Attempted Murder: CORHD Condemns Illegal Arrest And Oppressive Arraignment Of Eleven Citizens By The Police In Uyo

In the evening of Thursday, September 15, 2016 we received a report of a case of indiscriminate and mass arrest of eleven (11) persons, comprising of nine (9) males and two (2) females at No. 5 Udi Street in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State by officers of the Nigeria Police Force, A Division, Uyo.

The facts available to us indicate that a certain aged woman was found within the prescient of No. 5 Udi Street in Uyo at about 2 am on Wednesday, September 14, 2016 by a private security man working at the apartment. According to reports, the said woman was a stranger and was not known to the security man before then. Upon being confronted, the strange woman reportedly explained to the security man that she came to visit her daughter who is a tenant at the apartment. Queried on what she was doing outside at such odd hour, the woman reportedly told the security man that she came outside to urinate. Dissatisfied with her explanation, the security man and about two others reportedly accused her of being a witch; they reportedly harassed and molested the woman. The woman is said to be recuperating at the hospital.

Upon returning to the apartment in the morning, the daughter of the woman who is an officer of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDS) was briefed about the incident. She went to the police and reported the matter.

The following day on Thursday, September 15, 2016 at about 12 pm, a team of armed policemen stormed the apartment and arrested every person they could lay their hands on and took them to A Division, Uyo. In all, eleven (11) persons were arrested. Among the persons arrested are five (5) staff of Motion Studios, a private music/movie recording company situated at the apartment.

The names, gender and ages of the staff are as follows:

1. Kate Augustine (female, 17); 2. Armstrong James (male, 17); 3. Joseph Bassey (male, 23); 4. Elvis Johnson (male, 23) and 5. Ubong Ime (male, 19).

None of the above five (5) persons is living at No. 5 Udi Street, Uyo where the incident took place and none was present during the incident. Business at the Motion Studios where they all work closes at about 6 pm every day.

At the police station, the eleven (11) persons were kept for hours and asked by the Investigation Police Officer (IPO), one ‘Idoko’, to “cooperate” and pay money to secure their bail. We advised the staff of Motion Studios who contacted us over the matter not to “cooperate” as illegally demanded.

The Akwa Ibom State Commissioner of Police, CP. Murtala Usman was contacted at about 7:20 pm on Thursday, September 15, 2016 and urged to intervene in the matter. The Commissioner upon being briefed over the matter directed that the five (5) staff of Motion Studios be released immediately. Accordingly, they were freed and asked by the IPO to return the following morning.

We understand that the IPO and his immediate bosses at the A Division in Uyo were visibly angry over the superior order from the Commissioner of Police and the decision of the staff of Motion Studios to reach out to a lawyer who is the Convener of Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (COHRD). The IPO pointedly declared in their presence that they may have won temporarily but that their release was not the end of the matter since they decided to involved a lawyer instead of “cooperating” with him.

Shockingly, when the staff of Motion Studios reported at the station in the morning of Friday, September 16, 2016 the IPO told them that they were going to be taken to court to be arraigned for “Conspiracy” and “Attempted Murder” of the aged woman.

All our efforts to reach out to the Commissioner of Police to stop the unwarranted arraignment proved abortive.

Thus, all the eleven (11) persons were hurriedly taken before a Chief Magistrate Court in Uyo on a holding charge of “Conspiracy” and “Attempted Murder”. They were all remanded in Prison Custody and denied bail by the court.

It should be noted that the Supreme Court of Nigeria has ruled that the practice of holding charge at the Magistrate Court is unconstitutional and has no place in our criminal jurisprudence. There is at present no statutory provision under the Criminal Procedure Law of Akwa Ibom State that empowers a Magistrate to remand accused persons in a charge like Attempted Murder which is outside its jurisdiction.

It should also be noted that the police had not conducted any sensible investigation into the alleged assault and molestation of the woman before they hurriedly arraigned the eleven (11) persons. No identification parade was conducted and no reasonable steps were taken to identify the real culprits who are said to be currently at large.

All that the Nigeria Police Force in the 21st century could do was to invade the crime scene in a commando style and effect a mass and indiscriminate arrest of every unlucky person that they could lay their hands on and charge them to court for refusing to “cooperate”.

To show the unprofessional and oppressive manner the police acted in this case, the police in a desperate effort to shield the woman’s daughter who is working with a sister agency, the NSCDC claimed that they received information about the incident through a radio message and that there is no complainant.

We call on the police to tell Nigerians who called them, the date and time they received the “radio message” and how they came to the conclusion that each of the eleven (11) persons they arrested, particularly the five (5) staff of Motion Studios were the persons who molested the aged woman?. The police should exaplain to the public how they came about the charge of “Conspiracy” and “Attempted Murder”? Who conspired with who and who attempted to murder who?

It is indeed an unprecedented record that our own Nigeria Police Force was able to conclude investigation into an alleged case of “attempted murder” within 48 hours of the alleged crime. Nobody is deceived by this despicable and condemnable show of force. Nigerians are too familiar with the police and their modus operandi to be cajoled.

It is a sad commentary that at a time the federal government is seeking ways to decongest our prisons, innocent and poor Nigerians have been sent to the Uyo Prisons over what they know nothing about simply because we have a police force that has no respect for human rights and a complacent judicial system.

We at COHRD condemn in the strongest terms the actions of the police against these innocent citizens. We urge the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner of Police to withdraw the trump-up charge against the innocent citizens and go after those who allegedly assaulted the aged woman.

We call on the Inspector General of Police to look into this matter and bring any officer found to have acted criminally, illegally and or in an unprofessional manner to justice.

While we empathise with the aged woman and wish her a smooth recuperation, we totally reject the unjustifiable actions taken against those who from all indications are innocent of the crime. The police cannot use the court as a shield to cover their wrongful actions in this case. The police should not be seen to be using oppressive and illegal means to fight crime.

Injury to one, is injury to all.

Thank you.

Inibehe Effiong, Esq.

Convener, Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (COHRD).

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The Planned Arraignment Of Chinakwe For Naming His Pet Dog “Buhari” Is Oppressive, Illegal By Inibehe Effiong

The Nigeria Police Force, Ogun State Command has rearrested a 41-year-old trader who named his pet dog “Buhari”, Mr. Joe Chinakwe and will arraign him before the Sango Magistrate Court in Ogun State on Monday. It is likely that the powers that be in Abuja have instructed the police to deal with the man for an act that is not a criminal offence.

Confirming his second arrest to the Punch, Mr Chinakwe said:

“I had to leave for Eleweran very early on Friday after receiving a letter on Thursday evening inviting me to the Command. I thought I was being called over for a peace talk, I never knew it was for the purpose of detaining me again.

“I am a law-abiding citizen of this country, I have never deliberately committed any offence before, I don’t know why I am being treated like this.

“I only called the dog that name for the love I have for President Muhammadu Buhari and Nigeria, I didn’t mean to taunt or hurt anybody with it. I don’t know what next could follow this, I am afraid for my life, I am in danger, please help me.”

Narrating how the whole matter started to the Punch, Obinna Obasi, a relative of the detained man stated thus:

“Kalilu, the main accuser, said Buhari was the name of his father and that Joe deliberately gave his dog that name to taunt him and the rest of the Hausa residents in the area. But we are still wondering if it is now an offence to give your pet animal the name of your choice. Even if you say it is an offence, at least we have all sat together to resolve the whole issue and the man himself has shown some sense of responsibility by saying he was sorry if his action offended anybody. So, why is he still being harassed till now? This is not fair. His persecution is affecting his pregnant wife and little daughter who have both been very sick as a result of the problem,” he said.

Meanwhile, Chinakwe and his relatives according to the Punch have “vehemently” denied the allegation by the police that he inscribed “Buhari” on both sides of his dog’s body and walked around with it.

This development has made it imperative for me to once again intervene in this matter by drawing the attention of the authorities to the unconstitutionality of their actions against Mr. Chinakwe.

This government has proven once again that it has no respect for human rights. Chinakwe’s conduct may be morally questionable, but certainly not a criminal offence under our extant laws. There is no sanctity or special protection for the name ‘Buhari’ under the law. If what Chinakwe did is a crime, it means that any Nigerian, including political office holders and policemen, that has given his or her pet dog a human name is liable to be arrested, detained and prosecuted.

The feeling of the so-called “average Northerner” as ridiculously stated by the police is legally inconsequential. Offences are not created by human feelings. They are created by the express provisions of the statute. The courts cannot rely on Section 249 (1) (a) of the Criminal Code to begin to define or itemise “conducts” that are “likely to cause a breach of the peace”. That is the exclusive power of the legislature under Section 4 of the Constitution.

Crimes must enjoy precision under the law. It is not within the judicial powers of the courts to create offences by probing into the feelings of people. That will amount to setting fire on our constitutional freedoms and democracy. It will also be a rape on the principle of separation of powers.

Nigerians should know that the Criminal Code Cap. C38 LFN 2004 is a colonial legacy that was handed down to the country upon independence. The anachronistic law actually came into force on the 1st day of June, 1916 (100 years ago).

Most of the provisions in the law were made to meet the oppressive and undemocratic aspirations of the colonialists. Most states in the federation, including Ogun State (See Criminal Code Cap. 29 Vol. 11 Laws of Ogun State 2006) have merely reproduced the archaic law word for word without substantial amendments.

I submit that a “conduct” that is itself lawful (such as giving a dog a human name) cannot become unlawful overnight because of the peculiarities of the environment or the feelings of members of a given community, tribe and religion. If it were not so, the National Assembly would not have bothered to enact the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2013 since homosexuality and lesbianism were repulsive and offensive to the feelings of most Nigerians before the intervention of the National Assembly.

The need for the National Assembly to enact the anti-gay law arose partly because except a conduct is specifically made a criminal offence, there can be no tenable argument about its likelihood of causing a breach of the peace under Section 249 (1) (a) of the Criminal Code.

This is very elementary.

The letters and spirit of Section 36 (12) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) forbids the arrest, detention or prosecution of a person for a conduct that is not a criminal offence under a written law. The Supreme Court in the celebrated case of Aoko v Fagbemi (1961) 1 All NLR 400 said so clearly.

Under our criminal law and jurisprudence, offences are principally constituted by two indispensable elements: The physical element – act or omission (actus reus) and the mental element – criminal intent (mens rea). The offence that the police is erroneously alluding to is a simple offence with a punishment of one month imprisonment.

Giving a dog a human name, irrespective of the status of the human beings bearing that name, as at today is not a criminal offence in Nigeria. Both the actus reus and mens rea are absent and neither the police nor “the average Northerner” can arbitrarily manufacture them. If the police and the Government of Ogun State intend to criminalise giving pet dogs human names they should sponsor a bill to the parliament to that effect.

Until such an absurd law is enacted and tested to be consistent with the Nigerian Constitution, the offensive and illegal efforts to punish Chinakwe in the guise of enforcing Section 249 (1) (a) of the Criminal Code or any other provision thereof remains an exercise in futility.

This is the height of impunity.

This is one case that the police will not be able to prove and secure conviction. On a personal note, I would have willingly represented and enforced Mr. Chinakwe’s fundamental rights pro bono (free of charge) but for my current national assignment which is really holding me down from helping the oppressed. Fortunately my service period will be over in about six weeks time.

In the light of the foregoing, the Nigeria Police Force and those instigating them should immediately release Mr. Chinakwe and stop embarrassing Nigeria before the international community. The Police and the government should concentrate on pressing security challenges facing the nation and stop chasing shadows and dissipating scarce resources on frivolity.

May a day never come in this country when offences will be created based on the feelings of members of a particular community, tribe or religion and not by statute.

Thank you.

Inibehe Effiong is a Legal Practitioner and Convener of the Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (COHRD) and can be reached at:

inibehe.effiong@gmail.com

 

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