Jumia

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Open Letter to President Buhari on Use of Police to Abuse Human Rights – By Comrade Bonny Okonkwo

Dear President: All Nigerian people are happy that you are taking the nation in a new direction after decades of a culture of impunity.  Your directive that the police respect the dignity of the human person of all our citizens could not have come at a better time. We are enamored of your directive that the police review their indiscriminate allotment of orderlies to non-state actors who are just wealthy men. I am one of the several victims of the use of the police hierarchy by a private individual in our hometown of Oraifite in Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State, to humiliate, intimidate, brutalize and falsely imprison innocent citizens for several months. 


On July 13, 201, while attending an early religious service in Lagos, I received a telephone call from my son who was being held captive in my house by the Anti-Robbery Squad from the then Inspector General of Police. He told me that the Federal SARS needed me immediately. My apartment was also thoroughly searched before I got home.

On my return, I was promptly arrested, beaten up, my two BlackBerry phones taken from me by policemen who then handcuff me before and whisked me away in the boot of their Toyota Prado vehicle. I was taken to the Lagos State Police Command headquarters in Ikeja, where I was forced to write a statement over the so-called defamation of a private citizen, Emeka Offor. After I wrote the statement, they took me to the Adeniji Adele Special Anti - Robbery Squad cell meant for armed robbers, hired assassins and kidnappers and detained for 7 days. On the eight day, they transferred me to the Agboju Police Station cell where I spent one night before they bundle me into the boot of the same Toyota Prado and drove me all the way to Abuja in chains on July 12, 2013. I was to be detained at the Gariki police station till July 30, 2013.

 Mr President, it is now two years and a half since Mr Justice Peter Afere of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court 25 sitting in Apo, Abuja, on Monday, April 7, 2014, gave judgment in a suit I brought against the then Inspector General of Police, M. D. Abubakar, for gross abuse of my human rights. The learned judge agreed that I was subjected to acute human indignity and I was accordingly awarded five million naira in damages. Though the compensation pales compared with the N50m awarded the immediate past Central Bank governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi who is now the Emir of Kano, by the Federal High Court in Lagos on April 3, 2014, for the harassment suffered at the hands of the secret police which lasted a few hours on February 20, I was nevertheless consoled that an important point has been established by the judicial pronouncement and decision.

Most Nigerians still find it difficult to believe, but it is true that the only offence I was accused of by the police was that I had the effrontery to write an article in an online newspaper published by my townsfolk in which I suggested that the one million dollars pledged by Emeka Offor, the controversial Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain and government contractor from my hometown, to give to Rotary International to fight polio in India and Pakistan should have been utilized to rehabilitate people dying of hunger in our place, or pay off depositors who put all their life savings at Offor’s owned Afex Bank which collapsed in 2006 principally due to unconscionable insider dealings.

The charge of character assassination is intriguing, to put it very mildly. We live in a country where citizens daily and freely criticize top government officials, including you who hold the position of President and Commander in Chief. Why a mere suggestion concerning a private individual should attract this kind of brutal response against me from the police personally assembled by the then IGP remains a mystery. It shows how low Nigeria sank in the Goodluck Jonathan days. Jonathan may not personally have been involved in scandalous acts, but he allowed his officials, friends and contractors to run riot. There was no discipline, no order. Jonathan provided the kind of leaders known in leadership theory as laissez faire leadership. Everyone behaved as he or she liked. No control.
  
As I have already indicated at the beginning of this open letter, Mr President, I was not the only victim of police brutality sanctioned right from the very top during the Jonathan years. My hometown of Oraifite became practically a wasted land –all because the PDP government and the police allowed themselves to be used to make their barely literate contractor and agent feel good. Let me cite a few other instances.

On Thursday, March 27, 2014, the Anambra State Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) arrested Chief Arthur Eugene Nworah, a successful businessman from Oraifite with a base in Onitsha. The team was led by Chief Superintendent Nwafor from the SARS office at Awkuzu in Oyi Local Government Area. Like in my own case, Chief Nworah was denied access to his wife and lawyer for two weeks and kept in a cell for hardened criminals. His sole offence was that he published an article in our local online newspaper narrating how Offor caused him to lose seven 20-feet containers worth N970m to the Customs Service. When he went to court, the police fabricated childish stories claiming that Chief Nworah engaged in kidnapping and gun running. Of course, he was set free by the court, which had harsh words for the police authorities.

SARS operatives arrested and detained three brothers for four months on Offor’s instructions. The three siblings, Ifeanyi, Tochukwu and Chinedu from the Igboanuzue family in Oraifite, were not happy how their sister named Joy died on December 5, 2013, apparently out of neglect. They made their feeling known to their elder brother based at home,Sunday Igboanuzue, an ally of Offor’s in town union politics. They were quickly thrown into solitary confinement for a whole four months till the court ordered their freedom on Friday, March 21, 2014.

SARS men also arrested two cousins, Ifeanyi Nwokolo and Muozube, on Offor’s instructions and threw them into a cell for violent criminals. They were quarrelling over land ownership, and the verbal altercation was near the palatial home of Emeka Offor; the noise was considered capable of disturbing the wealthy government contractor! They were actually forgotten in detention until the court ordered their release. In a similar vein, members of the village Ayaka cultural troupe were arrested by SARS men from the state headquarters and kept in cells for months with tough, callous criminals. Their offence was being suspected of having a hand in a publication in an online town newspaper, which was considered unflattering to Emeka Offor. Yet, these are old village peasant entertainers who can barely read or write. They were left in detention to die until the court came to their rescue.

It is clear that our hometown is not the only place where Offor used the police top hierarchy to settle personal scores. On Thursday, May 1, 2014, The Guardian published a report filed by its correspondent in Awka, Chuks Collins, where the president general of the Oko Town Union in Anambra State, Cyprian Nwammuo, asked IGP Abubakar and the then State Commissioner of Police, Usman Gwary, to stop being Offor’s stooges in the crisis between the governing council of the Federal Polytechnic and its host community. Nwammuo narrated how Offor, a former truck driver with Julius Berger, thoroughly abused the traditional ruler of the town, Professor Laz Ekwueme, a laureate of the Nigerian national Order of Merit (NNOM), the nation’s highest honour for intellectual attainment. According to the town union president, Professor Ekwueme was on April 13, 2014 queried by Offor for having the temerity to challenge the action of a governing council put in place by him! Interestingly, the polytechnic was built personally by Professor Ekwueme’s elder brother, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, and handed over to the government before he became the country’s vice president in 1979.

Our highly respected President, history will be kind to you if you use your good offices to find out how, during the Jonathan presidency, a controversial private individual pocketed the leadership of the Nigeria Police Force and used it to terrorize his own people at Oraifite in Anambra State.

Assurances of our highest regards.

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