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Court frees Madonna students, officer after 17-month trial



A Federal High Court sitting in Awka, Anambra State, has freed six students of the Madonna University, Okija, and a deputy director of students’ affairs of the institution.

The presiding judge, Babatunde Quadro, on Thursday struck out the matter after the prosecuting counsel, Mr Arthur Obi-Okafor, said he had the approval of the Attorney General of the Federation to withdraw the charges against the students and the director..

Okafor said with the withdrawal of the case, a formal application would be made for the release of all items belonging to the students, which were seized during police investigation.

The case was between the Inspector-General of Police and the seven defendants, who were arraigned for allegedly committing offences capable of portraying Madonna University in bad light.

In an emotional chat with PUNCH Metro after they were freed, the former deputy director of students’ affairs, Tony Ezimo, who spoke for the students, said they had terrible experiences in the course of the trial.

Ezimo, who studied at the university and was called back to work in the institution, said, “Since this problem began in February last year, my impression has changed about a whole lot of things.

“It was not a nice experience being arrested and detained for something you know nothing about and being framed by those you trusted and worked hard to promote. But things happen for various reasons and I am glad that it has widened our knowledge on issues about life.

“With the striking out of the matter, I believe that justice has been done. We spent six months in detention for no justifiable reason and just striking out the case may not be the real justice, but having found ourselves in a situation like this, we have to accept it and we are grateful to the judge for granting the request of the Attorney General of the Federation to withdraw the matter from court to free us.

“All of us are young people and we can now find things to do with our lives.”

On whether he would return to the university, Ezimo said, “Definitely I will not return to Madonna University even if they pay me N2m a month. I worked with my whole heart and hoped that working for the institution I graduated from would enhance my career, but what I got in return was not favourable. So, I will never go there for whatever reason.”

One of the parents, Mr Christopher Onyejekwe, who shed tears of joy, regretted that despite his contributions to the growth of the university, he was treated badly.

He said, “I have been promoting Madonna University and I have trained 21 people in the university, but what I got in return was the detention of my son and six of his friends for six months for no justifiable reason.

“Of the seven students, five of them are children of widows. For the period the case lasted, only I and one other man were coming to court regularly.

“I went to plead 27 times for them to be released, but they were detained for four months at Onitsha Prison and two months at Awka Prison.”

He expressed gratitude to various groups and individuals who facilitated the release of the children, including the Catholic bishops of Awka and Enugu.

He also pleaded with the management of the university to release the results of the three students which the university was withholding, adding that they had paid the necessary fees and were cleared to go for the NYSC before the problem began.

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