Please due to several calls we have received, it appears that many people have not received information regarding the current situation on the above-named case pending in the Federal High Court Owerri.
We are aware that the Officers in charge of public relations were instructed by the Council of Elders of Indigenous People of Biafra to send out the report after the Court hearing but it seems that many people have not yet received the report.
In order to avoid misinformation and public deception, we have deemed it necessary to send out this Report regarding the court hearing on 30th April in the case between Indigenous People of Biafra and the Federal Government of Nigeria. We shall also use this medium to give further directives and instructions about what all Indigenous People of Biafra are required to do as the matter progresses in court to ensure our victory.
We therefore present the Report of what happened in Court on 30th April 2013 as follows:
1. The Court sat as scheduled and was presided over by the Honourable Justice S. M. Shuaibu. The Court Hall was filled to capacity and could not contain the multitude of the people in attendance. Apart from the people from the South East Region, the indigenes of the South South Region were also in attendance. We saw people from Bayelsa State, Akwa Ibom State, Rivers State, particularly, indigenes of Okrika and Opobo. As early as 7.30am, many people had assembled in the court premises. There was traffic congestion in Owerri that morning as a result, which made the Court to start by 10.00am instead of 9.00am as it appeared that both the lawyers and the Judge were affected by the traffic problem. Those who could not enter inside the hall stayed in the Court premises. The matter was listed as No. 4 in the Cause List but was the first to be called up for hearing. It is normal for a Judge under his Case Management Powers to decide the order in which he would take the cases for the day. Thus, he decided to hear our case first.
2. When the clerk of court called out the Suit Number and the parties, Engr. Amadi Innocent Obinna stood up representing the Claimants. The Defendants did not send any person from the Presidency to represent them but their lawyer was in attendance. This was not a problem since the issues before the Court were legal issues that did not require any party to give evidence and be cross-examined.
3. The Judge called for the lawyers to announce their appearances. The claimants’ lead counsel, Emeka Adolf Chigozie Emekesri rose up and announced the legal team for the Biafrans consisting of himself, Barr. Ibe G. Nwachukwunta and Barr. Ohaeto O. Uwazie. They were three lawyers this time because Barr. Debe Odumegwu Ojukwu who appeared in the previous session was outside the country. The Defandants’ lawyer, Barr. Sola Abeleje from the Law Firm of Prof Yemi Akinseye-George SAN & Partners, announced his appearance for the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Attorney-General of the Federation and apologized for the absence of his clients in Court.
4. The Judge gave audience to Barr. Emeka to state the position of the matter and the readiness of the parties for the court’s business of the day. He informed the Court that the matter was listed for ADOPTION of their legal arguments on the Preliminary Objection raised by the Defendants on the competence of the suit and jurisdiction of the Court to try the matter. He confirmed that the Claimants had filed their REPLY and were ready to go on with the matter if the Defendants would make their Objection.
5. Barr. Abeleje informed the Court that the Defendants had filed a Motion on Notice seeking to set aside the Order of the Court granted to the Claimants on 16th Jan 2013 to amend the title of the suit by adding the omitted words “Incorporated Trustees of” to “Bilie Human Rights Initiative” which the Claimants said was a typographical error of omission. Barr. Emeka told the Court that the business of the day as listed by the Court was for ADOPTION of their legal arguments on the main issues in the Preliminary Objection but if the Court would give further direction to hear the Motion on Notice, he would prefer the two causes (Motion on Notice and Preliminary Objection) to be taken together on that day since the Defendants were in Court as he expressed his fears that the Defendants might not be available on another day.
6. The Judge decided to give further direction that he would take the Motion on Notice and consolidate the Ruling with the Preliminary Objection on the next adjourned date. He therefore asked the Defendants’ lawyer to move their Motion. Barr. Abeleje moved in terms of his Motion papers arguing that the omission of the words “incorporated trustees of” from the name of Bilie Human Rights Initiative was a fundamental error that made the case incompetent and therefore the Court should set aside the Order that amended the omission. He cited a case law that where an existing party sued in a wrong name, it was a misnomer that could be amended by the Court but that the omission amended by the Claimants was not a misnomer but a fundamental error. He said that the Claimants amended the omitted words after they had been served with the Preliminary Objection. Barr. Emeka countered him using the same case law and asserted that the Defence counsel quoted the correct law but misapplied it. He explained to the Court that the case law on misnomer is that where a party in existence sues or is sued in a wrong name, it can be amended by the Court because it is the name of a person in existence. He informed the Court that the case cited by the Defence counsel was where the party in a suit was not in existence at all and sought to amend its name.
7. On the issue of non-compliance with the Rules of Court regarding amendment under Rule 17 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2009, Barr. Emeka cited the case of Central Bank of Nigeria v. Olasupo Adedeji & Ors (2004) 13 NWLR (Pt. 890) 226 at Page 231, where the Court of Appeal held that non-compliance with the Rules of Court is a mere irregularity or technicalities that cannot nullify the Court proceedings or any Orders made by the Court because technicalities cannot defeat the course of justice. He informed the Court that the major issue before the Court was the interpretation of the provisions of the statute on self-determination. He reminded the Court that the Claimants had come by way of Originating Summons asking the Court to interpret the law on self-determination but the Defendants were causing a distraction by holding unto complaints of technicalities and omission of words from the name of Bilie Human Rights Initiative which had been corrected. He asserted that the Defendants were trying to avoid the main substance of the case and the issue in dispute. He argued that the Defendants had no defence to the suit and likened them to drowning men in a river clinging and clutching to straws and grasses that could not save them. He therefore urged the Court to discountenance the Defendants’ Motion on Notice and dismiss it for lacking merits and being an abuse of Court process designed to delay the course of justice.
8. The Judge listened to the arguments from both sides and adjourned the matter to the 25th day of June 2013 when he would give his Ruling on the Motion on Notice.
9. After the Court session, the multitude of Indigenous People of Biafra streamed out of the Court Hall to be addressed by their leaders. They assembled in the Court premises outside the gate where Dr. Dozie Ikedife, the Deputy Leader of Indigenous People of Biafra, addressed the people. There were many members of the press from various media houses taking interviews from various leaders. After the activities in the Court premises, the Biafrans went to their Office at 90 Wetheral Road, Owerri, for further instructions by their lawyers.
We confirm that this is a fair report of what happened in Court on 30th April 2013 in the case between Indigenous People of Biafra and the Federal Government of Nigeria. We hereby advise all indigenous people of Biafra to remain law-abiding and prayerful as we seek for justice for Biafraland by the rule of law. You are reminded that we are Biafrans by indigenous identity but Nigerians by nationality until we gain independence from Nigeria. Before the next adjourned date, you shall receive further instructions from the Solicitor for Indigenous People of Biafra and the lead counsel in the ongoing case. Please circulate this report to others who have not heard the news of what happened in Court on 30th April 2013.