Founder of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, has been sentenced to one month in prison by a High Court in Owerri, the Imo State capital.
The court order, which was served to the police last Thursday, signed by J.C. Okoro Esq. and dated June 6, 2018, indicates that Uwazuruike will be in prison custody for one month for contempt of court.
News Telegraph reported that upon reading through the Motion On Notice filed on July 6, 2017, praying for an order of court to commit the plaintiff in the substantive suit, Uwazuruike, to prison for disobeying the order of court made on Wednesday, April 2, 2014 and after due consideration of the unchallenged oral evidence of the 1st defendant, Chigozie Iheama and exhibits tendered in the contempt proceedings, the presiding judge, Justice Kemakolam Ojiako, ruled that:
“The plaintiff, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, is hereby found guilty of contempt to the said order of the court made on April 2, 2014.
“That the plaintiff, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, is hereby sentenced to prison custody and shall be so detained for a period of one month from the date of his commitment to prison.”
Uwazuruike, his agents, and proxies have also been restrained from entering into the said land subject matter until the suit is determined. This judgment is coming after Uwazuruike dragged Iheama to court in 2013 over a land transaction issue in suit No. HOW/265/2013. According to Iheama, from 2013 to 2017 that the case was on, Uwazuruike had refused to appear in court in a matter he is the plaintiff.
However before the matter was transferred to the present court, the former judge, Justice Florence Duruoha Igwe, was hearing contempt proceedings against Uwazuruike for defying the orders of court for parties to maintain status quo and commencing building on the disputed land. Iheama alleged that plots by the MASSOB leader to frustrate justice did not stop when the matter was transferred to the court of Justice Kemakolam Ojiako.
“Consequent order of the court to seal the property by chaining and padlocking the gates was subverted by Uwazuruike who instead removed the gate and sealed up the area with a block wall, making it impossible for court officials to enforce the order,” he said.
On his own part, Uwazuruike had, however, argued that he was not under obligation to be in court as the case was a civil matter. But Iheama differed, saying that the case at hand was the contempt proceedings and not the substantive suit.
While Justice Ojiako noted in his ruling that “the substantive proceeding is adjourned to July 10, 2018, to await the outcome of the Motion for Stay of proceedings,” counsel to the MASSOB leader, Emma Chukwuka, said that hearing on the appealed suit comes up on October 2, 2018.