Following the recent public outcry in the South East over the relocation of Boko Haram suspects to a prison facility Ekwulobia in Anambra State, the Federal Government is believed to have taken the suspects to Abuja.
The Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, said on Thursday that the Boko Haram suspects have been moved out of Anambra State hence the planned protest by traders in Abakaliki on that day was shelved. “The traders have the right to protest but there was no need for the protest because we (South-East governors) had enjoined the Federal Government not to relocate any Boko Haram prisoner to any prison in the South-East. Those suspects brought to Anambra State have been taken back to Abuja. The state decided against the protest for the reason that the governors of the region had intimated the Presidency on their opinion on the matter, and so no need for anyone to encourage people of the state to take to the streets,” he said.
It was gathered that the shelved protest by the traders was to have taken place simultaneously across the five states of the South-East. The decision on the protest was made after a meeting of participants from various traders’ unions and associations in Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states on Saturday, July 4. The traders had strongly condemned the transfer of the Boko Haram suspects to Ekwulobia prison and requested President Muhammadu Buhari to remove them.
Before the shelved protest by traders, Anambra State governor, Willie Obiano had on Wednesday held a meeting with members of the National Security Council in Government House, Awka on the issue. Addressing journalists shortly after the meeting, Obiano raised hope on the prospects of moving the suspects out of Ekwulobia. Governor Obiano said: “I want to reassure you that the meeting went very well. The various communities in Anambra, the markets, the car Unions, the churches, our traditional institutions and others made a great point to them that we want this people removed and removed immediately. They have reassured that they will take up our message back to Abuja and that these people will be removed very soon.”
The meeting was in response to continued protests by the people of the South East over the relocation of 47 Boko Haram suspects to Ekwulobia Prisons. Governors of the South East set the stage for the peaceful protests when they met in Owerri and decided to appeal to the Federal Government to move them out of the geo-political zone in order not to bring terrorism to Igboland.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Anambra State chapter also asked the federal government to urgently relocate the Boko Haram suspects in Ekwulobia prison in the state to other places outside the South-east. In a communiqué issued by the body after a marathon meeting on Monday in Awka, CAN insisted that their relocation to Ekwulobia had created undue fear and panic among the people, while the residents in the area are relocating to other communities for safety.
The communiqué which was signed by the state chairman of the association, Tim Okpala, said that though the Ekwulobia prison is a federal facility and that the federal government has the power to use it for inmates from any part of the country, bringing Boko Haram suspects to the prison in the state poses a security threat to the lives and property in the state.
Irked by the recent relocation of the 47 Boko Haram suspects to the Ekwulobia prisons, a civil rights group known as Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network has dragged the federal government to court, seeking a reversal of the action. The organisation demanded the immediate relocation of Boko Haram suspects from Anambra to the northern part of the country where the offence was committed.
The group is asking the court in the suit (FHC/AWK/CS/296/15), filed at the Federal High Court, Awka, for a declaration “that the continued detention of the unconvicted 47 Boko Haram members at the Ezinifite/Ekwulobia Prisons, Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State and subsequent commencement of their trial at the expiration of the 90 days maximum days of detention stipulated by the Terrorism(prevention)(Amendment) Act 2013, posses a grave threat to the right to life of the applicants and the entire people of Ezinifite/Ekwulobia, in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State, which is guaranteed by sections 33 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As amended) and Article 4, of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, (Ratification and Enforcement Act) Cap. A9 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and is therefore illegal, unconstitutional, null and void.”
The applicant is also seeking for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents, whether by them, their agents, privies or otherwise howsoever from further transferring other Boko Haram suspects to the Ezinifite/Ekwulobia, Aguata Local Government Area, Anambra State. Basil Chukwu the Programme Officer of the organisation deposed to the affidavit in support of the suit.