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19 pro-Biafra protesters arrested in Enugu; Eculaw intervenes


“19 more people, including two pregnant women, were arrested and have been detained… we were forced today to step in to help the additional 19 detainees.”

As you may recall, about two weeks ago, I read on the social media about the arrests and detention of 10 people who protested in respect of the Biafra cases in Enugu. 

Those ten people were detained by the police and subsequently remanded at the Enugu Prisons pending their bail applications and commencement of trial on February 10, 2016.

Strictly out of humanitarian consideration and in defense of due process rights, my law firm, ECULAW (not DPA) offered to provide free legal services to those ten people detained. 

Since the end of January, I directed, Nick Egbonwonu, Esquire, who is the head of ECULAW’s human rights litigation team, to move to Enugu and stay there until these ten people were released from detention. 

Since then, Nick and I together with some other Eculawyers have worked closely and strategized on how to secure the release of these poor people.

As circumstances would have it, today, as Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of IPOB, made a court appearance in Abuja, there was some spontaneous protest in Enugu by those who sympathized with him. 

As a result, 19 more people, including two pregnant women, were arrested and have been detained. Even though we had set out to defend only 10 people and have carefully apportioned our limited resources to what was needed for the defense of those ten, we were forced today to step in to help the additional 19 detainees.

Nick was at the police station this evening to seek to secure the release of the 19. 

However, after much effort, the officers in charge informed him that because of some special instruction from Abuja, none of the 19 could be released and that he should wait at Court for their arraignment. 

There was no indication when those people would be arraigned. And tomorrow our effort will be focused at the court for the trial of the initial group of ten.

No gainsaying that the arrests and detention of 19 more protesters have created a situation we did not prepare for at the beginning. 

In particular, it places an unexpected strain on our resources, more so as our firm is based in Lagos, and not in Enugu. 

Furthermore, with the continued increase of the number of people getting involved in protests and being arrested therefor, we will be forced to think in a comprehensive way on how to assist them all. 

In particular, we shall be exploring ways to fashion a better understanding between the police and the protesting groups so that protests would not result in arrests and detentions.

It is clear to us that the police overreacted each time these arrests occurred. 

The arrests seem to be a calculated policy that is directed at a total prevention of any thought of Biafra among these people. That is extreme. 

A mere thought of Biafra, when done without violence or threat thereof, does not threaten anyone. It is a mere free political speech who does not threaten anybody.

We may need to raise some funds from contributions of well-wishers to sustain our efforts. If we get to that point, we shall indicate. 

However, because Biafran issue, though a humanitarian issue of rights and due process, has been a rather divisive subject in Nigeria, we do not wish to get DPA involved in this effort. 

We want DPA to remain a neutral and national movement and we do not want the divisiveness of the Biafran question to affect the integrity of DPA. 

So, the effort to help those detained in Enugu remains an exclusive undertaken of the law firm of ECULAW & Co.

Ricky Taffa

DPA’S observation on the EFCC case against Ricky Taffa:

We have watched with a sense of alarm the chain of events surrounding the arrest and detention of a senior lawyer, Ricky Taffa, on allegations of obstruction of justice. Also, the same EFCC did petition the National Judicial Council against Justice Yenusa.

The story is that Mr. Taffa and Justice Yenusa were fixing cases that were pending before the judge. According to the EFCC sources, there is evidence to show that Mr. Taffa and the Judge exchanged text messages and several calls concerning the case or at the time of the case.

What you must understand is that the EFCC has the power to go to MTN or any other carrier and obtain the record of your calls and text messages without you knowing. It is believed they did it in this case. 

And if so, it is easy for them to establish that such communications occurred. If so, that means there is evidence of obstruction of justice, which is a crime, and should be condemned.

But it is not as simple as that. There are serious grave legal issues at stake. 

While it is necessary for us to condemn the kind of communications that allegedly occurred between the judge and the lawyer over a case pending, we must observe that there are usually a due process to be followed before the police could peer into the call records of anybody.

The fear is that if such powers are not properly regulated, the police will abuse it and invade the privacy of the ordinary citizens.

DPA will be discussing this and the goal is to find the appropriate point to draw the line between the need to prevent what was alleged to have happened and the potential abuse of invasive powers of the police over privacy concerns.

Emeka Ugwuonye

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