Civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), has dragged the Police Service Commission before the Federal High Court in Abuja over the invasion of St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Owerri, in Imo State, by armed policemen.
Unidentified gunmen had invaded the church located in Eziama Obieri in the Nkwerre Local Government Area of Imo on Sunday December 26, 2021. The masked men had shot sporadically in the church during Mass and whisked away a former governorship aspirant in the state, Uche Nwosu, raising fears of his abduction.
But the police later revealed the identities of the masked gunmen as police officers and Nwosu, an in-law to former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, was subsequently moved to Abuja by the policemen.
Nwosu was later released amidst outrage by many Nigerians and the police hierarchies are yet to give an explanation as to why he was arrested in a Gestapo style during a church programme.
In its suit instituted by the National Coordinator of HURIWA, Emmanuel Onwubiko, the group sought an order of mandamus compelling the respondent – the Police Service Commission – to probe the church invasion and the attempted kidnap of Nwosu.
HURIWA also sought “an order of mandamus compelling the respondent (PSC) to investigate the shootings inside and around the church premises for the purpose of finding out if the said shootings were necessary at the time.
“An order to tender before this court and case also the applicant with a certified true copy of the findings and or result of the said investigations.
“An order to prosecute, discipline and or punish any of its employee(s) who is found culpable as a result of the said invasion and shooting in St. Peters Anglican Church, Eziama Obieri in Nkwerre Local Government Area, Owerri province, Imo State.”
Some of the grounds relied upon by HURIWA to sought the reliefs include, “By virtue of S. 4 of the Police Act and S. 214 of the 1999 constitution as amended, the Nigerian Police Force and its members are responsible for the maintenance of Law and order, detection of crime and enforcement of all laws amongst other things.
“That the police service commission is by the third schedule, part 1, and federal executive bodies N0. 30 of the 1999 constitution clothed with the powers to amongst other thing dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over persons who are police officers except the inspector general of police.
“That the guns issued to members of the Nigeria Police Force are meant to secure innocent citizens and community and not to intimidate, scare, or disrupt peaceful and legitimate gatherings.”
In accompanying affidavit, HURIWA National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, insisted that the policemen acted illegally and unconstitutionally by shooting, intimidating, scaring away worshippers and disrupting church activities on the 26th December, 2021 at the Anglican church.
“The vicious act of the policemen was without lawful basis or authority and akin to the activities of the infamous unknown gun men.
“The policemen acted without civility, decorum, regards to the innocent worshippers and in any manner that voided the fundamental freedoms of association and worship enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended).
“That lot of people were injure as they were trying to escape the bullets and the invading force as majority believed they were ‘unknown gun men’.
“That the policemen thoroughly harassed the worshipping congregation with all their actions which included severe shooting while dragging the said Uche Nwosu into their vehicle.
“That few hours after the invasion and disruption of the Christian Church service and or worship, the police released the said Uche Nwosu without any formal charge against him.
“That till date there is no explanation as to why the police chose to disrupt the Christian worship as St. Peter’s Anglican Church Eziama in the manner they did.
“That the police officers acted without regards to innocent citizens, children, worshippers in the church premises as the shot recklessly into the influence of some drugs or alcohol.”
The court has, however, yet to assign a date or a judge to hear the case.
February 17, 2022
National Coordinator – HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA)