21st January, 2020
The governor of Rivers State,
Rivers State Government,
Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
CC: Hon. Attorney General of Rivers State,
Attorney General Chambers,
Ministry of Justice,
Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
A PETITION AGAINST THE CONTINUOUS VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS BY THE EAGLE CRACK UNIT OF THE RIVERS STATE POLICE COMMAND
Civil Rights Council writes to condemn the continuous abuse of the right to life and the right to the dignity of the human person by the officers of the Eagle Crack Unit who employ extreme torture on detainees – the recent case being the alleged extrajudicial killing of Chima Ikwunado while he was illegally held in detention.
Civil Rights Council is a community based human rights organisation with branches across the country. Our interests are in the promotion of human rights, the rule of law and the advancement of democratic ethos in Nigeria. In doing this, we join our collective strength to seek justice and address societal wrongs against the citizens of this nation and to raise awareness, complain and advocate against human rights abuses and likely human rights infringements by acts of private persons or acts of the government.
On this note, we bring your attention to the disturbing cases of human rights infringements by officers of the Eagle Crack Unit, in particular, the extreme torture, abuse and intimidation of detainees by the Eagle Crack Unit. We have prior to this letter petitioned the Commissioner of Police complaining about the lack of respect for the sanctity of life by officers of the Eagle Crack Unit but it is unfortunate that these officers still go about breaching the law with no single regard for human life. The officers involve torture detainees to obtain confessions and go to the extent of inflicting cutlass wounds on persons to obtain admission to whatever crime suits them. It is regrettable that nothing has been done to bring a stop this nuisance and the violations have risen from torture of detainees to the alleged killing of detainees. We would like to present you with the facts of some cases we have followed up.
The first case Civil Rights Council intervened in was the case of Mr. Emmanuel Irere who was arrested on the 27th of July, 2019 at Nanka Waterfront in Mile 1 Diobu. Mr. Emmanuel Irere was accused of possessing Indian hemp because, according to the officers, he smelt of it. Despite not having any in his possession, he was arrested and asked to pay N50,000 for his bail. He was detained for 5 days until Civil Rights Council interfaced with the Commander of the Eagle Crack, SP Benson Adetuyi and secured his release.
The second case was the arrest of one Uche Brown Orukwo, a resident of Ekwulobia, Mile 3 Diobu, Port Harcourt on August 26th, 2019. The Eagle Crack police unit after arresting him maintained that he was not in their custody even after detaining him for two weeks. In fact, Omoni Nnamdi, spokesperson of the Police went on radio (Rhythm 93.7FM) on the 7th of September 2019 to say that Uche Brown Orukwo was never arrested by the Police. Following a petition by Civil Rights Council to the Commissioner of Police, CP Danduara Mustapha, the Eagle Crack Unit later accepted having him in their custody and hurriedly arraigned him in Magistrate Court on allegations of conspiracy to commit cultism all alone. He was granted bail on the 13th December 2019 and was released from prison on the 3rd of January 3, 2020.
Solomon Cletus, Micheal Ikeji and Opuwari Biibiora were arrested in October, 2019 in front of their compound at Manilla Pepple Street, D/Line, Port Harcourt and taken to the Eagle Crack station. They were tortured, inflicted cutlass wounds and forced to confess that they were kidnappers when they were not. They were later released after spending 4 days in detention without water and food.
The recent and most disheartening case is the torture of Chima Ikwunado which led to his death. Chima and four of the boys (Victor Ogbonna, Osaze Friday, Ifeanyi Osuji, Ifeanyi Onyekwere) that worked at his mechanic were arrested on the 19th of December, 2019 for running one way on traffic. They were testing a car they had just fixed. They were arrested by the Police who demanded a bribe to release them but when they did not heed to their demands, they changed and took them to the station and accused them of robbing the car they were testing. They tortured one of the boys into accepting that they robbed the car however, when the owner of the car went to the station he assured the Police that he dropped off his car at Chima’s mechanic shop for repairs. The boy on seeing the owner of the car also retracted his confession saying he was forced into admitting they robbed the car. Despite this, the Police did not release them and kept on torturing them until Chima allegedly died in their custody. To cover up their atrocities, the Police refused to provide the Chima’s corpse, noting that he was “at large” and after much heat, issued a statement through the PPRO, Nnamdi Omoni that Chima died of high sugar level.
This level of inhumanity and injustice is unacceptable anywhere on earth, not even in war. It goes against the spirit of the law and gravely contravenes the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the law upon which other laws derive their essence. The provisions of Chapter IV of the Constitution, specifically Section 33 provides that “every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life”. Section 34(a) also provides against torture thus:
“Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly –
no person shall be subject to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment”.
To emphasis the importance of protecting the rights of individuals against torture, the federal government of Nigeria passed a law to complement the constitutional provisions against torture, the Anti-Torture Act, 2017. The Act in condemning torture provided in Section 3 that no exceptional circumstance whatsoever may be invoked as a justification for torture. For further clarification the Act in Section 2 explained torture and states thus:
“Torture is deemed committed when an act by which pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person to;
obtain information or a confession from him or a third person
punish him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed
intimidate or coerce him or a third person for any reason based on discrimination of any kind
when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity, provided that it does not include pain or suffering in compliance with lawful sanction.”
It is clear that the Anti-Torture Act is directed at security operatives to ensure that the rights of suspects, detainees and prisoners are respected and protected from abuse by officers of the law. The Police, particularly the Eagle Crack Unit in Rivers State are in gross violation of this law and the Constitution and have conducted themselves in a manner unbefitting of law officers whose first responsibility is administering the law.
We appreciate the position of the governor as the Chief Security Officer of the state and also appreciate your stance on the maintenance of law and order in Rivers state. Thus, we seek your immediate action on the lawlessness and impunity that has now characterized the Police in Rivers State. The Police should be investigated and purged of dishonorable officers. Those found wanting made to face their crime. No one should have to die in the hands of the Police who are charged with the responsibly of protecting them.
We also request the keen attention of the Attorney General on arrests made by the Police and ensure that persons arrested are brought to court within a reasonable time as stipulated in Section35(5) of the Constitution.
Please, give heed to our request in the interest of the people you represent.
Thanks for your anticipated co-operation.
Mercy Christopher, Esq. Legal Adviser
Arochukwu Paul Ogbonna Esq. National Coordinator