By Yemisi Izuora-Lagos
The Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN) a network of 46 civil society organizations spread across Nigeria, and committed to promoting police accountability and respect for human rights has petitioned the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to urgently intervene in the matter of incessant police harassment and intimidation, allegedly masterminded by one Nze Chukwuma Nwachukwu and his cohort in their inordinate quest to subvert the democratic will of members of Amaohuru Nguru Autonomous Community in Aboh Mbaise LGA, Imo State as freely expressed through their election of Professor Mark Odu as their Eze (Traditional Ruler).
According to the national co-ordinator of the NOPRIN, Okechukwu Nwanguma, the said Nze Chukwuma Nwachukwu is accused of exploiting his illicit ‘police connection’ and resorting to banditry, including the use of hired thugs against his community in his desperate bid to terrorise the community into submission and acquiescence to his imposition of an unpopular man as the traditional ruler of the community.
Nwanguma said that members of Amaohuru Nguru Community have accused the said Nze Chukwuma Nwachukwu and others of attempting to foist on them one Mr. Anthony Anyanwu as their traditional ruler against their choice of Professor Mark Odu as Eze elect of their community.
‘NOPRIN is particularly concerned by the alleged biased role being played by the police in the dispute which is capable of exacerbating the crisis.
The police are expected to be neutral, impartial, unbiased and fair arbiters in any dispute. In their intervention in community or other disputes, the police are not supposed to take sides with any party in the dispute. If and when the police are perceived or seen as having taken sides, especially under apparent inducement by one side, it further corrodes public confidence and reinforces public mistrust of the police. It exacerbates tension, encourages self-help, festers the dispute and leads to a breakdown of law and order. This is the unfortunate scenario playing out in Amaohuru community at the moment. Everything must be done urgently, by people of good will, to rescue the otherwise peaceful community from this drift’ he said.
‘Therefore, NOPRIN hereby requests the IGP to call to order the CP Imo and the AIG Zone 9, Umuahia by prevailing on them to ensure that officers and men under their commands conduct themselves in ways that will not portray the police as not only biased but also ‘available for hire’ by those who are driven by their inordinate ambition and illicit control and use of state institutions and power to perpetrate illegality’ he charged.
Nwanguma disclosed that NOPRIN’s investigations reveal that Professor Mark Odu, an Estate Surveyor and Valuer and resident native of Amaohuru Nguru, Aboh Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo State is the Eze Elect of Amaohuru Nguru Autonomous Community, Aboh Mbaise.
He was elected the Eze on the 24th of August, 2013 as shown by a copy of the 2013 Ezeship election result sheet. Upon his election as Eze, he was issued with a certificate of return. He was elected in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution on the Selection and Identification of Eze in Amaohuru Autonomous Community, Aboh Mbaise LGA, Imo State, he stated.
‘One Nze Chukwuma Nwachukwu, a retired permanent Secretary of Imo State Government has resolved to dictate who would be Eze of the community against the will of the majority members of the community. He is using every means available to him to foist on the community one Mr. Anthony Anyanwu who did not participate in the Ezeship election and whom the overwhelming majority of the community has resoundingly rejected as their Eze.
Eze elect, Professor Mark Odu was presented to the relevant government authorities and he concluded documentation with relevant government authorities awaiting recognition and presentation of staff of office.
Consequent upon Prof. Mark Odu’s election as Eze of Amaohuru Nguru, Mr. Anthony Anyanwu instituted an action at the Aboh Mbaise High Court in Suit No.: HAM/42/2013 Anthony Anyanwu Vs Jude O. Njoku and 6ors challenging the outcome of the election. The suit is still pending’.
According to him, Despite the pendency of the suit, Mr. Anthony Anyanwu and his group have been harassing, molesting, hounding and intimidating the Eze elect and other leaders of the community with incessant arrests.
Eze Reginald Amadi who is the traditional Ruler of Obetiti Nguru, a different community and who for dubious and self-serving reasons is aiding the minority who are opposing the Eze Elect, Prof. Mark Odu has boasted at various fora that he, alongside Nze Chukwuma Nwachukwu, Mr. Anthony Anyanwu and Chief Christopher Umunnakwe will deal with the Eze Elect since the Commissioner of Police, Imo State Command, Abdulmajid Ali takes instruction from him.
Shortly after this threat by Eze Reginald Amadi, Eze Elect Prof. Mark Odu was arrested and detained at the Imo State Police Headquarters for no established crime. The police detained him for four days in flagrant breach of his constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights to personal liberty, human dignity and due process of the law. The police extorted the sum of one hundred thousand naira before releasing him on bail after four days of unlawful detention under dehumanising conditions.
Sometime in July 2014 Nze Chukwuma Nwachukwu incidented a false report of arson against the Eze elect to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the IGP referred the matter to Zone 9 Police Headquarters, Umuahia. After investigation, Zone 9 found that Nze Nwachukwu’s petition was frivolous and advised the parties to go home and make peace since the matter (Ezeship tussle) was civil.
Consequent upon the finding by Zone 9 that Nze Chukwuma Nwachukwu gave false information to the police, the leadership of Amaohuru Community, through their lawyer, J.N. Nwawudu Esq. wrote a cross petition to the IGP demanding that Nze Chukwuma Nwachukwu be charged for false information. The IGP again referred the matter to Zone 9, Umuahia. Zone 9 consolidated the two reports and on 15th September 2014 after police interview advised the parties to go home and make peace.
Surprisingly, sometime in November 2014, the same Zone 9 Umuahia at the behest of Nze Chukwuma Nwachukwu made a volte face and arraigned the Eze Elect Prof. Mark Odu and 18 other community members at the Aboh Mbaise Chief Magistrate Court in AM/56c/2014 in COP Vs Prof Mark Odu and 18ors and COP Vs Prof Mark Odu. The plea was taken in the charge on 10/12/2014 and the matter is still pending.
Surprisingly again in the wee hours of Saturday 6th December, 2014 and Sunday 7th December, 2014 Nze Chukwuma Nwachukwu, Mr. Anthony Anyanwu, Eze Reginald Amadi and Chief Christopher Umunnakwe invaded Amaohuru community with truck-load of thugs and unleashed mayhem on the community in their attempt to coronate Mr. Anthony Anyanwu as the Eze of the community. The community resisted and foiled this attempt. Consequent upon this, the Eze Elect, Prof Mark Odu and other community leaders, through their lawyer, J.N. Nwanwudu Esq. petitioned the AIG Zone 9 Umuahia and copied the Commissioner of Police, Imo State and the DPO Aboh Mbaise Division. However, on each occasion, the police overlooked their complaints, thereby compromising in their duty of being the unbiased umpire.
Shockingly, in the early hours of Friday, 12th December, 2014 a team of policemen numbering 30 with 5 Hilux Vans from Imo State Police Headquarters, Owerri in a commando style invaded the house of Eze Elect, Prof Mark Odu and arrested him. All efforts made by his counsel J.N. Nwawudu Esq. to secure his bail was rebuffed by the Commissioner of Police, Imo State and other police officers at the CID Imo State Police Headquarters Owerri who were involved in the arrest.
Although he was granted bail after 4 days (from Friday 12th December to Monday 15th December), the police continued to invite him with a view to extorting more money from him after they had extorted the initial sum of one hundred thousand naira to grant him bail.
The police never informed the Eze elect Prof. Mark Odu- either during his arrest or throughout the duration of his unlawful detention at the CID Imo State Police Headquarters- of any crime he may have committed to warrant his arrest, humiliation and detention under very dehumanising conditions or the reason a well-known man of his social standing could be treated like a common criminal.
It is instructive to note that one of the senior police officers at Imo State Police headquarters acting at the behest of Nze Chukwuma Nwachukwu, the chief mastermind of the police harassment, is one ASP Reginald Udunze. The said ASP Reginald Udunze and Nze Chukwuma Nwachukwu belong to the same ‘Amala Social Club of Nigeria’.
NOPRIN therefore told the IGP that the situation in Amoaohuru Nguru community is quite palpably tensed and the people are unanimous in their resolve. They are at red alert to identify any stranger and to confront any force that may attempt to move against their popular will and resolve.
The police must ensure that they remain neutral and avoid provocative actions that may cause the situation in the community to degenerate into violence and consequent loss of lives and property.
NOPRIN also requests the IGP to direct the CP Imo and AIG Zone 9, Umuahia to guarantee the protection and safety of Eze elect Prof. Mark Odu from any form of harm. This request has become imperative considering the desperation, lawlessness and propensities for violence by Nze Chukwuma Nwachukwu and his cohort, particularly, Eze Reginald Amadi who is a well known person of doubtful character prior to his controversial emergence as the traditional ruler in Nguru. They exhibited their violent dispositions on December 6 and 7 when they stormed the community with truckload of thugs and attempted to install their surrogate Mr. Anthony Anyanwu as Eze just two days after the CP Imo had advised Eze elect Prof. Mark Odu to suspend his Ezeship coronation which had been fixed for December 12.
The disposition of the CP Imo also became manifestly clear when he stood aloof as Mr. Anthony Anyanwu, a man who was not elected by his community and who could not wait for the court to determine his action challenging the Ezeship election, organised and attempted to have himself coronated even after he (the CP) had advised the legitimate Eze elect to suspended his coronation, he said.
He said there are matters currently before the courts. Therefore, NOPRIN calls on the IGP to direct the police authorities in Imo State and Zone 9, Umuahia to prioritise peace, justice and security and avoid pandering to or serving any narrow interest, while the courts determine and decide on the pending issues.