A prominent scholar of Constitutional Law and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Professor Ilochi Okafor, has urged members of the outlawed the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to continue with their agitation peacefully, saying that the world is listening to their cries against their marginalisation and threats to annihilate them.
Ilochi spoke on Monday at a ceremony to mark the commencement of the 2017 Legal Year in Anambra State, at the State Judiciary Headquarters, Awka. He pointed out that the move by IPOB is unprecedented, an achievement of historic proportions and has brought to the front burner the imperatives and urgency of restructuring Nigeria.
He stated that Nigeria does not operate â€œmilitary democracyâ€ but pure and simple democracy which means government of the people, by the people and for the people, just as he faulted the use of army against â€˜unarmed civilians at Nnamdi Kanuâ€™s home and parts of Abia State
According to him, â€œArmies do not arrest civilians. Police do. Armies are not stationed against a peaceful people or demonstration. Armies intervene where it is beyond the police, against insurrection, terrorism and external aggression. Section 271 of the 1999 Constitution. Never against â€˜fighting kidnappingâ€™, â€˜armed robberyâ€™ â€˜killing of priestsâ€™ â€˜and certainly not in suppressing â€˜unarmed agitationâ€™.â€
The former Vice Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University opined asserted: â€œThe Spirit of Biafra is ion every Ibo man or woman. It is an ideology. It is devoid of geography. Wherever we are or will be, we shall continue to be Ibos, to be Biafrans, for the threats of pogrom enslavement and extermination will never cease.
â€œDespite the verbal violence and grandiose rhetorics of Nnamdi Kanu, IPOB is not a terrorist Origination. No person has been killed by IPOB. Its rallies have been heavily crowded, but it has not been shown that any person carried or discharged weapons during the rallies. Their exuberance proved the wide, aggressive and passion-filled disconnect with Nigeria and the older generation. This is understandable. I belong to this generation and we have failed our people. For the Ibo self-haters, the enemy within is a bigger threat than the enemy outside.
â€œThe illegality of South-East governors proscribing all activities of IPOB, or the Armed Forces declaring IIPOB as a terrorist organisation is beyond question. We cannot justify the Army, subjecting defenceless youths, who are unarmed to physical torture, denigrating their dignity, ordering them to slap each other and forcing them to drink and eventually drown in muddy waters. It is inhuman, barbaric and senseless. Which other organisation has been declared a terrorist organisation.â€
Okafor stated that â€œas a student of Constitutional law, no people with the diversities and conflicts that exist within us have ever survived as a nation, unless in a very loose federation or confederation. Suppressing violently the self determination groups is unlikely to kill the agitation for re-structuring. It is clear to me that nation.â€
He described the Ibos as peaceful people, adding that demonstrations towards realisation of the right to self-determination are recognised as fundamental rights in international Law and United Nations Charter which Nigeria is bound to.
Recalling the past atrocities, pogroms and threats of extermination for over 100 years like the Jews whose ordeals ended with the creation of State of Israel in 1948, he expressed worry that no arrest has been made to people who issued the Civil Notice to Ibos to leave the North, frowning upon non-protection of Ibos from Fulani herds-menâ€™s attacks and non stationing of army in the North as the October deadline approaches.
But Governor Obiano through the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Chude Anadi, voiced out that the volume of criminal case filesÂ that came in this year was alarming following â€œrestiveness that occurred in various communities in the state while the activities of miscreants that were previously under control reared their ugly heads dangerously again and stretched the arms of the staff of the Department of Public Prosecution.â€
He stated that, contrary to the threat of IPOB that the November 18, 2017 gubernatorial election will not hold, â€œAnambra State will be going to the polls to elect a governor who will take charge of the affairs of the state for the next four years.â€
According to him, â€œEnemies of the State wanted to take advantage to plunge Anambra State into chaos by directing that elections will not hold in Anambra State. It is the duty of Ndi Anambra to stand up to the occasion and refuse to allow people who do not wish Anambra State well toÂ drag us to a situation whereby we will be turned into the guinea pig in Nigeria polity
â€œI want to use this opportunity to urge Anambrarians to come out en masse on the day of election and cast their votes for a candidate of your choice and to resist any attempt to create opportunities for enemies of our dear state to hoist on us a government that is not the wish of the people.â€
Supporting his view, the President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in Anambra State, Chief Damian Okeke-Ogene, said the conduct of the November 2017 election in the State is sacrosanct and as such the poll will hold.
He said that the non-conduct of the poll would create a vacuum and become an invitation to anarchy and declaration of state of emergency.
Though he said the Federal Government may not be right in the proscription of IPOB and its declaration, as a terrorist group, he shared the groupâ€™s sentiments against injustice, lop-lopsidedness in appointment and marginalisation but accused the Kanu-led IPOB of accelerating at a top-speed beyond reality, advising the youths to be careful especially during the declared period of Python Dance 2 from September 15 to October 14, this year to avoid booby trap set for them.
In the same vein, the Anambra State House of Assembly Committee Chairman on Judiciary Matters, Hon, Chugbo Enwezor, has faulted the unilateral declaration of IPOB as a terrorist group by the Army as well as subsequent proscription by the South East Governorsâ€™ Forum, saying both are illegal; acts and cannot stand the test of time.
Hon. Enwezor specifically pointed out that the law-making body of each State House of Assembly had to legislate it into law and assented by each governor before it could become law.
He said the agitators were operating within the ambit of the law and in exercise of the fundamental human rights of freedom of assembly and speech as enshrined in the constitution, adding that it amounts to breach of their rights to stop them from such peacefully agitation.
The remarks which formed part of the commencement of theÂ 2017 Legal Year saw the State Chief Judge, Justice Peter Umeadi describe theÂ 7th Legal YearÂ since 26th September 2011 when he took over as the Chief Judge as a milestone.
Giving statistics of cases for the High Courts, he said a total of 7,444 cases were disposed during the period 3rd Quarter 2016 to 2nd Quarter ended 30th June 2017 from a total of 8,850 cases filed under the period of review, while a total of 9061 are still pending at the beginning of the 3rd Quarter as against 10,467 cases pending at the Quarter Ended June 2017.
In the same vein, The Chief Judge pointed out that the Magistrate Courts disposed 10,039 cases for the period 3rd Quarter Year 2015 to 2nd Quarter Year 2016 out of 12,425 cases filed same period of review whereas 2,386 are still pending.
The Chief Judge noted that the 34 Customary Courts in the State have disposed a total of 4,155 cases out of 6,163 cases filed within the year, while 19,554 case are still pending, recalling that a total of 18,518 cases were brought forward from last September 2016 to June 2017.
The Legal Year commenced with the Order of Eucharistic and Thanksgiving Service officiated by the Rt. Rev. Dr. Alexander Ibezim, the Anglican Bishop of Awka,at Cathedral Church ofÂ Saint Faith, Awka.
The Legal Year Church Service was attended by the State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano; Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Rita Maduagwu; Hon Justice Samuel N. Okoye, President, Customary Court of Appealâ€™ Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice, Anadi; serving and visiting judges of the High and Customary Courts; Chief Judges emeritus; traditional rulers; chairmen and members of the Bar; Chief Registrars as well as representatives of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) branches in Awka, Nnewi and Onitsha, among others,