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    IPOB’s sit-at-home grounds South-East, Kanu’s trial holds today

    Hoodlums, suspected to be members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, on Tuesday, stormed the St Theresa Catholic Church, Calcutta Parish, Awada, near the Ukaegbu junction, Onitsha, in a bid to enforce the sit-at-home directive.

    The young men in their large numbers were said to be heavily armed with machetes and kegs of fuel and caused a stampede in the church as members, who had gathered for a service, ran helter-skelter.

    The hoodlums were said to have approached the altar, where the priest, identified simply as Rev Fr Joseph, was conducting the 5.30am mass, and interrogated him on why he was conducting the service when he knew that their leader, Nnamdi Kanu, would be in court.

    It was gathered that the priest answered them in a diplomatic manner by telling them, “Yes, we are in church to pray for Kanu.”

    An eyewitness said the men, after interrogating the priest for several minutes, walked round the church and left.

    “After walking round the church and seeing that the people, who came for the morning mass had fled, the boys left and on their way, they met a tricycle operator at the Ukaegbu junction, who was waiting for passengers, they ordered him out and burnt his keke,” the eyewitness said.

    Major roads were deserted and markets and motor parks were locked up, while banks remained shut in Onitsha.

    The youths, chanting Biafra songs, were seen making bonfires on major roads and streets of Onitsha and discussing sundry issues.

    Schools in Owerri were shut on Tuesday in compliance with the sit-at-home directive of IPOB.

    Some private schools are scheduled to reopen today (Wednesday), while students of public schools have been asked to resume on Thursday.

    There was reduced vehicular movement in parts of Owerri such as the MCC Road, while major business premises remained closed.

    Petty traders and mini shop owners, however, partially opened for business despite the directive.

    Motor parks, markets, malls and bus stops in Owerri and environs fully complied with the sit-at-home order.

    The popular Relief Market and the Lagos/Abuja motor park along Egbu Road, as well as the state-owned Imo Transport Company, all in Owerri, were on total lockdown.

    Also, popular malls such as the Everyday Supermarket in Ikenegbu and bus stops such as the Fire Service roundabout remained empty.

    Human and vehicular movement in the areas monitored by one of our correspondents was low as security agents were not sighted on the streets.

    Economic and social activities were grounded in Enugu, the capital of Enugu State, and its environs on Tuesday as a result of the solidarity sit-at-home order by IPOB for their leader, Kanu.

    The residents were on Monday compelled to observe the sit-at-home following the violence that broke out last week in some parts of the state capital and its suburbs.

    One of our correspondents, who monitored the development in Enugu, observed that markets, schools, motor parks, supermarkets, malls, shops, restaurants and banks as well government offices were shut to members of the public.

    Major highways and streets were all deserted. There were no security personnel at all the checkpoints around the state capital, which normally constitute gridlock in the city centre.

    Despite the absence of security personnel around the city, there was no reported incident of violence.

    Commercial transport operators, including bus drivers and tricycle operators, withdrew their services, while some private vehicle owners plied the roads in the city centre with utmost caution.

    A resident, Mrs Christiana Ogbu, said security agents and governors of the South-East observed the sit-at-home.

    In Aba and Umuahia, Abia State, the observance of the sit-at-home was near total.

    Though no movement of security agents was seen, stores were closed and the streets were empty of human and vehicular traffic till late in the evening.

    In Umuahia, the compliance lasted till around 2pm when some vehicles started showing up, while in Aba, it was total.

    Kanu, on Tuesday at the Federal High Court in Abuja, declined to take his plea on the 15 counts of terrorism filed against him by the Federal Government.

    He accused the Federal Government of ambushing him with the fresh charges served on him late on Monday.

    Kanu, through his new lead counsel and human rights lawyer, Dr Mike Ozekhome (SAN), alleged that the government had breached the principle of fair hearing with the way and manner the new charges were brought to them.

    During the resumed trial, Ozekhome complained that the fresh charges were the sixth in the series, adding that his client could not proceed to take plea on charges he had not studied to prepare for the defence as required by law.

    He stated, “My Lord, as I am talking now, Kanu does not know the charges yet. He is just interacting with me. He cannot be made to take plea to charges he has not seen.

    “The principle of fair hearing is just being violated by the Federal Government. The frail-looking Kanu standing in the dock there has not been allowed access to his family as directed by this honourable court.”

    Ozekhome claimed that the proof of evidence was not legible enough for their understanding of the fresh charges.

    He added, “I went to the DSS to see him and I was almost stripped naked before I could see him.

    “We pray that the arraignment be adjourned till tomorrow (Wednesday) to enable his lawyers to study the new charges along with him in the interest of justice.”

    The request for adjournment was not opposed by the prosecuting counsel, Shuaib Labaran.

    Justice Binta Nyako fixed today (Wednesday) for the arraignment.

    She ordered that Kanu and his lawyers be allowed to have interface in the courtroom before he would be taken into the DSS custody.

    Earlier, Kanu had through his lawyer complained of poor feeding, clothing and denial to practise the religion of his choice.

    Justice Nyako, in response, reminded him that the detention facility “is not a five-star hotel,” but ordered that Kanu be allowed to come to court today (Wednesday) in new clothes.

    The judge declined the request that an American lawyer, Bruce Fein, be allowed into the courtroom to observe the trial.

    According to her, the request will be granted upon a written application and approval by the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court.

    Kanu was welcomed into the courtroom by five members of his family and he took time to exchange pleasantries with journalists and members of his legal team.

    Earlier, the supporters of Kanu and security operatives clashed outside the courtroom.

    Operatives of the Department of State Services and the Nigeria Police Force barred some journalists and lawyers from entering the court premises.

    The PUNCH reports that Kanu’s supporters had assembled opposite the Federal High Court chanting, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Nnamdi Kanu is another saviour.”

    The supporters also called on God to set the IPOB leader free, but security operatives pursued them.

    By Friday Olokor, Deborah Tolu-Kolawole, Solomon Odeniyi, Ikenna Obianeri, Gibson Achonu, Raphael Ede and Sunday Nwakanma

    Copyright PUNCH.

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