Over 60 members of the pro-Biafran movement, IPOB, have been freed after spending about five months in prison custody in Owerri, Imo State.
Their lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, who confirmed this to PREMIUM TIMES, Friday, said they were freed on February 1, after the Chief Judge of Imo State, Ijeoma Agugua, granted them bail.
Mr Ejiofor said the 67 IPOB members were “unlawfully” thrown into prison since last year, after their arraignment in a magistrate court which, he said, refused to listen to their application for bail, about four times.
“They were arrested on their way to a burial by some soldiers. After hours of interrogation, they were handed over to the police and the police detained them,” Mr Ejiofor said.
“No doubt about it, they had disclosed their identity as IPOB members.”
The police, however, in August, when they paraded the arrested IPOB members, said that they were on their way to meet a native doctor to fortify them against bullet-penetration.
Isaac Akinmoyede, the then commissioner of police in Imo State, said it was believed that the arrested IPOB members were planning an attack on security agencies, “with the aim of snatching weapons”.
“It must interest you to know that the proscription of IPOB is a subject of appeal in the Court of Appeal,” the lawyer to the IPOB members, Mr Ejiofor said.
“We have an application for stay of execution (on the proscription order),” he said.
Mr Ejiofor said IPOB remains a lawful organisation until the case against its proscription is ultimately thrashed out at the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
“The IPOB members are at all times exercising their rights as provided under the law, including their right to freedom of association.”
The lawyer, who thanked the chief judge for being “courageous enough” to free the IPOB members, said the magistrate court did not have the jurisdiction to listen to the case, in the first instance, and that no charge was filed against the IPOB members.
He accused some powerful persons in the Imo State Government of having a prejudice against IPOB and using the judiciary to hunt down its members.
He said the freed IPOB member would “definitely” seek redress against their “unlawful” detention.
could not immediately reach the Commissioner for Information in the state, Declan Emelumba, as he did not respond to calls and a text message seeking his comment.
IPOB, which enjoys great following in the South-east, has been agitating for an independent state of Biafra, and has frequently clashed with security agencies, including the Nigerian Army.