A Federal High Court in Abuja has commenced a trial-within-trial to verify the allegation by a pro-Biafra agitator, Chidiebere Onwudiwe, that he was tortured by operatives of the Department of State Service (DSS) and forced to sign an incriminating confessional statement. He is standing trial for treasonable felony alongside the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
Following the disappearance of Kanu, the Federal Government applied to separately try him and three other pro-Biafra activists, Bright Chimezie, Benjamin Madubugwu and David Nwawuisi.
In an amended three-count treasonable felony charge, the prosecution alleged that they, while acting with Kanu (now at large) and others at large, “on diverse dates in 2014 and 2015 in Nigeria and London, United Kingdom, did conspire among yourselves to broadcast on Radio Biafra monitored in Enugu and other areas within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, preparations being made by you and others at large, for states in the South-East and South-South zones and other communities in Kogi and Benue states to secede from the Federal Republic of Nigeria with a view to constituting same into a Republic of Biafra and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 516 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C77, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.”
FG further alleged in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/383/2015, that Chimezie and Kanu had between the months of March and April, 2015, imported into Nigeria, and kept in Ubuluisiuzor in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State, a radio transmitter known as TRAM 50L, which they concealed in a container that was declared as used household items, contrary to section 47(2) (a) of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C77, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
It told the court that Madubugwu, sometimes in the month of October 2015, had in his possession at his house in Ubuluisiuzor in Ihiala LGA of Anambra State, one Emerald Magnum pump action gun with serial number TS 870-113-0046 and one Delta Magnum pump action gun with serial number 501, as well as 41 cartridges/ammunition without lawful authority or license and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 27(b) (i) of the Firearms Act, Cap. F28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
When the matter came up yesterday for hearing, Onwudiwe, who is the second defendant, maintained that he was compelled under duress by operatives of the DSS to write incriminating statements.
His counsel, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, told the court that his client was blindfolded and was repeatedly struck with a gun. Ejiofor challenged the admissibility of five separate statements of the defendant, which the FG sought to tender as evidence before the court.
The prosecution counsel, Mr. M.S. Labaran had applied to tender the statements through an operative of the DSS that appeared as the second witness, PW2, in the matter. The witness, whose identity was shielded on the order of the court, testified behind a veil even as his name was simply given as “Mr. CD.”
In his evidence-in-chief, the PW2, told the court that he was the one that took Onwudiwe’s statement at the DSS national headquarters in Abuja.
He told the court that he was on July 11, 2016, directed by his superior officer, whose name was given as Madam Margret Ewa, to record the statement of the second defendant.
The witness said the defendant had between July 11 and 26 wrote five different statements pertaining to what he knew about the activities of the IPOB.
Following an application by the prosecution to tender the statements, counsel to the second defendant objected, insisting that it was not voluntarily made.
Besides, Ejiofor alleged that the statements were mutilated.
Consequently, the court ordered trial-within-trial in the matter to ascertain the voluntariness or otherwise of the statements.
Source: Daily Sun