BIAFRA V. NIGERIA CASE: COURT DISMISSES CASE IT FAILS TO HEAR, ORDERS LAWYER REPRESENTING HIS CLIENTS (CG-IPOB) IN COURT TO PAY N500, 000 TO NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT
The matter between the Customary Government of Indigenous People of Biafra (CG-IPOB) and the Federal Republic of Nigeria and others (Suit No FHC/EN/CS/103/2019), has received a very dirty and sentimental ruling. The Judge has on Monday, 7th October, ruled that the Plaintiff (CG-IPOB) lacked the legal capacity to institute the case, that the prayer on the 1914 amalgamation is a political question and not judicial matter, that the proscribed IPOB led by Nnamdi Kanu is the same as CG-IPOB and that by the proscription of that faction of IPOB in 2017, the matter has become statute barred by the rule of Court. This ruling has received a wide spread criticisms and described by many as a miscarriage of justice because the Judge failed to consider the overwhelming facts adduced by the Lawyers of the plaintiff (CG-IPOB).
The Customary Government of Indigenous People of Biafra has on June, 2019, dragged the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Gowon, Obasanjo and Attorney General of the Federation to Court on issues relating to right to self-determination, regional autonomy, amalgamation issue, roles the former Heads of State played during the civil war, abandoned property issue, referendum, registering Nigeria in OIC, maltreatment of Biafrans , establishing Fulani Radio station, giving N100 Billion to Meyeti Allah herdsmen and other serious issues.
The Solicitor of the CG-IPOB, Barrister Emeka John Chigozie Emekesiri has on Wednesday October 2nd, argued at the Court that the IPOB in the suit is the original IPOB which is under the Supreme Council of Elders and therefore not the same with the proscribed IPOB. He further elucidated that this IPOB under the Supreme Council of Elders follows the Legal Methodology and is being governed by the Customary Government of IPOB. Barr Emeka Emekesiri further submitted overwhelming facts to clarify that Customary Government of IPOB exist in the eyes of Law as he elucidated by the following words;
“The members of the original IPOB operate under the Nigerian Legal System and run their Customary Government under Customary Law as recognized by the Nigerian Constitution. Their Customary Government is created and activated by the Legal Instrument, Deed Poll of Customary Governance, registered as No SDR/4720/ABSG under the Nigerian Law”.
The Counsel representing the Federal Government and Attorney General of the Federation; Barr. E.E Nwokolo has presented an affidavit of fact that the CG-IPOB which instituted the case (FHC/EN/CS/103/2019) is proscribed and does not exist in the eyes of Law and as such, lacks legal capacity to sue or be sued. He therefore submitted that the Law Suit FHC/EN/CS/103/2019 instituted by the Customary Government of IPOB should not be heard by the Court.
A renowned legal practitioner remarked that the Honourable Judge on his ruling, erred by dismissing the case without hearing it, and equally erred by ordering the Biafran Lawyer, Barr Emeka Emekesiri to personally pay Five Hundred Thousand Naira (N500,000) to Nigerian Government.
Reacting to the dismissing of the case without hearing the matter first, Biafran Lawyers believed that the Honourable Judge grossly erred. One of the Biafran Lawyers, Barrister Captain Casmir Nwafor (Rtd) stated that a Judge can only dismiss a case the Court has jurisdiction to entertain. He explained that when a Court discovers that it does not have jurisdiction to hear a matter, what such Court could do should be to strike out the matter and not to dismiss it. Hear him;
“The judge was so sentimentally attached in the ruling that he called us a group that call themselves IPOB Customary Government. He was so bitter that you can feel it throughout the ruling the entire thing really pissed me off. We shouldn’t relent however, as we are going to appeal against the ruling. The Judge went too far. The issue was for him to rule on Jurisdiction and he went on to dismiss the case instead of striking it out if he feels there is lack of jurisdiction. His intent is perhaps, to stop us from reinstituting the case in any other court but that’s just for the interim. What a sad and dirty judgement”. Barr Capt Casmir Nwafor (Rtd) laments.
Barrister Capt Nwafor (Rtd) was of the view that since the Judge ruled that the Court has no jurisdiction to entertain the Biafran mater, the Judge therefore lacks authority to dismiss such matter that was not heard on merit. This narration implies that the Judge grossly erred by dismissing the case.Aligning with Barr Capt Nwafor (Rtd), Barr Emeka Emekesiri agreed that the Judge erred by dismissing a case he has not heard on merit instead of striking it out.
Barr Emekesiri however, revealed that he saw windows of opportunities in the ruling of the judge. He believed that if Biafra appeals the ruling at the Court of Appeal; the Court of Appeal may order that the matter should be tried on merit in the lower court or the Court of Appeal may decide to hear the case. Barr Emeka Emekesiri therefore asked Biafrans not to be deterred by the ruling and assured that the ruling will be appealed.
Again, Barr Emeka punctured the order for cost of N500,000 made against him as the Biafran lawyer. He referred to it as scandalous and a dint to the reputation of the Judge.
It is like a fine imposed on me for committing an offence. No lawyer should be fined for representing his clients in Court. The Judge did not hide his hatred and bitterness towards me and the Plaintiffs. He left the issues of law and allowed his personal feelings to destroy his senses and knowledge of the law. Barr Emeka exposes.
Barr Capt Casmir Nwafor (Rtd) condemned the order to pay N500, 000 made against Barrister Emeka Emekesiri in person, he stated that it was wrong for a Court to make such Order of costs against a lawyer for representing his clients in a case.
Many people who have heard about the ruling have continued to condemn it and accused the Judge of bias. An anonymous individual who said he was at the Court on Wednesday, 2nd October narrated that he was taken aback at the way the Judge gladly told Biafrans at the Court that he is a Fulani man. Another person who was at the Court but refused to disclose her name, said she was not comfortable with the way the Judge was continuously quizzing and interjecting Biafran Lawyers at the Court on that Wednesday.
Dr Agbo on his own, strongly advised Biafrans not to give up as the highway to success and that of history of greatness is always intrigued by an avalanche of thorns, spikes, mines, hatred, bias and humiliation and as a result, the struggle requires doggedness and perseverance to win. He reminded the group that winners never quit.
The Plaintiffs have however, decided to appeal against the Ruling in the Court of Appeal.
Recall that the Customary Government of IPOB, had through Motion on Notice filed on June 20, 2019, sought the courts leave and jurisdiction to commence a suit action against the defendants The Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Attorney General of the Federation. Equally joined in the suit as defendants, are, General Olusegun Obasanjo and General Yakubu Gowon for their respective roles during and after the civil war in 1967.
In an originating summons in the lawsuit (marked FHC/EN/CS/103/2019), the plaintiff among other salient issues, is praying the court to determine whether the direction and/or instruction given to members of the Claimant by President Muhammadu Buhari, on March 5, 2016, on Al Jazeera Television that they should organize themselves and vote to have a State within a State which they have accepted and complied with by organizing themselves has created an obligation on the defendants from which the defendants can no longer withdraw.
Also attached in the originating summons is a video record in a flash drive marked as Exhibit BF01, where the president was captured saying that the Claimants should organize themselves and vote to have a State within a State.
The plaintiffs Lawyer, Barr Emeka Emekesiri also asked the court to determine whether, by the direction or instruction of the defendants which the members of the Claimant have accepted and complied with as aforesaid, they now have the right to conduct their referendum and vote to have their State of Biafra as a self-governing autonomous region within the Nigerian State just like Scotland governs itself within the United Kingdom of Great Britain.
Whether, notwithstanding and in the absence of any directions, instructions, promises or offers from the Defendants, the members of the Claimant have the legal and inalienable right to self-determination pursuant to Articles 19 25 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap A9 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 (Cap 10 LFN 1990).
Whether it is an offence and unlawful contrary to any provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 or of any other law whatsoever for the remnants of the Biafrans who survived the war with their descendants to identify themselves as Biafrans by indigenous identity and display their native flags and emblems and Biafran trademarks on their properties and products as they do now whilst remaining loyal to the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as Nigerian citizens and whether it is lawful for the Defendants to harass, molest, arrest and detain members of the Claimant for identifying themselves as Biafrans with their native emblems.
Whether the amalgamation of the members of the claimant with the peoples of other ethnic nationalities in the south and north by the British Government to form one country called Nigeria was with the consent and agreement of the indigenous peoples of the lands; and if the answer is in the negative, whether the Order-in-Council 1910 1913 made by the British Government to create Nigeria in 1914 was null and void ab initio for lacking legitimacy as it could not form the basis of the Nigerian Constitution thereby rendering the amalgamation invalid.
Whether by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1963 which took effect on 1st October 1963 and remained in force until the midnight of 30th September 1979 the Defendants were right to seize and confiscate the assets, properties, money, and all treasures belonging to members of the Claimant by promulgating the Abandoned Properties Act of 28th September 1979 while the 1963 Constitution was in force, being more than nine years after the war and after the declaration of One Nigeria while regarding members of the Claimant as Nigerian citizens but depriving them of their properties, money and assets; and if the answer is in the negative, whether the Defendants are still justified to withhold the said money, properties and assets belonging to members of the Claimant.
Whether the Defendants were justified to violate the International Humanitarian Law and the Laws of War known as the Geneva Convention 1949 (to which the Defendants acceded to and ratified on 20th June 1961) by bombing the Biafran civilians, killing the Biafran civilians and using starvation to kill the children, women and the elderly of the civilian population of the indigenous people of Biafra in the war of 1967 1970 in order to win the war.
Whether the right of self-determination provided under Article 20 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act overrides and supersedes the provisions of Sections 1 and 2 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 pursuant to the Judicial Authority in the case of IGP v ANPP (2007) 18 NWLR (Pt. 1066) 457 at 500, Para BC.
Whether it is lawful for the Defendants to marginalise, persecute and discriminate against the Claimants region of the South East and South South of Nigeria by refusing to develop their region, refusing to revamp their seaports, refusing to dredge their River Niger and other inland Rivers to the sea, and threatening to shut down or downgrade their International Airport at Enugu.
The plaintiff, in the substantive suit, is seeking an order of the court to declare that the direction and/or instruction and/or promise given by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, to members of the Claimant on the Al Jazeera Television on or about the 5th day of March 2016 that they should organize themselves and vote to have a state within a state which they have accepted and complied with by organizing themselves as directed by the Defendants constitutes an irrevocable promise by the Defendants from which they can no longer withdraw.
To declare that the members of the Claimant have the right to conduct their referendum and vote to have their State of Biafra as a self-governing autonomous region within the Nigerian State just like Scotland governs itself within the Great Britain pursuant to the direction and/or instruction and/or promise given to them by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the Al Jazeera Television which they have accepted and complied with.
To declare that, notwithstanding the direction and/or instruction and/or promise made by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the members of the Claimant as aforesaid, they do have the legal right to self-determination pursuant to Articles 19 25, Cap A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 (Cap 10 LFN 1990) and are therefore free to exercise their unquestionable and inalienable right to self-determination to freely determine their political status and pursue their economic and social development according to the policy they have freely chosen.
To restrain the Defendants by themselves, or their law enforcement agents or proxies, from arresting, harassing, intimidating, molesting, or in any other way interfering with the Claimant and its members as they display their native flags and emblems and trademarks on their products as they do now whilst remaining loyal and obedient to the Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria until the final determination of this case.
To declare that the amalgamation of the members of the claimant and all the indigenous peoples of the lands by the British Government to form a new country in 1914 called Nigeria without the consent of the peoples of the lands is null and void ab initio for lacking legitimacy and therefore the peoples should be returned to their socio-political condition status quo ante prior to the amalgamation; or in the alternative, an Order compelling the Defendants to convoke a sovereign conference of the ethnic nationalities that make up Nigeria to decide and negotiate freely the terms of their co-existence without the interference of the Defendants.
To affirm the Memorandum of Ohanaeze Ndigbo dated 28th June 2012 submitted to the National Assembly for the restructuring of Nigeria into six autonomous self-governing regions, namely: South East, South West, South South, North East, North West and North Central, as a manifestation of the Will of the People in the exercise of their right to self-determination and compelling the Defendants to present an Executive Bill to the National Assembly for a law granting autonomy and self-governing status to the six geopolitical regions in Nigeria; instead of allowing the country to break up in bloodshed.