Urges Govt, Military to Exercise Restraint in Orlu
By Gift Olivia Samuel The Sight News
ABUJA: The civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), has appealed to the #EndSARS Judicial Panel in Enugu as well as all others in other parts of the South East of Nigeria to be transparent.
The HURIWA National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, who made the appeal on Friday at a press conference in Abuja, urged the Panel to ensure that they are never used for cover up schemes by politicians and the police authority, as all eyes are on them.
He further noted that Police brutality is at its peak in the South East, and as such, the Panel must be accountable.
While speaking on a Save Our Soul (SOS) message the Association received from citizens of Enugu East and specifically the leaders of Ndiaga, Amechi Awkunanaw, Enugu East Local Government Area of Enugu State, following Saturday’s arrest of some of their leaders over a land dispute, Onwubiko disclosed that the Nigeria Police Force are known to be constantly hired by land speculators in Enugu State, who are in the habit of harassing land owners by framing them up and slamming lugubrious and laughable charges against them.
One of the community leaders, Mr Michael Nnaji, while narrating what transpired, in the SOS message sent to HURIWA, said they were having their community meeting when some armed Policemen stormed the venue.
He disclosed that three of their leaders were whisked away before they were transferred to Abuja on Sunday morning, adding that it was not the first time such an arrest of their community leader has happened.
“The community had on January 26 secured an ex parte order from Enugu State High Court, restraining the IGP and Enugu State Commissioner of Police from arresting leaders of the community.
“The controversy over the ownership of the land had been ongoing for over 10 years. Governor Ugwuanyi recently revoked the land, though the action was challenged in court”, he said.
Explaining further, Nnaji said: “Enough is enough before they’ll kill everybody in our village because they want to take over our land. We were having a family meeting when some people came. They said they were from STS Unit of the Nigeria Police Force. One of them identified himself as Celestine.
“They said they came to make an arrest. What we are referring to here is more than 1,800 acres of our family lands. There are cases in court. We got a court order recently, restraining the police from arresting our people. The same people protected by the court order are those they’ve arrested. This is because somebody is sponsoring them. Should we run away from our hometown because someone wants to take over our land?
“I’m making this SOS for the authorities to come to our aid. Those responsible for our ordeal are the same people that are supposed to protect us. This matter has been on for over 10 years. The Governor of Enugu State recently revoked the land when he saw that our case was genuine.
“There are so many cases in court about this. There’s nothing they’ve not done to frustrate us. Instead of these people to meet with the community and find a way for us to accommodate them, they want to use force. They came during our meeting and arrested three leaders of the community. We need a respite from this brutality against our people.”, He stated.
In line with this, the HURIWA National Coordinator, noted that there are a lot of credible reports of dangerous abuses of the fundamental human rights of Citizens of Enugu East and South Local Government Areas by the Police hired by land speculators and government officials interested in depriving the communities of their lands.
While noting that HURIWA is aware of a subsisting order of the competent Court of law obtained lawfully by some of the victims of police injustice and harassment in Enugu State, he cautioned the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to comply entirely with the said order.
Meanwhile, Onwubiko has stated that the Military operations in Orlu, Imo State, need to end or be carried out in a transparent and accountable manner, in such ways that the lives of the residents of any part of Imo State are not endangered.
This is as he called for restraint on the part of the military authority to end the operations and use political resolution mechanisms, so as to bring the disturbance to an end.
The civil rights advocacy group, said although the military is a constitutionally recognised institution that ought to protect Nigeria from external attacks, the decision of the military to embark on the operation in Orlu should be reconsidered, just as there is the need for information disemination to be qualitatively done by the military to discourage the extensive spread of hear say and rumours.
According to Onwubiko, “We are also of the opinion that the political leadership of the South East of Nigeria must wake up and play their constitutional role of protecting lives and property of the good people of Nigeria.
“The military operations in Orlu could not have been necessary if the civilian authority in Imo State are responsible and responsive to their constitutional duties of protecting their people.
“We call on Eastern Security Network to adhere strictly to the PRINCIPLES OF THE RULE OF LAW and work to ensure that their operations are recognised by the laws to be passed by the State Houses of Assembly in the South East of Nigeria”, he said.
While urging the military to allow HURIWA and other credible civil rights bodies to visit Orlu and assess the extent of damage and as well interview residents, he also charged the military to always release transparent information about their operations to the media, so as to stop fake news from spreading and causing panic.