Tuesday 16 August, 2016.
19 Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) were discharged and acquitted by judge ………….at magistrate court 2 Umuahia on the 11th of August 2016. They were formally 20 in number, but one of them had been released through their family lawyer. During an interview granted by IkeChukwu Ugwoha to Biafra Writers, who happened to be one of the people that were released, the following ensued:
Biafra Writers: May we know your name? sir.
Response: My name is Ugwoha Ikechukwu.
Biafra Writers: Is it true that you have been in detention for months?
Response: Yes of course, the 10th of August 2016 made it the 6th month that I and 19 others have been in Aba prison.
Biafra Writers: When were you arrested?
Response: We were arrested on the 9th of February 2016, at national high school Aba, where we gathered to offer prayers, and were taken to court and remanded on the 10th of February 2016.
Biafra Writers: How many of you were arrested?
Response: We were 24 in number, but when they took us to zone nine Umuahia, the police discovered out of the entire number, that 4 were badly injured. They took them to the hospital and remanded 20 of us in Aba prison. About 2 weeks later they remanded 2 out of the 4 people that were taken to hospital in Afara prison. So as we speak, 2 of our people are still in Afara prison.
Biafra Writers: Since your detention, how many times have you been taken to court?
Response: We have not been in court because our lawyer filled a motion for bail. He has been representing us in court and he has represented us 3 times.
Biafra Writers: So you are saying that the 11th of August was the first day you appeared in court since you were remanded in February?
Response: Of course, yes.
Biafra Writers: Please can you tell us their charges against you?
Response: You know Nigerian government is so funny. They said that we want to overthrow the government of Buhari, so they charged us with treasonable felony and unlawful gathering.
Biafra Writers: That 9th of February, when you were arrested, were you with arms?
Response: You know, Nigeria is always a zoo. You cannot find such thing among us. We had no gun, not even a stick, we only had our bibles and flags, singing and praying.
Biafra Writers: How many IPOB were shot dead and how many sustained injury?
Response: We lost many people and many were also injured, I do not know the exact number but I have my people on ground who have the full detail. As you know I’m just coming out from detention.
Biafra Writers: Can you explain in detail, what transpired in court yesterday, the 11th of August 2016?
Response: It was a miracle, the judge pronounced that we have been discharged and acquitted after reading a letter from the attorney general of Nigeria Abubakar Malami (SAN). But there is something he said that I disagree with. He said that we spent 6 months in prison for nothing. That is not true, we actually spent 6 months in prison as part of our sacrifice for the restoration of our nation – Biafra, and it is not in vain. To the Almighty, be all the glory that we are out, and we will continue from where we stopped.
Biafra Writers: How do you feel now that you are a free man?
Response: Well, I feel good but my joy is not complete because Biafra herself, has not been freed.
Biafra Writers: Were you tortured in the prison?
Response: No! The warders were friendly.
Biafra Writers: Sir, if you are called to organize a protest tomorrow, as the state coordinator, would you do it considering the fact that you are just coming out from the prison?
Response: On Tuesday, the 8th of August, a group of journalists from Amnesty International, came to interview us in Aba prison, they asked us whether we are regretting what we did, and all of us said “NO!”. Even if I am called to organize a protest now, I will do it right away.
Biafra Writers: Please sir, can you share with us some of your experiences while in prison?
Response: A lot of things are happening in the prison. I saw injustice there. Can you believe that any day an inmate will be taken to court, that inmate will be taxed or be made to pay between 3,000 (three thousand) and 5,000 (five thousand) Naira, for his transportation to the court. If the inmate fails to contribute, he will not be taken to the court. They will give flimsy excuses such as: the drivers are not complete, there is no spare tire, no fuel in the car, etc.
They budget 250 (Two hundred and fifty) Naira per meal, for each inmate but the food they serve there is not up to one cup of beans. They treat prisoners like animal. If they found a prohibited material in your possession, they will put you in the cell where they keep mad people. You can imagine the trauma the person will go through after such experience.
The inmates contribute money for the purchase of diesel to power the generator that will pump water for them to take their bath and to drink.
They keep armed robbers, kidnappers, rapers, killers, terrorists and militants in the same cell, with people who committed little or no crime. Can you imagine that?
Everyday, they bring in new prisoners including under-aged children, yet there is no adequate provision for their welfare. The warders are ready to work but the problem is from the government. Nothing is working there. There are a lot of things but I can’t remember all now.
Biafra Writers: We heard that some of the women that were remanded with you, sustained some injuries, how did the prison service handle them?
Response: They have clinic there but you can hardly find drugs in their clinic. So you have to call your people to buy you drugs.
Biafra Writers: We also heard that people who came to visit you pay some money before they can be allowed to see you, how true is that?
Response: It is very true. If you come to visit anyone in the prison, you will pay N100 (one hundred) Naira, to the armed squad outside the prison gate, and when you come into the visiting room, you also pay another N100 (one hundred) Naira. If you are 10 in number, each of you will pay the money, if you come 5 times a week, you will pay 5 times. But in the visiting room, it is written in bold letters, “VISIT IS FREE”.
Biafra Writers: Sir, was your arrest caused by any act of sabotage?
Response: Yes it is. The sabotage was in two phases.
Biafra Writers: Can you explain in details?
Response: We were sabotaged by Okezie Ikpeazu; the governor of Abia state. Before the 9th of February 2016, I sent some of our men to see the police commissioner, we usually do our protest in the street, but when we met him at Umuhia, he pleaded with us to have it at a place but we said no, because stopping us from protesting on the street is an infringement on our right of freedom of expression.
Later, information came that our leader wants us to stay at a place and pray, we called the police commissioner immediately and told him we will stay at a place and he said fine and good. The next morning the police commissioner called and told us that the governor did not accept it. Because the governor did not accept that we should gather, that is why he sent the army and police not just to arrest us but to kill Biafrans.
Secondly, there are some of our brothers who are really sabotaging us, they aided the police and army that invaded our prayer ground that day and shot many of us dead. And what I say to them is that they will pay, we know them and we are coming after them except they repent.
Biafra Writers: Going by the fact that you were detained for 6 to 7 months because of the struggle for the restoration of Biafra, coupled with the pains you passed through while in detention, can you denounce Biafra?
Response: I can never denounce Biafra. Nigeria government made a mistake on me. The mistake is that they kidnapped me and allowed me to come out alive. If they had killed me, all praise to Chukwu Okike Abhiama, but since they did not kill me, the zoo (Nigeria) must fall. Biafra is everything I’ve got. My one year old child, if you say freedom, he will shout Biafra. Even if I die today, my children will continue because Biafra is an ideology, it cannot be defeated. Do not forget that it is Biafra or death.
Biafra writers: Do you have any word of encouragement for Biafrans?
Response: Yes. My word of encouragement to Biafrans is this; everybody should remain resolute, Biafra will soon be restored. And to the IPOB we left in Aba prison, we shall make sure justice is served. If you have falsely accused your brother or sister and taken them to any Nigerian court, or you have taken someone to court in respect of a case that could have been settled amicably, please withdraw the case because Nigerian lawyers will only end up making money at your detriment. Biafra is coming.
Biafra Writers: Thank you, brother.
Response: Thank you too.
Cynthia Kelechi Anyikwa
For Biafra Writers