Indiscriminate Arrests: Enugu community voices concern about court contempt, IGP order

The residents of the Amechi-Uwani village in the Enugu South Local Government Area of Enugu State have leveled accusations of impunity and disobedience to a court order against the police department in relation to problems concerning a long-running land dispute in the community.

Anxiety spread throughout the village after the recent arrest of two of its community leaders, Ozor Onukwube Ogbodo and Mr. Okwudili Agah. The two men were allegedly picked up by the operatives of the police Tactical squad in Enugu and imprisoned at the Awkunanaw Divisional office in Garriki on a trump up charge, which caused the community to become anxious.

Journalists were told by leaders of the Amechi Uwani community that the indiscriminate arrest of members of their community was a violation of an order of the Enugu State High Court issued by Justice U.J Mogboh against the Enugu state commissioner of police, Private Estate International West Africa limited, Kingsley Okah (also known as Evergreen), and Digital Crypto limited. The order was issued against the Enugu state commissioner of police, Private Estate International West Africa limited, and Evergreen

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The community also contended that the arrest was in defiance to the order of the Inspector General of Police, generally known as the IGP. The IGP had issued an express order for the Zone 13 headquarters of the police, which is located in Ukpo, Anambra state, to handle all things relating to the issue rather than the Enugu command. The community believed that this order had been disobeyed when the arrest took place.

Counsel to the community, Obinna Ugwu, submitted a petition to the Chairman of the Police Service Commission, PSC, in which he bemoaned the fact that some police officers in the Enugu state command (the Tactical Squad commander) had overstayed their welcome in the command and had become authorities in their own right to the extent that they could no longer obey either the court or the IGP.

On behalf of the Amechi-Uwani community, Ugwu pleaded with the Police Service Commission to reassign some of the police officers who were reportedly siding with the corporation and a previous Governor of Enugu state. The allegations against these officers claim that they were supporting the company.

According to Ugwu, some of the police officers have been stationed at the Enugu command for more than ten to twenty years, and this is a mandate for any commissioner of police who is posted to the state.

Additionally, it was alleged that the respondents in the case had given the impacted police officers significant tracts of property as a reward for their service.

Ugwu said in his petition for the release of the community members who had been arrested that “these officers who have overstayed in Enugu state police command have become so emboldened that they are always against everything the Nigeria police stands for.” Ugwu’s petition was submitted while he was asking for the release of the arrested community members.

They stated that the officers “carried out an indiscriminate and mass arrest of some of the indigenous people of our client’s communities who are perceived to be obstacles to the activities of land grabbers, detained and falsely accused them of abduction, even when it is clear as crystal that these indigenous people are not involved in any crime or abduction,” despite the fact that the Zone 13 headquarters was seized of every complaint and investigation of our client’s land.

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