A Federal High Court sitting in Awka, the Anambra State capital, has discharged and acquitted 19 persons accused of being members of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and held in detention for 15 years.

According to Justice Nicholas Oweibo, the prosecutors failed to establish proof for treason and terrorism charges levelled against the accused persons.

One of those released, Casmir Odorka, expressed gratitude to God for eventually setting him free after 15 years of being held in detention for a crime he never committed.

“I give God all the glory for my life. Over fifteen years in prison but today, I am free,” he said.

Another person couldn't contain his joy after regaining his freedom 15 years after his arrest.

“I am a businessman. I have two stores and I left them unlocked. They picked me up and took me to the police station. I told my neighbors that I would be coming back in the next one hour.

“This is the next one hour. 15 years. I left my shop unlocked. I didn't know anything. Today I regained my freedom. To God be the glory. None of us died. I give God the glory''

The counsel to the acquitted persons, Okoli Akirika, also said, “The judge came to the conclusion that there was no iota or scintilla of evidence adduced by the prosecution against the defendants. It took more than 14 years to come to this conclusion and this brings to fore one of the defects in our criminal justice system. This is a case in which people wasted their youthful years.” 

MASSOB is a secessionist group demanding the creation of Biafra.

Since its inception, the group has continually alleged mass arrests and killings of its members by government forces.

The group’s sanitation grassroots’ information spokesperson, Kelechi A Chukwu, alleged that the government forces carried out secret executions of MASSOB members in detention centres and prisons nationwide.

In May 2008, the group released a list of 2,020 members alleged to have been killed by security agents since 1999.

MASSOB leader, Ralph Uwazuruike, has been arrested on several occasions and charged with treason.

In 2011, Uwazuruike and 280 MASSOB members were arrested in Enugu while attending a function in honour of Ojukwu. Few days later, President Goodluck Jonathan ordered Uwazuruike's release as well as all other MASSOB members in detention.

In June 2012, the Human Rights Writers' Association of Nigeria condemned the alleged killing of 16 members of MASSOB by security agencies in Anambra.

In February 2013, MASSOB claimed that several corpses found floating in the Ezu River on the boundary of Enugu and Anambra States were those of its members previously arrested by the police.

The group claimed that the police routinely executed MASSOB members without proper trial.

On September 13, 2015, the police in Anambra State arrested no fewer than 25 MASSOB members who were marking their 16th anniversary; one MASSOB member was shot.

At St Charles Lwanga Catholic Church Okpoko, 18 members were arrested and one shot and at Iba Pope Catholic Church, while at Awada, 11 members of MASSOB were arrested.

At Awka, two MASSOB were arrested by the police according to the MASSOB former Deputy Director of Information, Mazi Chris Mocha.

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