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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Violence against political opposition in Ebonyi has escalated – HURIWA

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Leading Civil Rights Advocacy Group:-HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has noted with satisfaction that the court system of Nigeria has just demonstrated that it is still the voice of the common man.

It said that a few days ago, it addressed the disturbing phenomenon of the heightened state of targeted attacks on opposition politicians allegedly by armed goons loyal to the Ebonyi State governor, Mr. Dave Umahi.

It said, “We specifically spoke about the consequences of the conspiracy between the then police commissioner and the Ebubeagu vigilantes to target opposition politicians and to make the state uncomfortable for them to organize their campaigns preparatory for the election coming up in six days’ time.

“Since after our last media conference, the Inspector General of Police swiftly transferred the said Police Commissioner but conducted no internal investigation to punish him for breaching his policing ethics just as the Federal High Court acting on a matter instituted by a political victim of attacks by Ebubeagu, successfully got the Federal High Court to invoke its power and disband the notorious Ebubeagu armed vigilantes.”

It would be recalled that the Federal High Court in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, on Tuesday last week, disbanded the South-East security outfit, Ebubeagu, in the state.

The disbandment, it was noted, was as a consequence of several alleged human rights abuses, extortion, illegal arrest and illegal use of firearms by the security outfit.

The court ordered the Ebonyi State Government to, as a matter of urgency, pay the sum of N50,000,000 to a former Commissioner for Information in the state, Chief Abia Onyike, who the security outfit, in November 2022, allegedly abducted and tortured for over two hours in the state.

The plaintiff had, through his counsel, Micheal Odo, approached Justice Riman Fatun, asking that the court should determine “whether the Ebonyi State House of Assembly has the constitutional powers to enact the Ebonyi State Ebebuagu Security Agency Law No. 005 of 2021, having regard to the provisions of item No. 45 of the Second Schedule (Exclusive Legislative List) in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and the National Security Agencies Act (Cap. N78) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.”

He contended that his arrest, detention and torture by men of the regional security outfit on November 11, 2022 was unlawful.

Delivering judgment on Tuesday, the court declared that the establishment of Ebonyi State Ebubeagu Security Agency was unconstitutional, null and void.

The judge declared the Ebonyi State Ebubeagu Security Agency and the Ebonyi State Ebubeagu Corps had no powers to mount roadblocks on federal highways and major roads in Ebonyi State.

The court ordered that personnel of the security outfit be disarmed.

It equally issued an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants, their agents, servants, and privies from “recognizing, parading or continuing to recognize or parade any person or persons as a state or regional security outfit in the guise of Ebubeagu Security Agency or Ebonyi State Ebubeagu Corps.”

But right through said, “Sadly, the Ebonyi State government is alleged not to have complied by the decision of the Federal High Court and has so far not disarmed or neither has the Nigeria Police Force respected the binding verdict of the court to disarm the armed goons of the Ebonyi State governor operating under the auspices of Ebubeagu.

“It is reported that instead of complying with the binding judgment of the court of competent jurisdiction, the Ebonyi State governor is said to have forwarded a fresh bill asking for the reconstitution of similar armed vigilantes like the Ebubeagu that suffered a bloodied nose before the court of law which has the judicial powers of the federation in line with section 6 of the 1999 Constitution.

“Even as it is evident that Ebubeagu is still armed, intelligence reaching us alleges that certain persons are currently stockpiling weapons within the old government house Abakiliki Ebonyi State with the aim of harming opposition politicians.

“We call on the National Security Adviser, the Chief of Army Staff, and the Inspector General of Police to rapidly investigate this allegation and if credible, these weapons being stored in the aforementioned Ebonyi State government housing asset should be confiscated by the Federal Government of Nigeria so as to create a peaceful atmosphere for the election to take place.

“We urge the NSA, IGP to immediately commence the disarming of the notorious Ebubeagu in Ebonyi State.

“In conclusion, therefore, we use this opportunity to give the Ebonyi State governor 48 hours to respect the law by allowing free, fair, peaceful political atmosphere in the state or we will escalate our advocacy campaigns to the embassies of western Countries through peaceful assembly/protest to further reinforce our earlier petitions to them demanding travel ban against Ebonyi State governor and members of his family and close political affiliates who are not allowing peace to reign in Ebonyi State for a peaceful poll to happen.”

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