The nation’s prominent Civil Rights Advocacy Group:- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGEERIA (HURIWA)has condemned the Ebonyi State government for allegedly detaining for months nearly 300 suspected members of the indigenous peoples of Biafra (IPOB) Some of them pregnant without prosecution.
HURIWA has therefore urged governor David Umahi to order the unconditional release of these detainees who have been illegally kept in the jails beyond the constitutionally stipulated pre-trial detention periods prescribed in Section 36 of the Constitution even as the Rights group has asked the National Human Rights Commission to wake up to its responsibility and visit prison facilities in Ebonyi State to seek the freeing of these detainees.
Section 36 state thus:36. (1) In the determination of his civil rights and obligations, including any question or determination by or against any government or authority, a person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or other tribunal established by law and constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality.
(2) Without prejudice to the foregoing provisions of this section, a law shall not be invalidated by reason only that it confers on any government or authority power to determine questions arising in the administration of a law that affects or may affect the civil rights and obligations of any person if such law –
a) provides for an opportunity for the persons whose rights and obligations may be affected to make representations to the administering authority before that authority makes the decision affecting that person; and
b) Contains no provision making the determination of the administering authority final and conclusive.
3. The proceedings of a court or the proceedings of any tribunal relating to the matters mentioned in subsection (1) of this section (including the announcement of the decisions of the court or tribunal) shall be held in public.
4. Whenever any person is charged with a criminal offence, he shall, unless the charge is withdrawn, be entitled to a fair hearing in public within a reasonable time by a court or tribunal:
Provided that –
a) a court or such a tribunal may exclude from its proceedings persons other than the parties thereto or their legal practitioners in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, the welfare of persons who have not attained the age of eighteen years, the protection of the private lives of the parties or to such extent as it may consider necessary by reason of special circumstances in which publicity would be contrary to the interests of justice;
b) if in any proceedings before a court or such a tribunal, a Minister of the Government of the Federation or a commissioner of the government of a State satisfies the court or tribunal that it would not be in the public interest for any matter to be publicly disclosed, the court or tribunal shall make arrangements for evidence relating to that matter to be heard in private and shall take such other action as may be necessary or expedient to prevent the disclosure of the matter.
5. Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty;
Provided that nothing in this section shall invalidate any law by reason only that the law imposes upon any such person the burden of proving particular facts.
6. Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be entitled to –
a) be informed promptly in the language that he understands and in detail of the nature of the offence;
b) be given adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence;
c) defend himself in person or by legal practitioners of his own choice;
d) examine, in person or by his legal practitioners, the witnesses called by the prosecution before any court or tribunal and obtain the attendance and carry out the examination of witnesses to testify on his behalf before the court or tribunal on the same conditions as those applying to the witnesses called by the prosecution; and
e) have, without payment, the assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand the language used at the trial of the offence.
7. When any person is tried for any criminal offence, the court or tribunal shall keep a record of the proceedings and the accused person or any persons authorised by him in that behalf shall be entitled to obtain copies of the judgement in the case within seven days of the conclusion of the case.
8. No person shall be held to be guilty of a criminal offence on account of any act or omission that did not, at the time it took place, constitute such an offence, and no penalty shall be imposed for any criminal offence heavier than the penalty in force at the time the offence was committed.
9. No person who shows that he has been tried by any court of competent jurisdiction or tribunal for a criminal offence and either convicted or acquitted shall again be tried for that offence or for a criminal offence having the same ingredients as that offence save upon the order of a superior court.
10. No person who shows that he has been pardoned for a criminal offence shall again be tried for that offence.
11. No person who is tried for a criminal offence shall be compelled to give evidence at the trial.
12.Subject as otherwise provided by this Constitution, a person shall not be convicted of a criminal offence unless that offence is defined and the penalty therefor is prescribed in a written law, and in this subsection, a written law refers to an Act of the National Assembly or a Law of a State, any subsidiary legislation or instrument under the provisions of a law.”
In a media statement by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA said it is shameful that Ebonyi State could be used as a slave or labour camps for citizens caught in conflict with the law only because they belonged to the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) for months without following due process of the law.
“We are worried that the nation has a national institution for the promotion and protection of Human Rights known as the National Human Rights Commission, yet we have 300 accused members of IPOB some of them pregnant woman been kept in pre-trial detention facilities that aren’t habitable even when they are to be presumed innocent until convicted by the court of law as stipulated constitutionally. This is a shame of the 21st century and to think that the Ebonyi State Governor is the Chairman of Igbo governors makes the entire scenario even the more worrisome and pathetic”.
HURIWA recalled that in a statement from its Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, IPOB condemned incessant killings, unprovoked attacks and abduction of its members and security operatives, Eastern Security Network (ESN) in the State.
The statement partly reads: “The global family of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) under the command and leadership of our great leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu strongly condemns the incessant killings and unprovoked attacks and abduction of those suspected to be IPOB members and Eastern Security Network, ESN operatives in Ebonyi state by the wicked Nigeria security agents.
“This atrocity is being perpetrated with the connivance of the Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi and the infamous EBUBEAGU security outfit.
“Their intention is to unleash terror on innocent citizens of Ebonyi State, and possibly stop them from supporting the agitation for Biafra restoration.
“These agents of oppression supported by Gov. Dave Umahi have continued to kill IPOB members and innocent Biafrans, tagging them ESN operatives.
“Over 300 members of IPOB are currently languishing in jail and other detention facilities across Ebonyi State, and many have died in the prison.
Relatedly, HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has condemned the alleged maltreatment by the state security services of the legal representatives of the detained leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Mazi Nnamdi Kanu just as the group said the Right to dignity is a fundamental human right and therefore the security agency must be law abiding.
HURIWA recalled that Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s lead counsel, Ifeanyi Ejiofor has revealed how operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) humiliated them when they went to visit the IPOB leader in detention.
According to Ejiofor, DSS operatives disgraced them on Thursday by forcing them to remove their shoes, glasses.
According to Ejiofor, they were offered slippers after being searched like ‘hardened offenders.’
Ejiofor said, “The routine visit to our client, Nnamdi Kanu, was conducted today, and it went successfully.
“Our client, Nnamdi Kanu, specifically requested for his kind regards and compliments to be conveyed to millions of his teeming supporters and well-wishers. He is deeply appreciative of your unwavering solidarity/support. He didn’t hesitate in requesting that you all continue to pray without season, because it is positively impacting.
“However, today’s visit witnessed a fundamental change in the hitherto procedures conventionally adopted for conducting the visit.
“We were initially unperturbed by the method now introduced by the DSS, but we feel compelled in the prevailing circumstance to make public our strange experience which borders on the improper treatment of lawyers in the course of conducting a court-ordered visit to their client who is undergoing trial.
“Lawyers on this visit were searched in a manner akin to a situation where hardened criminals are being searched for possible incriminating substance and object.
The Rights group said the SSS AS a statutory agency established for Nigeria, it must comply with global best practices and respect human dignity just as the Rights group said the allegations must be investigated and redressed by the hierarchy of this agency of law enforcement.