By Nwabueze Okonkwo
A chieftain of Biafra Independence Movement, BIM, and five others arraigned for loitering without lawful excuse during the March 9, State House of Assembly election in Anambra State was today arraigned before an Ogidi Magistrate court presided over by M. O. Kanu and granted bail.
The bus allegedly used by a former governor of Akwa Ibom State to bring thumbprinted ballot papers and result sheets to Essien Udim LGA Collation Centre. INEC officials told Sunday Vanguard they do not hire this type of vehicle for election duties.
The accused persons had been arrested by the Police at Obosi town in Idemili North Local Government Area of the state during the March 9, House of Assembly elections in the state and detained at the State Criminal Investigations Department, CID, Awka, before their arraignment yesterday.
In the charge No. MID/123c/2019, the accused persons, Onovo Chidozie (52), Kalu Justus (45), Paul Okereke (42), Chidiebere Okorie (42), Ifeanyi Eziukwu (25) and Arinze Igbani (42), according to the Prosecuting Police Officer, C. C. Ugwu Esq., had on March 9, at Obosi within Idemili North Magisterial District, did loiter without lawful excuse, thereby committing an offence contrary to Section 129 (i) and punishable under Section 129 (3) of the Electoral Act. 2010, as amended.
When the charge was read before the court, all the accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charge as the defence counsel, Charles Ugo and Pat Okafor made an oral application for their bail.
The defence counsel also pleaded with the court to allow only one or two sureties take all the accused persons on bail at once.
However, the prosecution did not object to their bail application because according to him, the offence was a bailable one.
In his ruling, while adjourning the matter to June 19, this year for hearing, the trial Magistrate, Kanu granted them bail in the sum of N50,000 each with one surety each in the like sum, adding that each of the sureties must produce three year tax receipts, two recent passport photographs each and an affidavit of means.
Speaking to newsmen shortly after the court session, Igbani who is the BIM regional administrator for Awka South and a member of Biafra National Council of Elders, said he was driving with other accused persons from Awada area of Obosi where he resides to Okpoko area of Onitsha where his polling unit is located to cast his vote when he was intercepted and arrested by a team of policemen near Obosi Police Station.
Igbani noted that when they were taken to the State CID, Awka later in the day, from Obosi police station for detention, one of the Assistant Commissioners of Police queried the Divisional police Officer at Obosi over the rationale behind their arrest, adding that it is regrettable that some over-zealous policemen have formed the habit of harassing and extorting their members unduly in the state.
Also speaking, the Regional Administrator for Anambra South, John Nwodo (a.k.a. Governor), called on Anambra State Commissioner of Police to release two of their members still in police custody with immediate effect, warning that security agencies should not mistake BIM/MASSOB’s non-violence posture as a sign of weakness and capitalize on it to harass their members indiscriminately.