to languish in detention.
According to the group, some of the detained persons who are standing trial for the offence of conspiracy to Felony, have stayed for over 12 years in Awka and Onitsha Correctional Centres, awaiting trial.
Among the detained persons the group listed to include, Miss Okwudiri Bassey, Uchenna Nicholas, Peter Igbokwe, Sabastine Amadi, Ikechukwu Chikwem, Uche Idika, Chukwuma Kalu, Eni Kalu, Chima Asor, Ojemba Anyanwu, Emmanuel Orji and Mmaduabuchi Asika.
Others are Chinweke Irondi, Michael Okezie, Ikechukwu Aghari, Casmir Odakar, Chidiebere Ekwem and Ndubuisi Okanu.
Speaking at a press briefing in Awka on Thursday, on behalf of the group, a human rights lawyer, Chijioke Ifediora said their investigations reveal that although the persons variously standing trial at the Federal High Court, Awka are charged with the offence of Felony under Section 37(2)cc with suit No. FHC/AWK/7C/2009, as well as for the offence of Conspiring among themselves to commit felony under Section 37(2) Cap 38 LFR 2004, the cases are moving at paces slower than the snail with the last hearing being in January 2020 adjourned to March 2021.
According to him, all indications point to a deliberate plan to continue to incarcerate these innocent citizens just for being relations of persons who share different views with the Federal Government.
“The delay in these cases clealy suggests lack of attention and concern. As at last check, the adjournment date couldn’t hold as a result of Judicial workers’ strike. The cases involving these innocent citizens (as recognised by law until proven guilty) are being prosecuted by a Private Counsel in execution of a fiat by the Attorney-General of the Federation while Defence Attorneys. It is therefore on this premise that we wish to call on the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Prosecuting Counsel executing the fiat, and every person involved in this matter, that these persons have suffered enough,” he said.
Ifediora continued: “The law of the land confers the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Why should anyone be in prison for twelve (12) years awaiting trial. It is on this note that we have taken steps to follow up these cases to ensure that these people get justice sooner than later.”
The group called on the Federal Government, the Anambra State Government and the Nigeria Bar Association to intervene on the matter and ensure that the persons get justice.
“We call on the Anambra State Government within whose jurisdiction these atrocities are taking place to take very active interest in the administration of justice on its citizens by Federal Agencies.
“We ask members of the Nigeria Bar Association especially in Anambra State and all champions of human rights, activists of justice and all men and women of goodwill to rise in defense of the defenseless.
“We believe that sincere responses and committed actions in response to this call will save us all from a wave of avoidable public disturbances and unrest and will help resolve a twelve (12) year incarceration of innocent citizens.
“We only ask for justice. Let’s meet in Court and hear their offences, let the Judge grant them bail, conduct a speedy trial and either acquit or find them guilty. We believe the former rather than the latter will be the case.
“We say a capital No to the continued detention without trial of these people and we ask all families and friends concerned, to give this process a chance. On justice we stand,” the group maintained.