Rights group battles police over invasion of office, assault on officer
By Gabriel Chy Alonta
Human rights group, WomenAid Collective (WACOL), has petitioned the Inspector General of Police and the Police Service Commission over last week’s violent invasion of its office by men of Enugu State Police Command.
Founder and Executive Director, WACOL, Prof Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, in a press conference in Enugu, described the attack, which led to the beating of one of its lawyers to coma as a heinous, unwarranted and baffling act of terrorism.
She recalled how the rights group had reported a rape case to the Area Command, Enugu, but in a swift turn around, officers of the same command stormed WACOL’s office demanding that they produce the rape victim for an out of court settlement with the alleged rapist, while unleashing mayhem its staff in the process.
According to the founder, “This is completely unacceptable. We cannot take this. We appreciate the intervention of the commissioner of police in setting up a panel and we say we will cooperate with the panel, but we cannot, given police cover-ups in the past and what we’ve seen and even as this case is going on what is being thrown at our face is that the parties have settled put of court.
“While they are free to do whatever they like, what we are focusing on now is the assault, the unwarranted attack, the heinous crime, the physical assault and emotional trauma that our staff witnessed on the 30th of January. I think this time, enough is enough.
“We can no longer tolerate terrorism by the very institution that is supposed to promote and protect our lives. The police mandate is to maintain law and order. WACOL is a law abiding organization. We consider what happened as very bizarre, barbaric, an aberration to the police mandate of protecting lives and property.
“This is the height of abuse of police power, harassing and beating up a human rights lawyer, a defender of the rights of abused women and children working in an office that has set up unparalleled records of assisting the police in curbing crimes in the country. It is a mockery to an office such as ours and is totally unacceptable and mist be fully invested to bring the culprits to account”.
Prof Ezeilo, who is also the Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, called for an immediate publication of, “the full names of officers that invaded WACOL premises and held them accountable for their sordid deeds committed against our staff, especially Goodness Ibangah.
“Constitute an independent investigative panel not controlled by the police and whose membership should include the Nigerian Bar Association, civil societies organisations and internationally recognised observers.
“Take immediate steps to bring this brazen act of impunity of police to an end. Police brutality and abuse of power or power in Nigeria is a continuing threat to the enjoyment of individual fundamental human right as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and several regional and international human rights instruments that Nigeria is a state party to”.
Ezeilo also demanded that the rape case be transferred out of Enugu to ensure an unbiased investigation and protection of the witnesses especially Ms Goodness Ibangah, whom she said, had been receiving threats from both the police and the family of the perpetrators of the crime.
Contacted, the Police Public Relations Officers, Daniel Ndukwe, said that the panel of enquiry set up by the command was concluding its report, noting that it would soon be made public once ready. He regretted that WACOL members were still protesting in the streets after they had made a formal complaint to the police.
According to him, “As a I speak with you now, a panel of enquiry is concluding its report that they will be presented, after which the public will hear what the position of the command.
“I wouldn’t know why they are staging protest. You lay a petition to the police and they are attending to it and you are going out there doing protest.
“It is unfortunate like we have all seen but we are managing the situation. People are out there protesting but in due course, we will make a press statement to mae known the position of the command. It will be an objective, detailed and a meticulous report to the best of our knowledge”.