Twenty-one persons were on Friday at the Federal High Court Awka charged for treason following the alleged kidnap of two Chinese workers attached to Innoson Motorcycle Spare Parts Company Nnewi; Anambra State.
The arraignment of the accused, which could not hold last Thursday due to some technicalities in the filing of the suit, was adjourned to Friday, and had a total of 20 accused present with the 21st accused absent in the court.
According to the charge sheet filed by the persecuting counsel, Ejiofor Obiora, 20 of the suspects were accused of "conspiring among 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 Federation of Nigeria 2004."
"Within the Jurisdiction of the Federal High Court in order to intimidate or overawe the President, levied war against the state with arms and ammunition by abducting, Niu Quijang and Shey Feng, Chinese nationals, whom you alleged entered into the State of Biafra without Biafran visas and thereafter engaged the security forces in a gun duel while holding captive the Chinese nationals and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 37 (1) of the criminal code CAP C38 laws of the Federation 2004."
While the 21st accused, who is an international businessman based in Nnewi, Pius Ogbuawa was accused of knowingly harbouring and providing assistance to the accused persons.
The charge sheet reads: "That you Pius Ogbuawa between the months of March and April, 2007 at Nnewi, Anambra State knowingly haboured and provided assistance to the above named accused persons even when you know that the security agents are searching for them and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 40 (a) of the criminal code CAP C38 Laws of Federation 2004."
But in the notice of preliminary objection filed by the defence counsel, Benson Nwankwo, relying on section 6 sub 6 (b) of the 1999 Constitution, it contended that "the offences laid in the three counts of the charge are based on treason and related offences created by Act of the National Assembly. It is only the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) that has the constitutional competence to initiate or commence criminal proceedings in respect of offences created by Acts of the National Assembly.
"The Inspector-General of Police (IGP) has no constitutional competence to initiate or commence proceedings in respect of Federal offences without an express delegation of such prosecutory powers issued by way of Legal Notice duly gazetted in the Gazettes of the Government of the Federation.
"The offences as laid in the three-count charge do not disclose offences created by the respective sections of the Criminal Code Act-the three-count do not disclose offences known to law. Each count of the charge is bad in Law for duplicity and incurably defective. The charges are laid in defiance of a subsisting order of the Anambra State High Court as it relates to the 21st Accused."
He further presented a court order of the Nnewi High Court granted by Justice Ike Ogu on December 5, 2008, which stated thus "That the applicant is hereby granted leave to institute proceedings against the respondents to enforce or secure the enforcement of his fundamental rights to personal liberty guaranteed by section 35 and right dignity of human person guaranteed by section 34 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 respectively.
"The leave hereby granted shall operate as a stay of all actions or matters pertaining to or emanating from cessation of further arrests or detention of the applicant based on the allegation of mater-minding kidnap of two Chinese nationals pending the determination of the Motion on Notice."
In his ruling the presiding Judge, Hon. Justice P.F Olaiwola, adjourned the matter to March 25, due to the pending court order at an Nnewi High Court.
Olaiwola said it would be improper for him to entertain the matter since there is a subsisting court order yet to be vacated.
He further said that since the issue of court order has been fixed for March 13, hearing in his court would resume on the March 25 and ordered that the 20 accused should be remanded in prison custody.