100 Days In Office: Enugu Residents Groan Over Task Force Harassment, TortureExclusive Reports, Featured, Latest News Tuesday, September 8th, 2015
By IGNATIUS OKPARA, Enugu – As Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi marks his 1st 100 days in office, residents of Enugu, have expressed worry over alarming rate of harassment and intimidation by multiple government task force.
According to the residents, even though similar government uniform task force existed during the administration of immediate past Governor of the state, Sullivan Chime, they were not as brutal, daring and uncivilised , as being witnessed since Ugwuanyi assumed office.
A civil servant who do not want to be quoted in print told AFRICAN EXAMINER that “frankly speaking, Enugu is now under siege because of what these government armed robbers in uniform are doing to residents.
Also reacting to the development is a Human rights activist, Barrister Olu Omotayo, who noted that “the human rights situation in Enugu continues to deteriorate due to the activities of the two notorious agencies in Enugu State, whose activities and mode of operations are not only barbaric but dangerous to healthy survival of any decent democratic society”.
Omotayo, who is the coordinator, Civil Rights Realisation and Advancement Network (CRRAN), said in a statement he made available to AFRICAN EXAMINER in Enugu monday that “no common man in the society has not in one way or the other suffer in the hands of these agencies which operate with impunity.
“Common man and the middle class in the society groan daily due to the assault on their rights by these agencies.” He stated.
Omotayo, who is also the South East Coordinator of Civil Liberties Organisation, CLO noted that the Federal High Court Sitting in Enugu in the case UKONU V. OGAUKWU, SUIT NO: FHC/EN/M/ 133/2012, presided over by Justice D.V. Agishi gave judgment against the Enugu State Waste Management Authority (ESWAMA), over the torture, humiliation, dehumanization and unlawful detention of a citizen Miss Nma Ukonu.
He added that “The Learned Judge further held that the fact that ESWAMA officials were agents and workers of the Enugu-State government, did not justify their actions in slapping, kicking, dragging and further ordering the detention of the applicant, on the ground that the organization she works with has not paid waste management fee
Explained Omotayo: “The Court further held that the argument of the lawyer to ESWAMA, that the agency was acting under Section 28(1) of ESWAMA Law, Cap 75, of the Revised Law of Enugu State 2004, cannot justify the infringement.
“The right to personal liberty of every Nigerian citizen is fully guaranteed under our Constitution.
“This right is almost sacrosanct and can only be curtailed as strictly provided for in the Constitution. Section 35 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) provides:
Every person is entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure permitted by law.”
The Court held that the acts of deprivation, torture, intimidation and unlawful detention and inhuman treatment meted on Miss Nma, without her committing any offence known to the law constitute a grave violation of her fundamental rights and awarded N500,000 (Five hundred thousand naira) damages against ESWAMA, its’ then director Mrs Ogaukwu and Mr. Nnamani. With the judgment we thought that the agency will change positively in its’ operations but alas the reverse is the case.
Based on the above court judgement, Omotayo maintained that “the impunity, with which ESWAMA agents carried out their operations on Wednesday 2nd September 2015, portends danger to democracy.
“The most important dividend of democracy is respect for human rights. Our officials who monitored the assault from morning till evening stated how the thugs employed by the agency dragged, slapped beat up males, females, old and young before dragging them into their buses for onward transmission to ESWAMA office where they were detained in a fenced barbed wired enclosure within the ESWAMA premises.
The relatives of the detained victims were then made to pay for the fees charged and also pay penalty of N10, 000 (ten thousand naira) to bail the detainees.
“On a personal visit to the office on the day of the incident, at around 7pm, I still met a lot of people at this unlawful detention site and people were coming to secure bail for their relatives.
“A pathetic case of a lady named Ngozi Chukwu, who was released at around 7:30 pm before I left is worth mentioning. Her employer showed me all the receipt of payment of all dues she had paid, including the so called ESWAMA bucket; she was not in default, but these ESWAMA agents still dragged the lady to their office and said since she has been brought to their office the employer must pay penalty of N10,000.”
He added that “Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority (ECTDA) officials on their own part have made Enugu road unsafe as they normally chased perceived road offenders which had on many occasions led to fatal accidents.
“Example could be seen in the case of Barrister Chibuzo Crownwell who narrowly missed death when a commercial bus being chased by ECTDA officials ran into its vehicle at Okpara Avenue and damaged it beyond repairs.
“It is only in Enugu that ECTD officials will insists that Amber light of traffic light means stop.
“Despite public outcry the state government has closed its’ eyes and reasoning to these anomalies.”
He, therefore demanded for an “immediate intervention of the state government to stop these atrocities of its’ agents.
“The state government should obey the decision of the Federal High Court Enugu in UKONU V. OGAUKWU, SUIT NO: FHC/EN/M/ 133/2012; and ordered these agencies to respect the fundamental rights of the citizens in their operations.
“Immediate removal of Mr. Nnamani the head of operations of ESWAMA, who the Federal High Court condemned his attack and dehumanization of Miss. Uma Ukonu, as he still persisted and leads the continuous assault on the innocent citizens of Enugu State under the guise of collecting revenue for the state.
Apart from Omotayo, most residents of the State say they now drive round the City in fear.
According to Mr. Mike Obi, “Enugu is gradually becoming something else for motorists.
” You see all kinds of men on uniform stationed in every nook and cranny of the State. You can’t imagine that they now arrest people for answering call inside their vehicles while waiting at the traffic light; I’m not aware that we now have Enugu State Road Safety Corps.
“In Nike Road, they even arrest people for overtaking vehicles.
“They arrest people for driving in ‘certain ways’. Inside the metropolis here, they arrest people for making calls; they arrest people for driving on amber light; these things are unheard of. So, you can see that these men are on the loose and government should do something about it.”
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