Sometime in 2007, some 19 Igbo youths were randomly picked up and locked away in various detention facilities by security operatives over allegations of terrorism and treason.
They were implicated of either belonging to the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) or sponsoring its activities in the South East.
They were detained while going about their typical businesses. On November 24, 2021, after 15 years of imprisonment, they restored their flexibility having been released and acquitted by a Federal High Court sitting in Awka, Anambra State. In reality, no concrete evidence was produced by government to validate their arrest and detention in the first instance.
The trial judge, Justice Nicholas Oweibo said the district attorneys failed to develop evidence for treason and terrorism charges levelled versus the 19 implicated persons.
Saturday Sun encountered a few of them, and they recounted their heart-rending experiences in detention.
They regreted that their future had actually been messed up by the Federal Government of Nigeria over trumped up charges.
I lost my company and love of my life — Chikwem
Ikechukwu Chikwem was 35 years of ages when he was detained in his extra parts shop located in Nkwo Nnewi. Now 50 and left to begin life afresh, Chikwem who comes from Obazu Mbieri in Mbaitolu Local Government Area of Imo State, remembered with trepidation how his life was switched on its head.
In the early morning of April 11, 2007, Chikwem was in among his shops, addressing customers when 2 police officers came and informed him he was needed at their station. Chikwem boldly followed the officers given that he felt he had no unfinished company transaction with anybody neither was he owing any of his service partners. He informed his neighbours to watch over his shop, adding that he would be back in an hour.
“Throughout that early morning, they kept me behind the counter. I stayed there till 6pm. They brought one bus and asked me to go into. I asked what was the issue and they said I would understand when I got to Awka. From there, they took me to the State CID; I remained there till the next early morning when they took me to Awkuzu SARS,” he told.
It was at the SARS workplace in Awkuzu that an officer asked him, ‘where is the White male?’ Shocked by the concern, Chikwem asked to understand which White man the officer was referring to. Rather than a reply, he said he got hot slaps on his face, followed by extreme torture that ended up disabling his hands for a number of months.
“So when they asked further questions I kept quiet since I didn’t know which response would annoy them. All they required was for me to constantly respond in the favorable. One guy there bought them to take me to a hall where they hang individuals. They stated I would say the fact there.
“They brought out sliced up bike tube utilized for connecting broom and tied my hands from my fingers to my shoulders. The pain was so unbearable. I was shouting and weeping. I now asked him to inform me anything he desired me to say and I would say them.
“The discomfort was simply excessive for me. At that point, his phone called. He chose his phone and addressed the call for over 40 minutes. Prior to he might come back, my hands had been immobilized. I was not feeling the pains any longer. He came back with a sheet of paper where he had actually composed a great deal of things and then asked me to sign.
“One of his colleagues asked him how possible it was for me to sign seeing that my hands had actually been paralyzed and I would not have the ability to use it even after six months. Then he took me back to the cell. I might not use my hands any longer. In the cell, other inmates were the ones that would shower and feed me. They now moved us to Umuahia from where we were moved to Abuja.”
Chikwem and other detainees were gone back to Awka to deal with trial in court having actually been charged with terrorism and treason.
“They stated that I am a MASSOB member, that my in-law is a MASSOB sponsor and he is passing the info and cash through me. They stated that my in-law is the one paying all MASSOB members. At the end of the day, they investigated and found absolutely nothing on me.
“I was given bail in Abuja however due to the fact that this thing is political, that bail was denied. I am an entrepreneur and my boss was Ogbuawa (rich Nnewi entrepreneur). I found that individuals who wanted to bring him down lagged the plot.
“The cops did all the examination however none of the claims was true. They provided me that bail on Friday, I was contacting my people to come and fulfil the bail conditions on Monday. On Saturday, it was reported that the owner of my phone number is a terrorist. That he is the one burning all the police stations in Nnewi. That was how the bail was revoked and the examination began again. This entire thing lasted for 15 years.
Aside losing his service which was worth N16.7 million in 2007, Chikwem likewise lost the love of his life to another guy. He had actually concluded the marital rites of introduction before the occurrence.
“I was about marrying and had already opted for the intro prior to this thing happened. The woman didn’t abandon me; she waited me and in fact pertained to the police station to see me when I was apprehended. After about seven months, I told her to relax, that I was coming back.
“However, after 2 years in detention, I informed her to go back to her moms and dads. I informed her that if I came back and discovered her single, I’ll wed her however if she saw another guy, she should go on and marry the person. When I stated this, we both started crying. My detention now took 15 years. By the grace of God, she is wed now with kids. I have not seen her but we spoke over the phone.”
For Chikwem, all hope is not lost. He recalled that many people came into the prison and passed away there but since he was still strong with no defect, he still believes that he will attain all his dreams.
He said: “What God transferred in me is still there. I can make it. I have forgotten the 15 years. I am now dealing with the future. Now, I am pleading, if I can be provided another opportunity by our people, I will be grateful. I require financial support.
“I had actually prepared to save up to N22 million. I’ll keep N2 million here and take N20 million to China and get my products. That was before this event. I in fact had N16.7 million when this thing happened. I was almost getting to my target prior to these individuals came and damaged everything.
Brother or sisters left of school, household house destroyed
For Ndubuisi Okam, a native of Edda, Afikpo South in Ebonyi State, he was detained on his way to Aba to purchase stock jeans which he offered in Abakaliki.
After investing 15 years in detention, he went back to his town just to understand that his dad’s home had actually been taken down. His family now lives in a one-room shanty. His 3 younger siblings, whose education he was funding, had dropped out of school. He also lost two of his uncles while in detention.
“I am happy to be alive and out of jail but I’m not delighted with the circumstance I found myself. I was charged with treason and felony and plan to topple the federal government. I didn’t do anything. I thank God that after all the years, the judge of the Federal High Court Awka found that I did nothing.”
Okam, now 35 had prepared to get married to a certain gorgeous girl called Nnenna prior to the unfortunate event.
“She was the woman of my dream, but another individual has now wed her,” he stated.
That is not Okam’s problem. All he requires now is a clean slate. He wishes to be empowered financially, so that he could assist his household
“I was 20 years then however I am 35 now. I want to have a great future however I require money. I have plans however none will make good sense if I do not have money.”
They kept changing judges– Ezekwem
Another victim, Chidiebere Ezekwem who comes from Ogwa neighborhood in Mbaitolu Local Government Area of Imo State was a shoe dealer in Onitsha. He was on his way to Aba to buy shoes when security operatives intercepted him along the method and brought him to Awka to deal with trial.
He regreted incessant adjournments and regular change of trial judges who handled the case.
“When a judge begins the case, prior to getting to completion, he will be transferred and another judge will take over. This thing continued for several times up until a particular judge, Justice Oweibo, came. Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, Senator Chris Anyanwu and members of MASSOB likewise got associated with the case before I was released.”
Now 40, Ezekwem said he was billed to get married to a girl he was engaged to before the incident. “The lady later on got married to another male, so, I’m not wed.
“After I was discharged on November 24, 202I, returned to my house in Ogwa community, Mbaitolu Local Government of Imo State because I have no other place to go.”
Similar to his coworkers, Ezekwem now requires assistance from federal government and other public-spirited people to return to his former service.
He stated: “I want to continue with my normal life. I thank God for my strength, I lost whatever however I did not lose my life. I likewise thank God for the MASSOB members who turned up in their multitude for my rescue.
“So numerous things happened in the jail; idleness, no centers, no sunshine, staying in the jail for 15years and seven months impacted me, but I thank God for everything.”
They paid greatest rate — MASSOB leader
Reacting to the development, leader of MASSOB, Uchenna Madu in an interview hailed the 19 youths for paying a rate larger than what a lot of agitators had paid in the past.
He said that while others including Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, Nnamdi Kanu and himself had actually spent some years in jail, these Igbo youths spent 15 of their most productive years in detention.
“As a matter of truth, considering that 1999 when this struggle started, this individuals are the highest and the greatest individuals that have actually paid the price, apart from those that set their lives.
“The greatest I invested in the jail was 3 years, six months and 2 weeks but we are speaking about 15 years here. Ralph Uwazuruike invested 2 years, Nnamdi Kanu has set about 2 times approximately however two years is the highest he has actually invested in the jail at a stretch. These ones here have invested 15 years of their youth in jail.
“The Federal Government detained these men who had future plans and ambitions for their household and community. They have actually irritated them and at the end of the day they are released and asked to go just like that. That is oppression.
“We understand other actions that we are going to take to redress this and bring justice to our bros. In their towns, a lot of individuals had seen them as wrongdoers however today they are saints. They are freedom fighters.
“They suffered for the sake of Biafra. I utilize this medium when again to thank Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe. We met him, we appealed to him with Senator Chris Anyanwu, Senator Ben-Collins Ndu and a few others. We begged them and they listened to us, they moved. Abaribe is a real Igbo leader, even though he thinks in the extension of Nigeria. Abaribe thinks in one Nigeria, he might not share the same concept of Biafra with us however at the very same time the discomforts of his people touch him a lot.”
One striking thing that Saturday Sun collected in our examinations was that all these individuals never ever understood one another prior to their arrest. They were doing their organizations in different areas across the South East prior to they were detained and branded Biafra agitators.
Source: Sun News