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By Vincent Ujumadu, Awka
Six students of Madonna University, Okija, Anambra State, and a deputy director of student affairs in the institution, were finally set free as their cases we struck out by the presiding judge of the Federal High Court, Awka, Justice Babatunde Quadri.
At the resumed sitting, the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Arthur Obi -Okafor, SAN, 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 the police investigation.
The case was between the Inspector General of Police, IGP, and the seven defendants who were charged for allegedly committing offenses capable of portraying Madonna University in a bad light.
In an emotion-laden interview after they were granted freedom, the former deputy director of student affairs, Prince Tony Ezimo who spoke on behalf of the students said they had terrible experiences in the course of their trial, but expressed joy that they were free at last.
Ezimo, who studied in the university and was later called back to work in the institution said: “Since this problem began in February last year, my impression had changed about a whole lot of things.
“It was not a nice experience being arrested and detained for something one knows nothing about and being framed by those who one 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 had 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. Indeed I worked with my whole heart and hoping 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 and I wish Madonna University well. It will, however, not stop me from promoting Madonna University anywhere I find myself, but not from within the school.”
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He added: “We really appreciate every person that toiled and worked hard to identify with us during our incarceration, particularly our parents who had been on the road during this past 17 months of our ordeal.
“We also appreciate the National Association of Nigeria Students who came to our rescue at a time by organizing students who demonstrated on our behalf.
“Also, if not for the media, things would not have turned out the way they did.” One of the parents, Mr. Christopher Onyejekwe, who shed tears of joy, regretted that despite his contributions to the growth of the university, the founder, Rev Fr. Emmanuel Ede treated him badly.
He said: “I have been promoting Madonna University and I have trained 21 people in the university, but what I got in return from the proprietor of the university was to detain my son and six of his friends for six months for no justifiable reason.
“He did that to us because he believed that he had so much power to do whatever he likes. Most of there students he suffered for almost one year and six months are children of widows.
“Of the seven, five of them are children of widows. For the period the case lasted, only myself and one other man were coming to court regularly.
“I went to Fr. Ede 27 times to plead with him to leave these children because they are children of widows, but he detained them for four months at Onitsha Prison and two months at Awka Prison.
“I believe that the Catholic Church preaches love and that was why most people were surprised at his rigidity on this matter. He asked me to pray Hail Mary from 6 am – 6 pm for three days and I did that. He ordered me to go to Elele and kneel down there and pray for three days, I still did that.
“I am however happy that the problem is over and I have taken everything in good faith.”
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 authorities of the university to release the results of the three students which the university was still withholding, adding that hey had paid all the necessary fees and cleared to go for the NYSC before the problem began.
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