Leader of the Biafra Zionists Federation, BZF, Benjamin Onwuka was on Monday morning arrested in Enugu along with more than 50 members for another attempt to enter Enugu State government house for inauguration of Biafra.
A combined team of security operatives made up of the Department of State Services, DSS, and the Nigeria Police were said to have been involved in the operation.
This is even as Imo State Police Command, Monday, arraigned 112 female loyalists of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, before an Owerri Magistrate Court, presided over by Adaego Nosiri.
A source hinted that members of the BZF had marched from the Presidential Road, through Rangers Avenue, but were stopped at the Bissala Road entry to the Government House by security operatives.
Deputy Leader of the group, Mazi Ambrose Ugwu, who confirmed the arrest to journalists, said whereabouts of their members remained unknown.
“Our people left for the Enugu Government House to foist the Biafra flag, but they were stopped on getting to close to the road to leading to the place.
“DSS operatives stopped them from entering the Government House. They told them to stay within the Bissala Road axis and do whatever they wanted to do.
“However, our leader refused, insisting that he must be allowed to enter the Government House. After a while, they brought vehicles and told them to enter, claiming that they were taking them to a place for a dialogue.
“As we speak, we have not heard from them. As far as we are concerned, this is abduction, because they were taken to unknown place. We have gone to the State CID but they are not being detained them.
“We are, therefore, calling on the international community, especially, US President Donald Trump and the Prime Minister of Israel to intervene for their immediate release.
“From the information I have, over 50 of them were arrested; they were not armed; they are just freedom fighters. Should anything happen to them, we will hold the South-East Governors responsible,” Ugwu said.
Both the Police and the DSS are yet to issue official statements on the reported arrest.
Meanwhile, two women of IPOB, Nwakaego Fabian, who fainted in the vehicle that brought her to the court, and the pregnant Nzubechi Uwakwe, who started bleeding, were rushed to the Police Hospital, Owerri, on the instruction of Mr. Godwin Idehai, a Chief Superintendent of Police that led the police team.
According to the 10-count charge, OW/430C/2018, which was signed by the Officer in Charge of the Legal/Prosecution Department, of Imo State Police Command, Mr. Thaddeus Okey, the IPOB loyalists were accused of felony.
“That you, Ifeoma Okorie, Uloma Ejiogu and 112 others, on or about August 17, 2018, within Owerri Magisterial District, conspired with others now at large, to commit felony to wit: membership of proscribed organization known and called Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 516 of the Criminal Code Act Cap C38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, as applicable to Imo State,” the Charge Sheet read.
The accused persons were also charged for “unlawful procession and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 517 of the Criminal Code Act Cap C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, as applicable in Imo State.”
The prosecution equally alleged that on the same date and place, the accused persons “did assemble yourselves together and publicly exhibited banners, emblems, flags or symbols of the IPOB and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 88(1)(b) of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, as applicable to Imo State”.
A defence counsel, Mr. Aloy Ejimakor, faulted some of the charges slammed on the IPOB loyalists, saying that the issue of the proscription of IPOB is still before a court of competent jurisdiction.
“Your Worship, the issue of IPOB proscription is before a court of competent jurisdiction and this makes the charge of treasonable felony a non-issue”, Ejimakor said.
Following the superior arguments put up by the defence lawyers and the obvious capitulation of the prosecution, the court struck out the first and second charges.
The defence was however not so lucky when they urged the court to admit all the accused persons on bail.
After listening to the argument on all sides, the Magistrate ordered the accused persons to be remanded in Owerri Federal Prison and adjourned the matter to September 3, 2018.