An Enugu East Magistrates Court presided by Magistrate A. N. Chioke has remanded 140 members of the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) over 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 a treasonable felony.
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.
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 burial and wondered how that could translate to overthrowing the government.
The counsel described the charge as trumped-up and meant to deny the defendants of their fundamental rights. “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.
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.
In her ruling, Mrs. Chioke declined jurisdiction in the case and remanded the defendants in Enugu Prisons and urged the defense team to make an 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 a 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.
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