51 Jewish worshipers may regain freedom today
By Steve Oko
Barring any last minute change of mind, the 51 Jewish worshipers arrested and detained in the federal prisons, Afara Umuahia, may regain their freedom today.
Findings by Wawa News Global revealed that their lawyers have been making frantic efforts to secure their bail so they may celebrate Christmas with their family members.
A source close to one of them said the defense council had been making spirited efforts to ensure they are released before Christmas.
An Umuahia Magistrate Court ll, had Thursday, December 13, ordered that all 51 Jewish worshipers arraigned before it by the police be remanded in prison custody.
The worshipers were arrested Tuesday, December 11 during a peaceful march around Okpara Square area of the state capital.
They were arraigned on two count charge bordering on terrorism and display of Jewish flags and banners ” which may seriously damage Nigeria’s image “.
The charge sheet marked U/1079C/2018, read in part :” That you Rev. Felix Ibe, … and others, on the 11th day of December, 2018, at Isi-gate ,by Cooperative Junction, in Umuahia North Magistrate district, did conspire among yourselves to commit a felony to wit : an act of terrorism, and thereby committed and offense punishable under section 17 (a) of Terrorism ( Prevention Amendment Act 2013, as applicable to Abia State.
” That you Rev. Felix Ibe… and others, on the same date and place in the aforesaid Magisterial district, being members of Indigenous Peoples of Biafra ( IPOB), and in furtherance of your act of terrorism moved in procession, displaying IPOB flags, Jewish flags and banners with inscriptions ” All we need I’d Jewish State of Biafra ” which may seriously damage the image of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and thereby, committed an offense punishable under section 2 (2 a) of Terrorism, Prevention) (Amendment), Act 2013, as applicable in Abia State.”
After the two count charge were read, the Defense Counsel, Anthony Nwofor, argued that it was an abuse of judicial process for the accused to be arraigned before a court that lackd jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
He said that the police ought to have taken them to the High Court which had right to entertain the suit, arguing that a federal High Court in Awka handled similar matter and granted all the accused bail the same day.
The Counsel, therefore, urged the court to release them and give directives to the Prosecution to arraign them before the appropriate court.
But the Prosecution Counsel, Adeyemi Olukoye, objected to their bail application, insisting that they be remanded in prison custody because of the gravity of their offense.
In his ruling, Magistrate Idika Udo Kalu , ordered that the accused be remanded in prison custody since his court lacked jurisdiction over the matter.
He also ruled that the case file be transferred to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) for onward movement to the high court.
The Magistrate further ordered the Defense Counsel to approach the high court for the bail application of the accused while adjourning the matter till January 24, 2019.
Later in an interview, the Defense Counsel, Nwofor, expressed sadness over the decision of the police to arraign the accused before a magistrate court which he said “they knew very well lacked jurisdiction over the matter “.
He described the police’s action as a deliberate ploy to punish the accused by keeping them in prison custody unnecessarily.
The Counsel said his clients were only adherents of Judaism on peaceful procession and not IPOB members contrary to claims by the police .
Nwofor argued that police only wanted to link them with IPOB so they could be punished as terrorists, describing such behaviour as “an act of wickedness “.
He said he would intensify efforts to secure their bail in a High court as soon as possible .