…Radio Biafra calls for mass protests
More protests have continued to trail the relocation of the Boko Haram prisoners to Anambra State with the Civil Liberties Organisation in the zone asking the court to order the transfer of the inmates from Ekwulobia prisons. MAURICE OKAFOR in Enugu reports
Tension is gradually building up across Igbo speaking states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo over the transfer of some Boko Haram detainees to Ekwulobia Prisons in Aguata local government area of Anambra state. When the rumour initially started towards the end of June, particularly from the still ‘faceless’ Radio Biafra, a lot of Nigerians termed it as a mere propaganda and gimmick from diehard pro-Biafra activists, as means of drawing sympathy from the Nigerian public, in their envisaged dream of realizing an independent state of Biafra.
But the truth gradually unfolded and it became an established fact that about 47 detainees of the dreaded group were actually transferred to Ekwulobia Prisons on reasons of prison congestion from where they were initially detained in Borno state, as was reported.
The Hallmark checks across many towns in the South East region of the country revealed that the transfer of the Boko Haram detainees to Ekwuluobia Prison in Anambra state, is one issue that most indigents of the zone have rejected absolutely and is seeking an urgent reverse of the trend, not minding the aspects of the constitution and Nigerian prisons regulation that backs it up or justifies the transfer.
Their reason stems from the fact that almost every clan cut across the Igbo tribe have directly or indirectly suffered the negative effects of the ugly clandestine activities of the deadly sect in the North East, since the past three years of the sects’ violent activities. Many families are still mourning the loss of close relatives who were massacred while doing legitimate business either in the Boko Haram infected states or elsewhere. While those who were lucky to have returned alive, had their shops and business outfits destroyed by the insurgents.
Consequently, constant threat to their lives forced them to return home barely empty handed and have become dependants on their extended families and next of kin for survival. The social consequence lies on the fact that many Igbo entrepreneurs who are known for their enterprise on commerce and trade are no longer keen in moving further North to settle and establish business outfits. To a large extent, the entrepreneurial activities of many Igbo traders located in the North East zone of the country contribute to the socio-economic and infrastructural development of the various areas they reside. But the violent acts of the Boko Haram have turned their fortunes to calamity and sorrows, following the several losses of lives and material resources.
Exchanging views with Hallmark on the condition of anonymity, a famous traditional ruler in Igbo land disclosed that the Igbo tradition and culture forbids somebody who shed innocent blood to stay among other people within the same community. That the person must be ostracized or banished for at least a period of seven years, before he or she can return to mix up or communicate with the rest of the people.
He argued that the transfer of the Boko Haram detainees to Ekwuluobia Prisons in Anambra State presents a scenario comparably to the above abominable act in Igbo land. Therefore, it is not surprising that the people out of their own volition are protesting and virtually they will continue to protest until the necessary action is taken to reverse the situation. If not it may spell doom since their detention at Ekwuluobia Prisons will always refresh the wounds of their lost relations in the Boko Haram attacks in the North.
The Anambra state Chairman of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Elder Chris Eluemuno, has condemned the transfer of 47 Boko Haram detainees to Ekwuluobia Prisons. He called for the immediate relocation of the inmates from Anambra State in the interest of peace and tranquility in the country.
While addressing journalists in Anambra State recently at his country home, Elder Elumuno said: “Our position is that it is not acceptable to us having them here, if what President Muhammadu Buhari has to give us as dividend of democracy is Boko Haram terrorists, it is very, very unfair.
He said that “Aguata Prisons in Ekwulobia is not a maximum prison, it is an ordinary prison and if the Federal Government meant well for us, the Igbo it is not terrorists that they will bring to us. It is not acceptable to us and we are asking them to think again and look for a better place and send them there.
“Let him build a camp and put them there if there are not enough accommodations in the North East prison, the prison in Ekwulobia does not have maximum security, there are maximum security prisons all over the country.
“Successive Federal Governments of Nigeria have always taken the Igbo for granted and I pleaded that nobody should push the Igbo to the walls to incur their wrath, we are asking him to please, remove the suspects from Anambra State”.
The transfer of the 47 Boko Haram detainees to Anambra state had also prompted series of protests across many markets in Anambra state. The Onitsha main market traders have demonstrated in solidarity with their counterparts at Ekwuluobia last week. The Hallmark gathered that traders at ‘Eke Awka’ market in Anambra State capital, closed shops three days ago as a mark of solidarity. The Hallmark gathered from sources that don’t want to be quoted in print that traders in different markets outside Anambra State are planning similar peaceful protests.
It was gathered that the planned protests that will extend beyond the South East zone was what prompted the South East governors to meet in Owerri, the Imo State capital last Sunday, July 5, 2015 where they equally condemned the transfer. They however appealed to the people to remain calm.
The Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, who addressed news men stated, “We are appealing to the federal government to have rethink on the relocation of the Boko Haram insurgents. If there is any place they should be relocated, it should be Abuja where they have enough security. The issue is already creating concern in the zone.”
The Hallmark checks revealed that the appeal by the South East governors for their people to remain calm, has not quelled their desire to continue with their protests and agitations till the Boko Haram detainees are relocated from the zone. There are fears of other implications of the protests.
At any rate, the South East zone of Civil Liberties Organisation, CLO, under the guidance of its zonal director, Barrister Olu Omotayo, on Monday, July 6 filed a suit at the Federal High Court, Awka, on behalf of Registered Trustees of Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network, seeking immediate relocation of the 47 Boko Hara detainees from Anambra State to Northern part of the country.
In the suit with number FHC/AWK/CS/296/15 tagged, ‘Registered Trustees of Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network vs. The Attorney General of the Federation and Comptroller General of Prisons, they prayed for a declaration that the continued detention of un-convicted 47 Boko Haram members at the Ezinifite/Ekwulobia Prisons, Aguata Local Government of Anambra State and subsequent commencement of their trial at the expiration of the 90 days maximum days of detention stipulated by the Terrorism (prevention)(Amendment) Act 2013, posses a grave threat to the right to life of the Applicants and the entire people of Ezinifite/Ekwulobia, in Aguata Local Government of Anambra State, which is guaranteed by sections 33, of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As amended) and Article 4, of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, (Ratification and Enforcement Act) Cap. A9 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and is therefore illegal, unconstitutional, null and void.
An Order of the Honorable Court directing the relocation of the Boko Haram members back to the place of commission of the offence and subsequent trial thereat. The applicants are also seeking for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Respondents, whether by themselves, their agents, privies or otherwise howsoever from further transferring other Boko Haram members to the Ezinifite/Ekwulobia, Aguata Local Government, Anambra State, based upon the same facts constituting the complaints enumerated in this application or in any other manner that will infringe on the applicants’ fundamental rights.
The judicial process adopted by the CLO on behalf of the above stated human rights group goes to prove that the people of the zone at the moment are seeking every justifiable peaceful solution to ensure the Boko Haram detainees are removed from the South East zone.
There are fears that the campaign for the relocation of the Boko Haram inmates might snowball into crisis in the South East or even heighten the agitation for Biafra in the event the federal government fails to heed to the demand from the stakeholders. Already, the ‘faceless’ Biafra Radio is giving an ethnic interpretation to the development with hope of instigating an uprising against the federal government and draw sympathy for actualization of an Independent state of Biafra.