A democracy-inclined Non-Governmental Organization-HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS’ ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA [HURIWA] has described the continuous prosecution of the leader of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOP) Chief.
Ralph Uwazurike and Seven principal members of the group by the office of the federal Attorney General for alleged treason as the greatest manifestation of judicial double standard given that the group unlike others that have received amnesty from the Federal Government is a strictly non-violent self determination platform.
In a media statement in reaction to a verdict of a five man panel of the Supreme Court of Nigeria which over the weekend held that the appeal by Uwazurike and other members of the hierarchy of MASSOB was unmeritorious and ordered that they be tried for treason, HURIWA said it was laughable that while armed Islamic fundamentalist group in the North that has killed over five thousand civilians and targeted state institutions including the armed forces and police including schools in Northern Nigeria are currently being begged by the Federal Government to accept general amnesty program designed to end the armed insurgency, the same Federal Government has proceeded with the ‘judicial massacre’ of the leadership of the Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra [MASSOB] that has never encouraged armed struggle.
HURIWA therefore tasked President Jonathan to end this unfair and unjust trial of MASSOB leadership and to enter into constructive dialogue to resolve the issues that gave rise to the agitation for self determination by MASSOB which enjoys wide support in the South Eastern states. HURIWA also accused operatives of the Nigerian Police Force of committing atrocities such as extra-judicial execution of identified members of MASSOB and therefore urged the Federal Government to investigate these various grave allegations against the Police especially in Anambra State.
The Federal Government had on November 8th 2005 in the Federal High Court, Abuja division commenced the widely condemned treason trial of the MASSOB leadership.
Specifically, Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, who read the lead judgment of the Supreme Court, observed that the appeal, filed by Festus Keyamo, a constitutional lawyer (for the MASSOB members) amounted to an “unnecessary and clearly a waste of precious judicial time since all the information imaginable that the appellants would need for their appeal has been available to them before they appealed to the Court of Appeal.”
MASSOB leadership has fought unsuccessfully both at the Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal to end what is generally considered as unfair trial on trumped up treason charges.
Other appellants in the case include Ambrose Anyaso, Augustine Ihuoma, Chibuike Nwosu, Kelechi Ubabuike, Chimankpa Okorocha and Benedict Alakwem.
HURIWA, which condemned the continuous ‘judicial persecution’ of MASSOB leadership and members of the non-violent group has in a statement jointly endorsed by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Director of Media Affairs Miss. Zainab Yusuf called on President Goodluck Jonathan to bring this ‘undemocratic and unconstitutional trial’ to an end immediately, to foster a sense of belonging on all Nigerians because as it is now, if the prosecution is proceeded even when the same Federal Government has extended state pardon to armed groups first in the Crude oil rich Niger Delta states and now to the deadly Islamic terrorists in the North, then it would amount to clear case of double standard in the application of the apparatus of law enforcement.
Besides, HURIWA stated that part one article one of the International Covenant on civil and Political Rights [ICCPR] in which Nigeria is a signatory allows individuals to use constructive and peaceful means to seek for self determination.
HURIWA stated thus; “We in the organized human rights community view the ongoing prosecution of MASSOB for alleged treason as a travesty of justice given that the members have never for once armed themselves neither have they declared war against the Nigerian state but have always used constructive process to drive home their agitation for self determination”.
Questioning the double standard, the Rights group affirmed thus; “Why will the Federal Government on one hand be begging armed terrorists to accept amnesty while at the same time persecuting citizens who are using peaceful means to campaign for self determination allowed under international humanitarian laws?
This is a case of double standard and has clearly shown that the foundation of the political entity called Nigeria is weak and skewed to favour certain ethnic nationalities. President Jonathan should end this shameful and laughable open judicial discrimination against the youth of South East extraction and convoke national conference to settle all issues arising from feelings of marginalization from all ethnic groups in Nigeria.”