By Cosmas Omegoh, Lagos; Jeff Amechi-Agbodo, Onitsha; Emmanuel Uzor, Abakaliki; Geoffrey Anyanwu, Awka; Tony John, Port Harcourt; Molly Kilete and Peter Emeraghi, Abuja
There was wild jubilation in some parts of the country yesterday, as an Abuja court granted bail to the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mr. Nnamdi Kanu.
Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court, Abuja granted the IPOB leader bail on health grounds. Kanu has been in detention since his arrest in October 2015.
Kanu and three other pro-Biafra agitators, Chidiebere Onwudiwe, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi, are standing trial on charges bordering on treasonable felony. Kanu was the only one granted bail, however.
The court ordered Kanu to produce three sureties, including a “highly respected and recognised Jewish leader, a highly placed person of Igbo extraction, such as a senator, and a highly respected person who is resident and owns landed property in Abuja.”
Celebration in Onitsha
As soon as the news of Kanu’s release filtered into the air yesterday, members of IPOB converged on the Old Market Road, opposite Post Office, Onitsha, the commercial city in Anambra State, singing freedom songs and dancing along the road. They were joined by scores of passers-by and commercial motorbike operators.
The crowd thanked God for Kanu’s release, saying though justice was delayed, it was never denied.
A member of IPOB, Mr. Emeka Nwolisa, commended Justice Nyako for granting Kanu bail even after he had been denied bail since 2015 when he was arrested. He said the restoration of Biafra was inevitable.
“Today, we are celebrating the release of our leader by the court. His release is long overdue because two courts had earlier granted him bail but they refused to release him. But today, Justice Nyako has finally released him. We are happy, and with his release we are sure of the speedy restoration of the Biafran State,” Nwolisa stated.
At Upper Iweka area of Onitsha, members of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) also joined the jubilation.
A leader of the group, Chief Okey Obidiogo wondered why the court granted bail to only Nnamdi Kanu when four people were facing trial.
“I’m calling on Justice Nyako to also release the others facing the same charges with Nnamdi Kanu for justice to reign. Even the conditions attached to the bail are curious. I wonder why the judge granted Kanu bail and left others in jail. There was also the condition that he should not stay with more than ten persons. What that means is that he is still a prisoner since he cannot attend functions,” he noted.
Ebonyi agog over Kanu
It was also a day of jubilation in various parts of Ebonyi State, as members of MASSOB across the state celebrated Kanu’s release.
Leader of the group, Uchenna Madu told the reporter: “The bail granted to our brother today is a sign of light triumphing over darkness. It is a motivational factor that Biafra will always triumph over Nigeria. I spent almost four years in different prisons from 2005 to 2009, including Suleja, Keffi and Kuje Prisons for the same purpose of Biafra before I was later released.
“Nnamdi Kanu and others won’t be an exception. He represents the interest of the people of Biafra. He is not a criminal. MASSOB commends the efforts of Igbo governors, some prominent and eloquent leaders like Mr. Peter Obi, Chief Nwodo of Ohaneze, Governor Ayo Fayose, some Igbo National Assembly members, Nzuko Umunna and other progressive persons for their unflinching efforts in compelling the
federal government to grant Nnamdi Kanu bail.
“As the people of Biafra erupted in jubilation all over the world in celebration of triumph of light over darkness, it shows that we are more united in our pursuit of Biafra actualization and restoration, irrespective of our different organisations. We know that freedom can never be achieved on a platter of gold.”
He demanded the release of other pro-Biafra detainees in other prisons, including those at Onitsha and Awka Prisons.
“MASSOB and other pro-Biafra groups, including IPOB, are on ground ready to welcome and receive our brother,” he said.
Port Harcourt stands still
Shortly after the announcement that Kanu had been granted bail, IPOB supporters trooped to major streets of Port Harcourt, rejoicing.
Business activities were grounded along Ikwerre Road, Ikokwu Motor parts axis, Okija Road and other areas predominantly occupied by Igbo traders in Port Harcourt and its environs.
Earlier in the day, traders at the major markets in the Rivers State capital had shut their shops as a sign of solidarity, waiting for the outcome of proceedings at the Abuja court.
The jubilation created some traffic along Ikwerre Road, but there was no tension.
Some of pro-Biafra supporters, who spoke to Daily Sun, said they were overwhelmed by the news of the release of their leader who had been in prison since late 2015.
Ogbonna Orji, a motor parts dealer in Ikokwu, said yesterday was a memorable day in his life. He urged Biafra supporters across the country and in the diaspora to come together and form a formidable force to achieve their sovereignty.
Sunday Okafor, a Port Harcourt-based businessman, described Kanu’s doggedness in the struggle for Biafra liberation as challenging.
“Today marks another phase of the struggle because our spirits have been reinvigorated. Though the journey has been tortuous, losing innocent and vibrant youths, we will sustain the struggle. His release from the prison is an encouragement to pro-Biafra supporters.
Another IPOB supporter, Nelson, said the bail conditions were cumbersome. He, however, expressed optimism that the bail conditions would be met. He prayed that Kanu should not flout any of the orders of the court.
Igbo groups react
Igbo Women Assembly (IWA), Igbo Youth Movement (IYM) and the Eastern Consultative Assembly (ECA) yesterday expressed reservations over the conditions attached to the bail granted the IPOB leader.
In a statement signed by IWA leader, Chief Mrs. Maria Okwor, the women said: “The conditions of his bail is funny and designed to cage him and imprison him the more. It smacks of paranoia on the side of government. We are not excited.
“We are happy he is out though; we wonder why they left him alone. The struggle is just beginning. They should release all the others as well.”
Leader of IYM, Evang. Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko said: “Those who packaged the bail conditions are clearly afraid of the big masquerade they have unwittingly created in their mistaken attempt to crush the uprising of the oppressed younger generation.
“From the bail conditions, we can see that the haphazard bail is designed to entrap Nnamdi and weaken IPOB. We demand the release of all the others.”
In the statement signed by the Publicity Secretary of ECA, Rev. Fr John Odey, the group said: “The fear of the popularity of Nnamdi Kanu has given birth to a laughable bail condition, which looks like imprisonment outside of the prison wall. The government is clearly afraid of the electrifying popularity of Kanu that would have shut down all the markets, schools and offices in Igbo land on the arrival of Kanu in Enugu.
“In fact, the Enugu Airport would not have survived the surge of human crowd that would have welcomed Kanu in their millions. All the same, we thank the international community for the pressure it mounted on the federal government. We expect all the others to be released and the government to engage them in dialogue immediately.”
Protest in court
Meanwhile, thousands of IPOB members had earlier converged on Abuja to protest the continued detention of their leader, Nnamdi Kalu.
The protesters, who it was gathered came from Rivers, Imo, Anambra, Enugu, Abia and Ebonyi States, were attired in black, green and red. They had gathered at the Federal High Court as early as 7:30, in the morning, waving the Biafran flag.
Some of them told Daily Sun that they came to show solidarity with their leader who had been in detention for about two years now.
Carrying placards with different inscriptions, the protesters marched through the street where the Federal High Court is located, chanting war songs, as security personnel kept a close watch on them.
Before embarking on the peaceful protest, the protesters took some minutes to offer prayers to God. They knelt in front of the court building and prayed for the release of their leader who they claimed did nothing wrong other than speaking the minds of the Igbo people.
Some of the placards read: “Free our leader Nnamdi Kanu;” “I am a proud Biafran, we want peace;” “We are tired of One Nigeria;” “I belong to Biafra,” among others.
In an interview with Daily Sun, Pastor Maxwell Ekenewihe, a deputy coordinator of IPOB in Port Harcourt said: “I beg all our religious leaders, all pastors and prophets who are proud to be Biafrans, to come out and show support for our leader. Don’t just show support as a pastor or prophet. Also come and say that you are a proud Biafran.
“Our dear leader is a prophet also, and his efforts shall not be in vain. What we can do is to show support.
“Let us ignore all the leadership and executive fights and positions. The best we can do right now is to make sure that we have done our own part, which is to show support and also preach to one another to show support to what we believe in,” he said.
Another protester, Uzoegbu Ngozi, condemned the government for detaining the IPOB leader.
“Why are they holding an innocent man? Our leader is like water, he has no enemy, and any person that is standing between Kanu and Biafra will not succeed. The federal government should release him.”
Sunday Anichukwu, an IPOB member from Enugu State, said Nigeria should release Kanu and allow Biafrans to go in peace.
“Let Nigeria leave us alone. We want peace and we are tired of one Nigeria. We have been in slavery since after the war. We want a free country where we can have freedom of speech.”
Aguluobi Echezonachukwu from Anambra State wondered why the government was still keeping Kanu even though he had been granted bail by the courts.
He said: “Two or three competent courts have freed our leader, but this government wants to keep persecuting him. He has been in Kuje Prison for a long time now. We go there to visit him. The thing is, he has not killed anyone. He is entitled to his freedom and that is why we won’t rest until he is a free man.”
Kanu’s walk through jail
For nearly two years, Mr Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Director of Radio Biafra has been in detention. He has been granted bail but had been kept in jail.
Yesterday, he was granted bail by Justice Binta Nyako, the fourth judge to handle his case. Kanu is facing charges bothering on treasonable felony brought against him by the federal government.
On October 18, 2015, Kanu was arrested in Lagos by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) in his hotel room in Lagos shortly after he returned from London. He was then taken to Abuja where he was detained by the DSS and was not granted bail for an upward of 90 days, contrary to the provision of the Nigerian Constitution.
Kanu was first brought before Justice Shuiabu Usman of a Magistrate Court in Wuse Zone 2, Abuja on November 23, 2015 charged with “criminal conspiracy, intimidation and membership of an illegal organisation” by the DSS.
But it was Justice Ademola Adeniyi of the Federal High Court, Abuja who on December 17, 2015, ordered the unconditional release of Kanu from the DSS custody on the grounds of the applications for fundamental rights enforcement brought by his lawyer.
But Kanu was kept in the custody of the DSS till December 23, 2015, when he was re-arraigned on fresh charges of treasonable felony before Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
But in a sudden twist, Justice Mohammed, not long after taking charge of the case, withdrew from the case after Kanu had accused him of bias. Kanu had said he wasn’t sure of getting justice from “the judge who won’t let justice prevail and also by a court where its ruling is not being obeyed.”
Consequently, the case was transferred to Justice John Tsoho, who on January 29, 2016, ruled that Kanu would not be granted bail. Consequently, he was remanded in Kuje Prison. But again, Justice Tsoho withdrew from the case and the case was transferred to Justice Binta Nyako who again granted bail to Kanu yesterday.