SOME OF THE PARTICIPANTS

SOME OF THE PARTICIPANTS

 Juliana Francis

The conference hall of the East-End Hotels and Suites, in Awka, Anambra State, thronged with human rights fighters, lawyers, journalists, and victims of police brutality.

The unusual meeting was with the stakeholders expressing concern over the escalating human rights violations in Anambra.

Indeed, members of this gathering were certainly not happy. Their hearts were fired with the frenzied desire and determination to check the challenges beclouding the human rights space in Anambra State before the situation degenerates into a rain of fire and brimstones.

The meeting was held on the 24th of March 2023. The gathering is dubbed, ‘The meeting of Anambra State Police Stakeholders Partnership Forum (PSPF).’

It was convened by the Executive Director of the Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC), Comrade Okechukwu Nwanguma.

The major purpose of the meeting was to review and take positions on the state of security and human rights in Anambra State.

Archbishop Doctor Titus Orji informed said that what was being experienced by the people in Aguata Local Government Area was terrible.

He revealed that his only son, Jeremiah Chibuzo Orji, was on the night of March 19, 2022, taken away and had not been seen ever since.

He recounted: “ My son is a student at Federal Polytechnic, Oko, and had a bus with which he earned money by always ferrying passengers to Onitsha. We have been to the police area command and many police stations in search of our 22-year-old son but all to no avail.”

Bishop Gilbert Obinwa narrated the story of how armed police officers stormed his residence in Okpo village, Ekwulobia at noon on April 24, 2022.

The officers ransacked the entire compound and then saw Gilbert’s son holding a phone. The policemen angrily asked Jeremiah, who worked as a native doctor who he was calling, and he replied that he was calling not calling anyone.

When the policemen started manhandling him, the sister ran to the scene, but the policemen ordered her to get back or they would instantly send her to meet her ancestors.

The policemen who came in a black Sienna bus and a red Spider vehicle arrested him and his apprentice and two other persons. The daughter tracked their movement up to Nteje, but when the family went there in search of the arrested ones they were told that the place was a dangerous no-go area. Gilbert Obinwa’s wife has since lapsed into depression.

Shedrack Nwafor is another victim, who suffered unlawful detention, torture and intimidation in 2014. He was serving as a PTA teacher when the policemen came to arrest him.

He was not around but the policemen came back two days later. They accused Shedrack of being a kidnapper and a thief.

He went with a lawyer to the police, but they ignored the lawyer and took him to the back of the station and locked him up.

They took him to the village for a thorough search but found nothing. Then they took him to where he lived in Awka and made more searches, discovering nothing.

They searched his MTN line to no avail. He was detained for nine days until people from his community came to stress that he was not a criminal. He was reluctantly set free. He revealed that people were being hung upside-down, and not a day passed without a detainee being killed and taken away.

An activist, Comrade Ernest Nnoli, said all youths were mostly the victims of random police arrests.

“The police always made use of local informants. There was a revealing case on January 5, 2023, in Ukpor when one informant called a friend to come to drink with him only for the victim to be arrested by the police. The community told the informant that if anything happened to the victim, the townspeople would make sure that the informant would meet with death. The victim was immediately released,” said Nnoli.

Christian Aguigwo recalled a case of a lad who had returned from Lagos suffering from a diabetic sore on the leg.

He was arrested in Amaenyi, Awka, and taken to Enugwu-Ukwu until his barrister’s brother came to facilitate his release.

Aguigwo stated that the policemen were fond of saying: “Is it not your fellow Igbo people who are giving us information to arrest your brothers?”

He also narrated the case of the unlawful arrest and extortion of a final-year student of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka who was taking his final exams. He had been tagged a criminal until Aguigwo went to Central Police Station (CPS), Awka, to make sure he was released.

The coordinator of PSPF, Prince Chris Azor, traced the history of Anambra PSPF back to the initiative of RULAAC’s Comrade Nwanguma who engaged the then Anambra State Commissioner of Police AIG Abang (rtd).

According to him, “The inaugural launch of Anambra PSPF was held at Geo-Gold Hotel, Awka, and was graced by eminences such as Igwe Gibson Nwosu, Eze-Uzu of Awka, and Chief Okeke Ogene, the Vice-Chairman of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide.

“Even as police misdeeds are insupportable the PSPF has had cause in the past to give awards to deserving police officers as was staged at Milatel Hotel, Awka on July 20, 2022.”

Recalling the committed interventionist role of Nwanguma of RULAAC, Azor assured that nobody oppressed by the police will be abandoned.

He stressed that Nwanguma was not known as the Civilian IGP for nothing!

Making his own observation, Nwanguma condemned the reports of unwholesome actions in Anambra police formations.

It will be recalled that among the unwholesome actions were police personnel accused of being part of the deadly criminal ring. The personnel includes a Chief Superintendent of Police, Patrick Chukwuemeka Agbazue, a former Officer-in-charge of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Awkuzu, and currently the Commander of the Rapid Response Squad, Awkuzu; a Superintendent of Police, Princess Nwode Nkeiruka, a former Police Public Relations Officers, Anambra State Police Command and currently the PPRO for Zone 13 Headquarters, Ukpo; and Inspector Harrison Akama, also attached to the RRS, Awkuzu, Anambra State.

They were accused of involvement in arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention, extrajudicial killing, and organ harvesting are also not new.

The alleged unholy activities of the personnel were made known to the public by a whistle-blower, later identified as Nnamdi Daniel, an NYSC member, who had worked closely with the police personnel as their tech man.

The police personnel were arrested and the Inspector General of Police, IGP Alkali Usman Baba, caused a panel to be set up to investigate the allegations against them.

But the accused personnel were released less than 24 hours after, while the Nnamdi was hunted down and arrested.

There had been widespread fears and allegations that the police had hatched a plot to kill, but there is no evidence to back up such a claim.

Nwanguma felt the allegation of organ harvesting, which the whistle-blower put on the doorstep of Zone 13 Headquarters, Ukpo, and the RRS had been swept under the carpet.

He said in vexation: “The accused culprits walked in and were freed the same day while the whistle-blower was traced to the Benin Republic and arrested and is still wallowing in detention. The police authorities must come clean on this unprofessional conduct. The police mantra of ‘Power pass power’ must no longer be tolerated.”

Nwanguma asked victims of police brutality to always speak out, stressing that RULAAC will ensure that nothing untoward will ever happen to them.

“Don’t be afraid!” Nwanguma said, adding, “We need evidence to get justice. You shall get due compensation.”

Joseph Uchendu of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) maintained that the reason for the youths to undertake the ENDSARS uprising was cogent.

He quoted former United States President JF Kennedy who said; “Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable.”

Bishop Dr. Ilokaife of the International Human Rights Commission said that now he has taken notice of the RULAAC and PSPF interface he will ensure that his group takes it to the next level. He also promised that he would get lawyers in Anambra State involved.

Ms. Amaka of the National Human Rights Commission announced that her agency will do more based on the revelations of the forum.

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