Saturday, August 31, 2013

Controversy continues to trail demolition of Onitsha hotel where human heads were found

On August 1, 2013, an unprecedented crowd gathered infront of Upper
Class Hotel, 8 Market road, Onitsha , Anambra State, to witness its
demolition, following the discovery of two human heads and ammunitions
by operatives of the Anambra State Police Command.
Consequently, proprietor of the hotel, Mr Bonaventure Mokwe, alongside
13 of his staff were reportedly arrested.
Controversy has however begun to trail the demolition action allegedly
on the directive of the Anambra State Government and the continued
detention of the suspects.
Although the hotel proprietor's wife, Mrs Nkiru Mokwe,had earlier
cried foul over the demolition of her husband's hotel, even as she had
raised alarm that her husband's life was in danger.
Throwing its weight behind Mrs Mokwe's cry of injustice, the Network
on Police Reform in Nigeria, NOPRIN, comprising 46 civil society
organisations spreadacross the country,with the aim of promoting
police accountability and respect for human rights has described the
continuous detention of the suspects without trail as
Taking a swipe on the state government, NOPRIN also accused operatives
of the state command's Special Anti-Robbery Squad,SARS for working for
the interest of politicians, rather than the Nigeria Police Force. It
therefore, called on the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed
Abubakar to re-organise SARS with a view toinsulating them from abuse
of office.
Asserting that there was more to the demolition of thehotel than the
alleged discovery of human heads, NOPRIN's Programme and Advocacy
Coordinator, Mr Okechukwu Nwanguma , while briefing newsmen on the
development, stated that : " the Anambra State Government 's policy of
extralegal demolition of properties of persons accused of crime in the
state is condemnable. The state government's rationalisation that such
clearly illegal and primitive action is in line with its policy to
sustain the fight against crime and criminality , is preposterous and
unfounded in logic and law.
While violent crime plagues Anambra State as most other states in
Nigeria and daily assuming a n alarming proportion, nothing whatsoever
can justify any crime fighting policy or measure that is contrary to
the fundamental law of the country that violates human rights,
subverts due process and observance of the rule oflaw..
" Among the hallmarks and cardinal principles of democracy include
respect for human rights, principle compliance with the due process
and observance of the rule of law . Any law enforcement or crime
fighting approach that compromises or falls foul of any of these basic
democratic principles, will not only be unlawful andcriminal but will
be counter productive. Democracy is protected by the rule of law. The
absence of it will be anarchy which is a threat to democracy.
"The prevailing situation in Anambra State, whereby thestate
government demolishes property of any person accused of a crime,
without any judicial process or valid order of court amounts to
lawlessness. It is a policy that promotes self help. It is susceptible
to abuse and creates room for the persecution or witch hunting of
political opponents or personal vendetta.
Illegal arrest "Mr. Mokwe and 13 of his workers arrestedalong with
him,including a Doctorate Degree student atthe Nnamdi Azikiwe
University, who works part time in the hotel to pay for his studies
have remained in detention at SARS Awkuzu till date without any
indication from the police as to what next step they want to take.
"Following complaints received by NOPRIN on August 4, that Mr. Mokwe
was detained, chained and being tortured, with fears that he may be
extra judicially killed in custody, we called and inquired directly
from the OC SARS, CSP Nwafor on the condition of Mr. Mokwe in police
custody. He only confirmed to us that Mr. Mokwe was still in their
custody and alive. He however, refused to state how soon the police
will chargehim to court or free him. Since then, we were informed,
hehad been unchained and his wife and counsel allowed to see him some
times of the day.

The police violated Mr. Mokwe's rights to due process and presumption
of innocence by detaining him indefinitely. Mr. Mokwe's family insists
that he was framed up by business rivals and enemies who had earlier
threatened to plant incriminating objects and use the police to deal
with him. They contend that the demolished hotel was a commercial
property that was accessible to anyone who could pay for room rental
and could implant human skulls there.
Conflicting report"The Mokwe's family said that although the Police
claimed to have recovered fresh humanheads dripping with blood from
the hotel, what they actually displayed to the media were two dried
NOPRIN believes that if the police have credible evidence to prosecute
the accused persons, they should not delay to charge and arraign them
before a competent court of jurisdiction. His continued detention in
SARS cell without trial is illegal, unconstitutional and condemnable.
NOPRIN has already petitioned the Inspector-General of Police on this
The Nigerian Constitution guarantees, among others: rights to life,
liberty, fair hearing and due process. It prohibits torture,cruel,
inhuman and other degrading treatment, and gives victims of human
rights violations a right to seek redress in court. The African
Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights {Ratification and Enforcement)
Act, which makes the African Charter part of Nigeria's domestic law,
reinforces these human rights guarantees which are essential for
effective policing.
Indicts operatives of SARS
"We have received information about an unholy alliance between the
Anambra State Government and the authorities at SARS in Awkuzu whose
operatives operate as if they are above the law and accountability.
The use of SARS to provide security for illegal demolition of people's
property appear to underscore thisunholy alliance.
SARS is under police Force Criminal Investigation Department
specifically charged to combat armed robberyand other heinous crimes
nationwide. But SARS in all parts of Nigeria has gained embarrassing
notoriety , tainting the image of the Nigerian Police locally and
internationally, and should either be scrapped or comprehensively
reformed to conform to modern standards of policing or human rights
compliant policing.
"SARS operatives are known for arresting people for all manner of
alleged offences, torturing,and executing suspects, and detainees in
their custody are secretly ill- treated. They also dabble into civil
We therefore, call on Anambra State government to discharge its
governance responsibilities lawfully and puta stop to all illegal,
barbaric policies and actions," Nwanguma stated.

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