Some lawyers from South-eastern Nigeria have asked the Federal High Court in Abuja to join them as defendants in a lawsuit lodged by a group of northern elders praying for an exit of the Igbo speaking region from Nigeria.
Seeking to be joined as defendants in the suit implies that the lawyers are against the campaign for the secession of the South-eastern Nigeria being championed by the Nnamdi Kanu-led Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Violence and killings attributed to IPOB and its armed wing, the Eastern Security Network (ESN), have escalated in the region in the last one year in a brutal campaign for an independent Republic of Biafra constituted by the five South-eastern states and some parts of the South-south region.
The quest for the independent state triggered the bloody Civil War of 1967 to 1970.
In the suit instituted by some northern elders seeking court’s approval for the South-east to secede, they called on the court to grant their prayers to avoid a repeat of ugly events of the Civil War.
The defendants sued on record by the plaintiffs are: the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the National Assembly.
‘Why we want to be joined’
But the legal practitioners from the South-east led by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Chuks Muoma, Ukpai Ukairo, Ebere Uzoatu and Obi Emuka filed their application for joinder to enable them to state the true position of the people of the region whom they argue have yet to be represented in the suit.
The lawyers, who described themselves as the representatives of the people of the South-eastern region, claimed that the case of the northern elders seeking the exit of South-east from Nigeria had the capability to shape the life of the generation of Igbo people.
In their application for joinder filed by Victor Onweremadu and seen by this reporter on Monday, the lawyers of Igbo extraction claimed that they have interest to protect in the suit, hence, their quest to be made a set of defendants in the case.
In their 12-paragraph affidavit in support of their application, the lawyers noted that the Northern elders in their suit did not think it necessary to join the people of the South-east region or their representatives to enable the court hear from them.
The affidavit deposed to by one Ekenna Jonathan read in part:
“That this suit is so crucial and a sensitive matter which concerns the Indigenous Igbo speaking tribe in Nigeria and has the capability to shape the life of the future generation of the people of the south east of Nigeria and other Indigenous Igbo speaking tribe in Nigeria.
“That the Igbo Lawyers Association represented by the applicants are an Indigenous association of lawyers from the South-east of Nigeria and other Indigenous Igbo speaking tribe in Nigeria.
“That the Igbo Lawyers Association and its objective is to represent the interest of the Igbo people which said people are Indigenous in the South-east of Nigeria. Thus, the association is interested and is a necessary party to be joined.
“That it will serve the interest of justice if the honourable court grants the application and join the applicants as defendants in the suit and that the plaintiffs will not be prejudiced if the application is granted”.
Meanwhile, the judge, Inyang Ekwo, has fixed November 1 for hearing of the suit.
The Northern elders had in June this year filed the case asking the court to compel the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives to hasten the exit of the South-eastern region out of Nigeria before concluding the on-going amendment to Nigeria’s constitution.
The secession request is one of the three prayers sought in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/538/2021 instituted by the group of elders and politicians from the North led by Nastura Shariff, Balarabe Rufa’I, Abdul-Aziz Sulaiman and Aminu Adam.
In their suit, they averred in a supporting affidavit that their action was informed by the need to stem the tide of violence and destruction being allegedly perpetrated by the agitation for secession championed by the Nnamdi Kanu-led IPOB.
The plaintiffs claimed that they do not want a repeat of the 1967 to 1970 civil war in Nigeria that led to wanton destruction of lives and property.
They prayed for, among others, a declaration that combined effect of the provisions of Section 4 of the Nigerian constitution and Articles 1, 2, and 20(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act 2004, the National Assembly, sued as the fourth defendant “is empowered to set in motion a framework for a referendum to allow the South-eastern region of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to decide on their bid for self-determination.”
They also urged the court to order the 2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants ( the Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the National Assembly) “to provide a framework that will pave way for the self-determination of the South-eastern states so as to leave the geographical entity called Nigeria before any further step is taken to further amend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
“The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria can be further amended at any time after the question of self-determination must have been resolved by Nigerians,” the plaintiffs added.