Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
A flurry of petitions by Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) against the Nigerian Army, Navy, Nigerian Police and the Department of State Security (DSS) over extra-judicial killings, human rights abuses, brutality and illegal detention of citizens appear to depict signs of the times.
Three civil society organisations, Rule of Law, Accountability and Advocacy Center (RULAAC), Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety), yesterday, petitioned the Nigerian Army, Navy and other security agencies over alleged human rights abuses.
Intersociety faulted Nigerian Army’s claim that troops killed an IPOB/ESN Commander.
It said in a statement titled: “How Nigerian Army Disrupted Christmas Eve Church Services and Movements At Egudene-Nkanu, Killed Two and Arrested a 40 year-old Mason and Labeled Him “ESN Commander”, that contrary to a statement issued on Monday, December 27, 2021, in Enugu by the Nigerian Army through its Director of Public Relations, Brig Gen Onyema Nwachukwu that “it arrested a wanted notorious ESN Commander in Enugu State”, it was a far cry from what actually transpired in Egudene-Ekpofu in Nkanu East of Enugu State, where the army claimed to have conducted its “clearance” operation.
According to the group, “As a matter of fact, the Nigerian Army cooked up the statement to cover backlash and outcries arising from its murderous operation of the night of 24th/25th December 2021 at the Egudene-Ekpofu; a third operation and invasion in the row since the start of 2021”, the alleged group in the statement by Mr. Emeka Umeagbalasi.
Continuing, it said, “By a detailed investigation carried out by the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law and contrary to the Nigerian Army claims, the so called ‘ESN Commander’, identified by the Army as ‘Godwin Nnamdi’, is a 40 year-old mason and struggling father of two children.
“His true name is Citizen Godwin Nnaji (not Godwin Nnamdi). He is a 40-year-oldand hails from Umuode Ega Kindred of Egudene in Ajame Amaeze Autonomous Community, Ekpofu in Nkanu East, Enugu State. He is unarmed and never used offensive violence. He is a mason by occupation, who struggles to feed himself, his wife and two children,” it said.
There’s another petition to the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, titled “Arrest, Brutality, Ill-treatment and Incommunicado Detention of Members of the Coastal Safety and Awareness Initiative of Nigeria by Officials of the Nigerian Navy and Denial of Access to their Families and Lawyers by officials of the NNS BEECROFT APAPA, in Contravention of Due Process Safeguard Under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
RULAAC, in the petition signed by its Executive Director, Mr Okechukwu Nwangwuma, said “their organisation has the following specific objectives, to wit, search and rescue operations, preservation of healthy and sustainable environment and coastal safety and security, among others.”
The group said the detainees “are a civilian organisation and should not be detained at a military facility and that assuming, without conceding, that they have committed any offence under any Nigerian law, they should be referred to the police for proper investigation and appropriate treatment according to the law, rather than being indefinitely detained at a naval facility and denied access to their families and legal representatives”.
In a separate petition addressed to the Director-General of the Department of State Security (DSS), Mr Yusuf Bichi by CISLAC titled” Intimidation, and Profiling of Civil Society Groups During The Yuletide,” it stated that on Monday, December 27, 2021, operatives of your agency, the Department of State Security Services (DSS) stormed the premises of our office, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, the National Chapter of Transparency
International, TI Nigeria at No 16 POW Mafemi Crescent, Off Solomon Lar Way, Jabi.
“Laying siege, the operatives demanded to see the chief security officer of the building. On learning about this, our initial thought was that these were individuals masquerading as DSS agents considering the fact that this was not just during the holiday period, but it was on a day declared as a public holiday by the federal government of Nigeria,” it said.
The petition signed by the Executive Director of CISLAC, Mr. Auwal Ibrahim Rafsanjani, said “this thought was further reinforced by the fact that there was no prior notice, invitation or pending request from your office regarding any of such visit. However, when we put a call through to the number dropped with our office security personnel, an individual further confirmed that he was an agent of your agency providing details of his position.
“Sir, considering recent activities of criminals using official security covers to perpetrate wanton criminalities in the recent past, we want you to use your good office to investigate those who carried out this visit and for what purpose(s). We will also request that you all these operatives to order and charge them to be civil in their approach and not militarise our nascent democracy”, the petition said.
Reacting to the petition, Spokesman of DSS, Dr. Peter Afunanya, queried the petition, saying, “What facts does the letter have? Is it enough to conclude that because some people came to a place, therefore, they were DSS? Had there been similar false alarms against the DSS in the past?” he queried.
RULAAC had also petitioned the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Usman Baba, urging him to investigate cases of extra-judicial killings in Imo State. It alleged that extrajudicial killings were carried out in the state police command in flagrant violation of the Police Act and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.