October 21, 2021

Army, police allegedly dehumanize journalists, disperse #EndSARS anniversary procession in Enugu



By Dennis Agbo

A combined team of security personnel, made up of the Nigeria Army and the police, on Wednesday, dehumanized journalists who were on duty to cover peaceful processions by a coalition of civil society organisations and youths commemorating the one year anniversary of the EndSARS protest in Enugu.

BBC report, Ebere Ekeopara told Vanguard that she and her cameraman were commandeered by the riot team in 14 security vans to sit on the main road, while their camera, microphone and other working equipment were confiscated by the officials.

Similarly, the leader of the Enugu youth organization, Mr. Success Obum said they were equally maltreated, arrested and disbanded. Obum however said they were later released after police interrogation.

In the same vein, a coalition of civil society, Workers and Human Right Defenders were equally frustrated from holding a memorial procession in honour of victims of police brutality and ENDSARS protests.

Convener of the coalition, Comrade Osmond Ugwu said the owner of a private facility they wanted to use was intimidated by the police into not allowing them to use the facility at a late hour.

Ugwu, who is a member of the Enugu State Judiciary Panel of Inquiry on Police Brutality and other Related Extra-Judiciary killings, lamented that the panel is yet to conclude it’s sitting, one year after the panel was inaugurated.

Ugwu disclosed that the committee received 147 petitions but adopted only 64, adding that the Chairman and secretary of the panel did not allow other members of the panel to discharge their mandate.

“The Chairman and Secretary frustrated us. No investigation was made, we were stampeded at the panel and we never heard from any witness, the chairman did not allow us to invite any witness. We only moved from adoption to conclusion. The chairman and secretary of the panel did not allow us to apply the law on how to carry out the function,” Ugwu revealed.

He further disclosed that the indicated or accused police officers never appeared before the panel.

“In other words, over 40 petitioners were not given a fair hearing. Some petitions, such as the ones sent via email were never brought before the panel. The Governor directed the secretary to do the right thing but he never did. I was denied access to over 120 petitions.

“The panel is yet to submit report whereas we were given August 2021 to do that. The secretary refused to tell us when the panel will wind up after he claimed to have obtained extension of time. So much money was provided for the panel but is unspent. The petitioners were never communicated which made them unable to appear before the panel. We were given papers to write reports without investigation,” Ugwu disclosed.

He noted that what would have been remembered at Wednesday’s botched procession were the brutalities that people suffered at the hands of security agencies, regretting that all the recommendations by the federal government on how to curtail human rights violation have not been implemented since no victim of police brutality has received compensation.

“In Enugu today, what triggered the protest has not changed. The level of inhuman treatment given to individuals are indeed still with us, if not worse. Democracy is still far fetched, what we are facing today is outright anarchy and dictatorship. These are contrary to the reorientation that was supposed to come after the protests and disbandment of SARS. In the final analysis, we the people should retake the spirit of fighting for freedom.”

In his own contribution, the Executive Director of Civil Liberty Organization, Comrade Ibuchukwu Ezike said he expected the attitude of the Nigerian police to have changed since the country’s return to democracy, but that has not been the case.

“It is for us to rise as a people to reclaim what belongs to us since the politicians have failed to secure these rights of citizens. The police can no longer rely on the public order act because it is no more, so the best thing for Nigerians to do now is to reorganize themselves. The same intimidation during the military regimes are still there with us even in a democracy,” Ezike said.