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.

Few days ago, we addressed the disturbing phenomenon of heightened state of targeted attacks of opposition politicians allegedly by armed goons loyal to the Ebonyi State governor Mr. Dave Umahi.

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 bur 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.

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 some 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 have 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 “recognising, parading or continuing to recognise 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.”

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 judgement of the court of competent jurisdiction, the Ebonyi State governor is said to have forwarded 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 evident that Ebubeagu is still armed, intelligence reaching us alleges that certain persons are currently stock piling 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, 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 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 peaceful poll to happen.

HURIWA Hails Disbandment Of Ebubeagu, Give Umahi 48 Hours To Discontinue Attacks On Opponents:

Civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, (HURIWA), on Monday, commended the disbandment of the South-East security outfit, Ebubeagu, in Ebonyi State by a Federal High Court in Abakaliki last week.

HURIWA, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, lamented that Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi has turned the state security outfit which was supposed to protect the residents of the state against oppression by armed herders, amongst other marauders, to a political attack dog to oppress and repress opponents and non-members of the ruling All Progressives Congress in Ebonyi State.

The group issued a 48-hour ultimatum to Umahi to discontinue attacks mischievously targeted at political opponents in the state or he gets ready for a mass action at the Embassies of Western Nations to make urgent demands for action to impose visa restrictions on him and his family for undermining democracy and freedom of association in Ebonyi State, Nigeria’s South-East geopolitical zone.

The court on Tuesday had ruled that the disbandment of Ebubeagu 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 some 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 court declared that the establishment of Ebonyi State Ebubeagu Security Agency was unconstitutional, null and void and said 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.

Cases abound of political intolerance in Ebonyi by state-sponsored police and Ebubeage officers. The police once dispersed Peter Obi’s supporters during a solidarity march in Abakaliki mid-September. As you may know, Peter Obi is the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party.

The Labour Party candidate for the Oyi constituency at the Anambra State House of Assembly, Mr Obinna Okafor, once accused Umahi, of sponsoring the “attack” carried out on the supporters of Peter Obi.

In January, an All Progressives Grand Alliance supporter in Ebonyi State, Amobi Ujar was allegedly framed up and beaten to a pulp by members of the Ebubeagu Security Outfit in Enugu.

Abakiliki-based journalists like Godfrey Chikwere, Peter Okutu, Agwu Chijioke, amongst others were all arrested and victimised by the governor using state-sponsored security agencies.

Labour Party candidate for the Ebonyi South District, Linus Okorie, has been repeatedly victimised, abducted, arrested and remanded through state-sponsored security agents.

Also, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, in Ebonyi State, Prof. Benard Odoh recently called on security agencies and Nigerians to hold Governor Umahi, responsible for any violence that might occur in the ongoing campaign rally of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in council headquarters.

This is after his driver and police orderly were killed a few days ago at Rest House, Okpoto community in Ishielu LGA, when gunmen ambushed his (Odoh) convoy.

Commenting, HURIWA’s Onwubiko said, “The verdict of the court disbanding Ebubeagu is a welcome development, going by the rights violations and political oppression that the governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi has used the security outfit to perpetrate.

“Apparently, Umahi, whose eight-year tenure as governor ends on May 31, and who is a senatorial candidate of the APC for the district, had of late used Ebubeagu to intimidate political opponents in the state.

“We blame Umahi for misusing and abusing state powers by converting Ebubeagu vigilantes that ought to work for the people of Ebonyi into political attack dogs of Ebonyi governor. His persistent penchant for attacking political opponents even after we petitioned the Western embassies to request that Ebonyi governor and his family members are banned from travelling to Europe and USA is legendary.

“We have already urged the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba to change the Police Commissioner in the state, Aliyu Garba for alleged complicity and for reportedly working in cahoots with the Ebonyi State governor, and the ruling All Progressives Congress in the state to terrorise opposition parties.

“Due to the anti-democratic tendencies in open display in Ebonyi which deserves international condemnation because of the heightened levels of threats to the lives of political opposition politicians in the state, HURIWA had on February 10, petitioned the United States Embassy and other Western Nations in the country to press for visa restriction against Governor Umahi since there is no significant improvement in the respect to the fundamental human rights of all politicians irrespective of affiliations.

“It is on record that Governor Umahi, out of intolerance for political opponents in the state, directed the police and other security agencies to withdraw orderlies and security details from candidates of political parties, directors-general party officials other than the APC.

“HURIWA gives the governor 48 hours ultimatum to discontinue these attacks or we mobilise the civil society all over Nigeria for protest to the Embassies of Western Nations to make urgent demands for action on our request to them on Ebonyi governor.”