Trial of Nigerian undergraduates charged over Facebook post stalled

COURT symbol used to illustrate the story.
COURT symbol used to illustrate the story.

The absence of a judge, Babatunde Quadri, has stalled the hearing of the case against six students and a lecturer of Madonna University, Okija in Anambra State.

The students were arrested for Facebook posts which allegedly portrayed the school in a bad light.

Opara Harmelson, Owhonda Badaziri, Abuno Jonathan, Chijioke Nnamani, Amaechi Benedict, Blackson Nwokeoma, and Tony Ezeimo spent five months in prison custody before they were released.

Madonna, the first Catholic University in Nigeria, in February arrested the students and a lecturer over a Facebook post revealing the inhumane treatment of students in the university.

“Good lecturers are scarce. Madonna University administration should be nice to our lecturers, or a good number of them will resign,” one of the Facebook posts

While five of them are former students, Mr Ezeimo is a former lecturer at the University. Mr Harmelson is just a friend of Mr Ezeimo who was the only one charged with advance fee fraud.

Monday

The students who arrived at the Federal High Court in Awka around 9 a.m. on Monday wearing customised shirts, told PREMIUM TIMES that the absence of Mr Babatunde was shocking.

The wordings on the shirts read: “Madonna University, we are here. #Madonna7”

The hearing was, however, adjourned to December 3.

It should be recalled that after the intervention of the Catholic Church and several clergymen, the school instructed the students to apologise for them to be freed.

In reaction, some of the students questioned the request for an apology, disclosing to this newspaper that they will not write such.

The attorney representing the students, Chinedu Igwe, also opposed the request by the school authorities.

“We are still looking into the issue. The students involved are youths and they have future ahead. I was also informed that some of them have not gone for their NYSC programme.

Read also: NDLEA secures 15 convictions in Gombe

”All parties have sat down and discussed issues. You cannot write an apology when you have not erred. When they write an apology letter, what happens to their certificates?” Mr Chinedu asked in a telephone interview with this correspondent.

All efforts to reach the school authorities had proved abortive.

Nonetheless, a lawyer and a liaison between the students and the management, who does not want his name in print because he is not authorised to address the press, disclosed that talks are ongoing on the case.

The officer noted that the judge was absent because he had a sitting in Abuja on the same date. “One of the cases he was handling before he was transferred to Awka,” he said.

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