PRESIDING Magistrate of a Chief Magistrate’s court, in Port Harcourt, Mr. Andrew Jaja, yesterday, ordered that 44 pro Biafra supporters arrested in connection with a protest by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, in Port Harcourt, recently be remanded again in prison custody till November 26.
In another development, a human rights group, International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law, Inter-society, based in Onitsha, Anambra State, has described the failure of the Department of State Services, DSS, to reproduce the leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu before an Abuja Municipal Magistrate’s Court in Wuse Zone 2, last Thursday, as an extra-judicial captivity.
At the resumed sitting of the Port-Harcourt Magistrate court, yesterday on bail application by counsels to the protesters, the Presiding Magistrate, Mr. Andrew Jaja said his court lacked jurisdiction over the matter since the protesters were charged for treasonable felony, a capital offence.
He also said the court lacked powers to grant bail to the accused because the offence for which they were charged was beyond the magistrate’s court.
Before adjourning the matter to November 26, the Presiding Magistrate ordered that the original case file be duplicated and copies sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions,, DPP, for further investigation and advice.
He further asked that the accused be remanded in prison custody till November 26. The Magistrate this time did not allow counsels to the accused to canvass for bail of their clients, saying that they were granted fair hearing at the first sitting of the court,
He further explained that the absence of the accused in court, yesterday, was in compliance with section 100 of the Criminal Procedure Act.
His words: “The court does not have jurisdiction to entertain the case. Section 118 of the criminal Procedure Act provides that persons charged with treason/capital offence cannot be granted bail by magistrate court, but have the opportunity to be granted bail by the High Court.
“The court will do what is generally accepted. I order that the original file of the case be duplicated and sent to the DPP, through the court registrar for further investigation and legal advice.”
Twenty persons were initially charged before an additional 24 were later arraigned for the same offence last week.
Vanguard had reported last week that another batch of 24 persons were being detained at the state CID to be charged to court for similar offences.
The development raised the number of those arrested in Port Harcourt and arraigned in court to 44.
The charge preferred against the accused read in part: “On October 20, 2015, at about 2:00p.m., at Ikwerre Road in Port Harcourt, in Port Harcourt Magisterial District, the suspects and others now at large, did conspire amongst yourselves to commit felony to wit: Treason and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 37(2), of the criminal code, Cap c38, Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004,” among other charges.