A nursing mother, Esther Obiechina, has narrated how some naval personnel at Uga Junction, in Onitsha, Anambra State, forced her to climb the pedestrian bridge at Uga Junction 30 times as punishment for crossing the Express Road from the Bridgehead Market side.

Speaking from her hospital bed, where she was on admission following her ordeal, Obiechina said she lost consciousness.

She also alleged that the naval men forcibly collected her N1000.00, which was supposed to be her transport fare back to her village in Ogbaru Local Government Area, and also to buy pap for her baby.

She explained that the naval personnel, accosted and asked her to give them N5, 000.00 to allow her to go, but she told them that she did not have such an amount with her.

They then asked her to hand over her phone and the N1, 000.00, and to climb the pedestrian bridge and come down 30 times. This incident was said to have happened on 1st May 2022.

She said that after the punishment, she became disoriented and then fainted. She narrated: “I didn’t know what was happening to me again. My entire body system started shutting down. In the next few minutes, I passed out.”

After she passed out, the naval men, thinking she was pretending, mocked her. She recalled faintly hearing them talking. She said: “When I started regaining consciousness, I heard one of them telling others to stop mocking me and that I was not pretending. He later returned my phone, but not my money.”

When Obiechina regained consciousness, she demanded her money, but she was told that the officer with it had already left. She became stranded. Confused and tired, she called her boss and narrated her predicament.

He advised her to look for means to return to the office so that he could help her with transport fares to her village.

When she got to the office, she fainted again, forcing concerned folks to rush her to St. Cyprain Hospital, along Port Harcourt Road, Fegge, Onitsha, Anambra State, where she is currently recuperating.

Human Rights Liberty Access and Peace Defenders Foundation (HURIDE), a non-governmental organisation, which has taken up the battle on behalf of  Obiechina, demanding justice, called for a total overhaul of the Iyiowa Odekpe Naval Post due to the continual atrocities being meted out against the citizens by naval personnel at that junction.

HURIDE Executive Director, Dede Uzor A Uzor, said there had been a series of cases of abuse of citizens’ rights by the personnel at Uga Junction.

He stated: “In the case of Obiechina, who is a nursing mother, it was totally wrong and out of the rule of engagement of the military to inflict such harsh punishment on an ordinary civilian, let alone a woman and a nursing mother. We are calling on the Nigerian Navy to fish out the perpetrators of this heinous rights abuse and to refund the victim her N1000. This personnel should be made to face disciplinary measures. There are glaring incidences of official corruption, extortion, intimidation, and harsh human rights abuses by the naval officers immediately it is 6:30 pm. They would mount illegal roadblocks, closing the trunk of A Onitsha/Asaba Express Highways, causing excruciating pains to the motorists, and extorting Nigerians with impunity. What have naval men got to do with traffic control? The naval commander in charge of  Iyiowa Odekpe, should be removed and sent for a refresher course to enable him to be in tune with democratic ideals.”

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