By Gabriel Chy Alonta and Chukwumerie Anyene
Anambra State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano’s move to prosecute former Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Awkuzu Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Mr. James Nwafor and any other police officer found wanting in human rights violation has elicited mixed reactions.
Orient Weekend reports that Mr. Nwafor, until last Thursday, was the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Obiano on Security.
Governor Obiano gave the assurance to hundreds of youths who thronged in front of government house, Awka, Thursday, demanding the immediate end to SARS and police brutality.
The governor also promised to release all those illegally detained by SARS and police in the state, noting that his administration was in support of the clamour by the youths.
Obiano promised to address the grievances expressed by the protesters which include release of illegal detainees, expunging all SARS activities, end to police extortion and other atrocities.
Reacting to the pronouncements, Dede Uzor Uzor, Chairman of Board of Trustees, Human Rights, Liberty Access and Peace Defenders Foundation (HURIDE), noted that Obiano had right to hire and fire any political appointee, but has no right to prosecute anyone “because he is not a court of competent jurisdiction that can indict anyone.
According to him, no commission of enquiry has been set up or an investigation that has indicted anybody including CSP James Nwafor. The governor, however, can make recommendations based on the outcome of an investigation by the commission. This is a legal process.
Commenting on purported release of SARS detainees by the governor, the human rights activist said: “Holding someone unlawfully means the person is illegally detained, and concomitantly, the person’s rights are infringed upon – rights to life, liberty and movement.
“The decision, is however, a welcome development. If someone is detained illegally, he can be released but if a person is detained by court order, the governor has no right to release him. He should be very careful in releasing people suspected to have committed armed robbery or established murder case because that will pose a threat to the society at large”.
Asked about his views on the ongoing youths’ protests to end SARS, the BoT chairman said: “I am in support of them but they should remain peaceful and not resort to violence in their quest to entrench democracy and rule of law.
“The protest, to me, has gone beyond #EndSARS, it is a revolution on the pipeline. Nigeria needs a change, a change in the system. I am seeing the protest as a clamour for rule of law, constitutionalism and freedom.
“The issue of sectional appointment is against the people. We need revolution. We need to change things so that our leaders will see that people are really suffering. Look at the recent fuel price hike and electricity tariff,” he lamented.
Similarly, other well meaning Anambrarians took to their social media to react to Governor Obiano’s pronouncements.
For Paulinus Oguh, “it is a step in the right direction but the governor should prosecute them with immediate effect”.
One Jenkins Uwagbai wrote, “Sacking is not enough. Please collect all the properties he is having and he needs to be prosecuted”.
Valino Tobis responded: “He needs to be executed, not prosecuted. I have read so much of his bad deeds”.
One Uchenna Ebubenna quipped: “We don’t need sacks. He needs to be prosecuted and answer for all the atrocities he has committed”.
Ikem Chukwu reacted to the supposed release of illegally detained individuals and said: “Now, it has to be now. The time for their release is now”.
However, Marshal Moore differed. “How sure are we about that? I believe that it is just to calm the situation down for the meantime. But time will tell more”.
“Just making noise. Nothing will be done. Absolutely nothing”, one Raphael Eziokwu noted.