The Supreme Court on Friday gave the go-ahead for the accelerated trial of the leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, Ralph Uwazurike, and six other principal members of the group who are facing a four-count charge of conspiracy and treason brought against them by the Federal Government.
The appellants had bidded a stop to the trial, but the apex court’s five-man panel in a unanimous judgment held that the appeal by Uwazurike and others was unmeritorious and designed to defeat the course of justice.
The court therefore ordered that their trial should be promptly commenced and be conducted with dispatch.
Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, while reading the lead judgement, observed that the appeal filed by Mr. Festus Keyamo on behalf of the MASSOB members amounted to “a waste of precious judicial time since all the information imaginable that the appellants would need for their appeal has been available to them before they appealed to the Court of Appeal.”
The appellants were first arraigned before a Federal High Court in Abuja on November 8, 2005 on a four-count charge of conspiracy, treason, belonging to a militant group – MASSOB Army, and belonging to an unlawful society-MASSOB.
They had pleaded not guilty and applied that they be granted bail.
They also asked the court to stop the Federal Government from prosecuting them on account of an ex parte order for a stay of further actions granted by a Federal High Court in Owerri pending the determination of a suit they filed for the enforcement of their fundamental rights, having faulted the charge and prayed the trial court to dismiss it.
In a ruling on January 27, 2006, however, the trial court had refused all their prayers.
They approached the Court of Appeal in Abuja to push their luck as they were unsatisfied by the ruling.
The appellate court gave its judgment on May 15, 2008 granting only their prayer for bail.
Other appellants in the case include Ambrose Anyaso, Augustine Ihuoma, Chibuike Nwosu, Kelechi Ubabuike, Chimankpa Okorocha and Benedict Alakwem.