Commercial activities were paralyzed yesterday in the commercial cities of Onitsha, Awka environs and the industrial town of Nnewi as bonfires were used to frustrate vehicular movements in the two cities and town by people suspected to be members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB.
They blocked entrances into the major markets, thus forcing traders and their customers to remain indoors.
Markets in Onitsha,Nnewi and other places were also shut down in solidarity with Kanu whose continued trial was scheduled for yesterday.
But despite the shut down in the South East and the heavy security that was mounted at the Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday, the Department of State Services, DSS, failed to produce the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, for continuation of his trial.
Kanu, who was on June 27, returned to the country after he was reportedly arrested in Kenya, is facing a treasonable felony charge the Federal Government preferred against him.
Trial Justice Binta Nyako had on June 29, remanded him in the custody of the DSS, even as she fixedMonday 26th July to resume hearing on the case.
Also yesterday, Former presidential candidate, Omoyele Sowore was arrested by the police at the Federal High Court, Abuja and later released.
In a related development, a civil society organisation, Amnesty International, has condemned the Nigerian authorities for placing a restriction on the number of journalists that could report the trial of the leader of the IPOB leader.
Lockdown in Onitsha, Nnewi, Awka
The action of the IPOB members in Onitsha and Nnewi was believed to be in connection with the planned appearance of the IPOB leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu in an Abuja court yesterday.
Commuters had a hectic day as vehicles heading to Onitsha from Enugu, Awka and the northern parts of the country were forced to stop at the Onitsha toll gate, a distance of about eight kilometers to the main market, while those entering the city from Owerri and the South-South states had to stop at Metallurgical Training Institute, Obosi.
In Awka, many people who wanted to travel to Onitsha were stranded as commercial vehicles stopped taking passengers.
Inside Onitsha, smoke from bonfires on most streets billowed into the skies, scaring people from coming out of their houses in some parts of the cities.
Traders whose shops are along the streets, were forced to close them immediately they noticed the unusual movement on many streets.
A video circulating on social media showed that shops, markets, and offices were locked in Onitsha, while streets were deserted.
In Nnewi, it was gathered that youths suspected to be IPOB members smashed the windshield of cars belonging to motorists who attempted to enter the city.
A trader in Onitsha Main Market, Mr. Lizinus Eze, said: “We heard it yesterday as a rumour that there will be no market today, but this morning we found that people were making bonfires everywhere in the city.
”Nobody has spoken to us about what is happening, but we learned that it is IPOB that is trying to force people to stay at home in solidarity with Nnamdi Kanu who is appearing in court today (yesterday).”
Commercial activities were equally grounded in towns such as Ogidi, Nkpor, Nsugbe, Nkwelke, Ezunaka, Obosi and Oba, Ozubulu, Oraifeite, Nnobi and Akwaukwu, as all the markets in the areas remained shut, while banks and federal government agencies also shut down for business.
Some of the markets in Onitsha, such as Onitsha Main Market, Ochanja Central Market, Oseokwodu Market, over 27 markets under Bridge Head Markets, Onitsha Medicine Market, popularly known as Ogbo Ogwu Market, Biafra Market Onitsha , New Spare Parts Nkpor, Old Motor Parts Nkpor, Old Motor Spare Parts Obosi, New Tyre Market Nkpor all in Onitsha and its environs, and Nkwo Nnewi Market, Obi Nsoedo Market, Motor Spare Parts Nnewi, Motorcycle Spare Parts Nnewi and Timber Market also in Nnewi were all shut down as the roads in the industrial city were also deserted.
There was, however, no formal directive by the leadership of IPOB for markets and business activities not to open, but Vanguard gathered that the markets in the state shut down in solidarity with the IPOB and its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, over his alleged abduction, rendition and resumed trial in Federal High Court Abuja.
Some Federal Government agencies as Federal Inland Revenue Services, FIRS, National Inland Waterways Authority , NIWA, were under lock, while all the commercial banks in the city shut their premises for business when Vanguard moved around Onitsha, Nnewi and environs.
However, the Police, Army and Naval officials were sighted moving around Onitsha, possibly to ensure there was no break down of law and order.
Some Newspaper despatch officials going to Awka, Nnewi and Ekwulobia in Aguata Local Government Area, were turned back by the Police and Army for their safety.
Anambra State police command was yet to react to the development at press time yesterday, as the state Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Mr. Ikenga Tochukwu, said he was still in a meeting when a call was put to him.
DSS fails to produce Kanu in court for trial, cites logistics problem
However, at the resumed proceedings in Kanu’s matter, government lawyer, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, blamed the inability of the DSS to produce the Defendant in court on what he described as “logistical difficulties”.
Abubakar said he was ready to proceed with the hearing as he informed the court that he brought three witnesses to testify against the Defendant.
He wondered if the matter could go on, considering that the High Court has already commenced its annual vacation.
FG’s lawyer argued that since Justice Nyako was not appointed as a vacation judge, she would need the Fiat (permission) of the Chief Judge to be able to proceed with Kanu’s trial during the vacation period.
On his part, Kanu’s lawyer, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, queried to know why he was not notified before his client was arraigned before the court upon his arrest and return to the country.
Insisting that such action infringed on his right as a counsel in the matter, Ejiofor also raised the alarm that the life of his client was in danger.
He told the court that he had been unable to have access to his client for the past 10 days, alleging that security agencies had moved him to an unknown destination.
“My lord, even for today’s sitting, we were not served any notice. I came here on my own. And speaking from the Bar, I got it on good authority that my client has been taken outside the jurisdiction of this court,” Ejiofor added.
He argued that it would be in the interest of justice for CJ of the court to issue a fiat for the trial to go on during the court’s vacation.
Meanwhile, trial Justice Nyako, who recalled that she gave a directive that Kanu’s lawyer should be served a hearing notice, also wondered why the Defendant was not brought to court by the DSS, stressing that the matter would not not go on in the absence of the Defendant.
“I am also worried about why the Defendant is not here. The first step in a criminal matter is to provide the Defendant in court. Now, I have been here, waiting, and he is not here.
“I will not take this kind of practice in the conduct of this case. When I give you a date, I want you to be diligent on that date. You cannot continue in his absence, especially now that the Defendant has been brought back to the countr,y” Justice Nyako fumed.
Though Justice Nyako acknowledged that she would need Fiat to continue the case during vacation, she ordered that Kanu must be produced before the court on October 21, which is the next adjourned date.
The trial Judge equally made an order, directing the DSS to grant Kanu access to his lawyers.
Kanu’s lawyer drew the attention of the court to a pending motion his client filed to be transferred to a Correctional Center, even as he sought time to respond to a counter-affidavit the prosecution filed in opposition to the request.
Even though the transfer application has not been moved, Justice Nyako, said her earlier order that remanded Kanu in DSS custody would subsist.
“For now, I am not transferring him to the Correctional Centre. I am keeping him where I kept him. But I am going to make an order that he should be granted access to his lawyers.
“The access will, however, be regimented.
”I will sit in consultation with both the defence and the prosecution to ensure that the access is regimented”, Justice Nyako stated.
Ejiofor’s attempt to prod the court to ask the prosecution questions on the allegation that Kanu was moved out of its jurisdiction to an unknown destination, did not yield any fruit.
Police arrest Sowore in Federal High Court, Abuja
Vanguard learned that Sowore was in court to observe the trial of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, whose case was slated to resume yesterday.
However, the activist-cum-politician was arrested by the police while live streaming, on Facebook, the activities around the court premises.
Sowore was taken away alongside a journalist, Dickson Iroegbu of Africa Independent Television, AIT, for questioning.
Shortly thereafter, they were brought back to the court to confirm the claims he made while being interrogated at the Federal Secretariat Police Station.
The police released them about an hour later.
Narrating his ordeal, Sowore said: “I have just been released by the police. I am here with some lawyers. The police just released us. They dragged us, harassed us, beat us, and took us to the Federal Secretariat Police Station. We were taken to the office of the Divisional Police Officer.”
Restricting journalists violate fair hearing, says Amnesty
Prior to the court sitting yesterday, the Federal High Court in Abuja had accredited only 10 media houses to cover the trial.
Reacting to the restriction of journalists from media houses not accredited, , Amnesty International, on its official Twitter handle yesterday, said the move was a restriction on access to information, adding that it also violated fair hearing.
“Amnesty International condemns Nigerian authorities’ restriction of the number of journalists that can report the trial of the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Nnamdi Kanu, which started today in Abuja.
“Selecting few journalists to cover the trial is a restriction on access to information and an attempt to deny people the right to know. It also violates all fair hearing guarantees.
“We call on the Nigerian authorities to respect the right to fair hearing and immediately lift of the restriction and allow the media unhindered access to the court to do their job. This is yet another bizarre and unacceptable attack on the Nigerian media that must not stand.”
I’ve commenced a legal action —Ejimakor
In a similar development, Special Counsel to Nnamdi Kanu, Barrister Aloy Ejimakor said he has commenced a continental legal action against Nigeria and Kenya before the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, demanding accountability for the extraordinary rendition of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
He said jurisdiction lies with the Commission because Nigeria and Kenya are State Parties to the African Charter; and Nigeria even took a step further to domesticate the Charter, thus making it part of her municipal laws.
“He said: “Both countries also have extradition laws that prohibit this sort of reprehensible conduct that saw Kanu to Nigeria. More particularly, extraordinary rendition is expressly prohibited under the African Charter, where It provides in pertinent part that “A State may not transfer (e.g. deport, expel, remove, extradite) an individual to the custody of another State unless it is prescribed by law and in accordance with due process and other international human rights obligations. Extraordinary rendition, or any other transfer, without due process is prohibited”.
Ejimakor said a victim of extraordinary rendition is entitled to remedies mandated by the Charter.
“Therefore, among many other reliefs, I requested that Kanu be restored to his state of being before the rendition, which state of being was that he travelled to Kenya on his British passport and was duly admitted as such and as a free man.
“Further, that no valid territorial jurisdiction can issue from an act of extraordinary rendition because Kanu is, technically speaking, still in Kenya. And that the Nigerian bench warrant standing against Kanu is, in the absence of any successful extradition proceedings in Kenya, invalid to arrest in Kenya.
“I also requested the Commission to adopt other urgent measures as the Commission sees fit in the circumstances to protect Nnamdi Kanu in the interim. A fact-finding visitation to Nigeria is also in reckoning.”
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