Mr Nwanguma

Nwanguma

The Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Action Centre (RULAAC), a non-profit organisation, has expressed worries about the arbitrary arrests, torture, extortion, rape, killings, and harvesting of human organs allegedly going on in Orlu Imo State.

The Executive Director of RULAAC, Okechukwu Nwanguma, insisted that such allegations urgently needed to be investigated.

He also expressed hope that the Imo State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Comrade Mich. Abatam would be able to escalate the necessary investigation concerning the issues raised.

Nwanguma said: “RULAAC has received reports that a combined team allegedly of men of the Department of State Security (DSS), Police, Army, Civil Defence, and EbubeAgu have been on the rampage in communities in Orlu, Imo State where they were accused of having killed over 30 young men and raped several women. It was reported that teenagers and young men and women, from 15 years upward had become targets and endangered species in Orlu zone. Some of their victims were suspected to have had their body parts harvested, and to cover up their crime, they burnt their remains; making it look like the victims were only shot dead-which was unjustifiable.”

He explained that according to information gathered from different sources, a man’s house in Umutanze community was burgled by security men who also took his vehicle away and then set his home on fire.

“At the sand dredging site in Njaba, an ambush was laid around 6:00 am against young men who dredge sand for a living. At gunpoint, they were taken away blindfolded with their clothes. Nobody has heard from the victims again. It has become the norm to see dead bodies with missing body parts in the evenings. These victims’ lifeless bodies are usually set on fire. It is suspected that the sand dredgers may be among those burnt,” said Nwanguma.

He further explained that Okporo, Umutanze, Akata, Amifeke, amongst others, all in Orlu Local Government Area of Imo State, were no longer safe as rogue security men come in convoys of up to 16 vehicles whenever they were to carry out their predatory activities.

He noted: “ On the 9th of  June 2022,  a 75-year-old woman who sells Akara (bean cake) was pounced upon in the market where she sells, by masked men from joint security formations who came in a Hilux vehicle in the market, and at gunpoint took away all the money she sold for the day-approximately ₦40,000-and her remaining bean cake.  In Owerri Ebiri-Umu-Owa, two innocent boys walking on the road were seized by knives-wielding assailants who took them away and harvested their kidneys and hearts and cut their remains into bits. From Umu-Awo, they moved their remains to a place known as Carwash in Owerri Ebiri and set their remains ablaze with tyres they carried along in their vehicles. The chairman of machine spare parts dealers in Mgbuka in Orlu was arrested. A man selling gas and his brother were also arrested and all framed and labelled members of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). They brought out Biafra flag and guns from their vehicles, tied their hands behind them, and put IPOB caps on their heads. They then asked the chairman of Ngbuka machine spare parts to give them N300,000 or he would be shot dead. They immediately brought out their guns and the man in fear agreed to pay N250,000 which he transferred to them there. Another victim transferred N150,000, while the last person transferred N100,000. They were slapped and let go.”

Also in Afo Ala Okporo, these alleged security men went to a place where spiritual items were sold and set them on fire. Any young person from 15 years upwards passing would be stripped and if any mark was found on his body, he would be labelled an IPOB member, blindfolded and thrown into their vehicles, even though it has been proven that bodily marks were not associated with IPOB. Nobody knew where these youth were taken to as those taken were never seen, said Nwanguma.

 

The human rights activist also mentioned: “Women are not spared as they are usually caught and gang-raped in their vehicles or in bush paths. The women are usually told to be grateful since they were “only” raped and not killed. The traditional rulers in these communities have remained silent and nobody speaks for the communities affected. Security men have hidden under the pretext of searching for Eastern Security Network (ESN) members and have criminally barred their fangs on innocent people, young and old. The barbarism going on in Orlu has left the community dwellers in so much fear that they are not able to speak up. Some of them believe the atrocities may even be state-sponsored as EbubeAgu was once described as “Hopism Strike Force” by former governor Rochas Okorocha after the abduction of his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu.”

He also stated that Excellence Nwamadi and Ozuba Chibuzor were picked in a random arrest by  EbebeAgu. Expatiating further, Nwanguma said that the men were captured after leaving a Point of Sale (POS) shop, where they went to withdraw money and were not allowed to contact their lawyers or family members.

These men were suspected to have been seriously tortured by an officer called Chidiebere at Tiger Base, which Nwanguma noted explained why a sister to one of the men who went to visit her brother was chased away.

In a message sent to a Superintendent of Police (SP) Ola, from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the NHRC expressed interest in intervening in the case.

Nwanguma noted: “The case pointed to one of those arrests made where young people were accused of being IPOB members after they were stripped, and marks found on their bodies. A suspect in a bid to incriminate the arrested persons claimed they had peculiar marks on their bodies which is indicative of IPOB membership. The NHRC official however forwarded a video made by the mother of one Gideon Uzoba which disputes the said claim. The Human Rights investigation officer raised the following poser. Once again, I have reservations about the opinion of the Police that DSS is part of the EbebeAgu that brought that Gideon Ozuba. Does it mean DSS does not have a detention cell or what? Why keep him in the Police cell to be beaten before alleging so many other crimes against him? If truly he is linked to membership of any proscribed organisation because of the mark on his body, which criminal activity did he participate in that made them arrest him and who are his accomplices? Is it enough to bring out a suspect who has been in Tiger Base detention to be identifying persons with traditional marks on their bodies as criminals? Bearing traditional marks on one’s body is not enough to incriminate a Nigerian citizen.”

Nwanguma said that Barrister Ikechukwu was sent to Tiger Base where the accused were detained, and he spoke with the commander who brought out somebody from their cell and showed the mark on his body and was said to have confessed to being an ESN member and corroborated with the Officers that one of the suspects is bearing the similar mark and that he is their member.

At this juncture, it was disclosed that the suspects were arrested by a joint team of DSS and EbubeAgu after the commander told Barrister Ikechukwu that the marks on their bodies were not the only reason for their arrest, but the commander could not mention the said DSS operatives who were involved in the joint arrest, nor did he disclose their names when the DSS demanded the information.

“It was said that an officer working with the commander invited one of the parents of the suspect and was “quarrelling” with them over why they involved NHRC in the matter. He told them that the NHRC should be told to stay away from the case so that they could cooperate with them and bail their son. The lawyer is calling for their release as he believes they are innocent since the easiest way to hold somebody indefinitely is to accuse him or her of being an ESN or IPOB member. He also made it known that yesterday made it was one week of their arrest and detention without any court order. He believes the officers may be telling their commander lies. Meanwhile, as the family of Gideon Uzoba were going home at Umuakah, EbebeAgu operatives stopped their vehicle and marched one passenger into their waiting Sienna after undressing the guy and observing traditional marks on his body.”

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