AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL NIGERIA PRESS RELEASE
The Nigerian authorities must investigate the burning of nine (9) buildings and arrest of dozens of men and women by the police in Ndiegoro, a community in Aba South local government, Abia state, says Amnesty International Nigeria.
At least 9 buildings were burnt and 50 men and women arrested over 4-days; when policemen besieged the community between 26 September to 1 October 2019 in retaliation for the killing of a police officer and a police driver in the area.
Witnesses told Amnesty International that on Thursday 26th September 2019, a police officer attached to the Cameroun Barracks (Ndiegoro) police station and a civilian driver were killed by assailants, at a police checkpoint in Ama Nmonwu area of Aba. Scores of policemen returned to Ndiegoro later in the evening without warrant and arrested over 50 residents including children. The indiscriminate arrests continued till Tuesday 1 October 2019 when the police returned with about 12 Hilux vehicles and randomly set at least 9 buildings and shops on fire.
“We condemn the killing of policemen and demand that every lawful effort be made to bring the perpetrators to justice, but it is essential that both Nigerian law and international human rights laws are respected. Police have a duty to maintain public order, and in doing so they may use force only where strictly necessary. If the use of force is unavoidable, it must be done with restraint,” said Osai Ojigho Director Amnesty International Nigeria.
“Authorities must take immediate steps to identify those responsible for the murder of the policeman and the police-civilian driver and the officers who ordered or took part in unlawful reprisal on the community. All those suspected to be responsible for criminal offences should be promptly and fairly brought to justice, tried before an independent and impartial court and without recourse to the death penalty.”
When contacted by Amnesty International, Abia state police command denied setting homes and shops on fire but confirmed that they arrested 31 people, including 4 women whom they described as Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) members. Those arrested were also charged for murder, terrorism and arson.
HOUSES LOOTED AND BURNT
Testimonies from victims and eyewitnesses confirmed that police looted houses and burnt buildings. Video footage and photos filmed at the site and reviewed by Amnesty International showed houses ransacked and burnt. The Abia State Civil Society Network (ACSON) said they documented a total of 9 razed buildings, including three buildings set ablaze by the police along Anaba Street. Six other buildings were also burnt in Degema/Oko-jumbo street. A restaurant was looted in Ibere Street on 1 October 2019.
Amnesty International has documented several instances when law enforcement officers attack communities in response to the killing of their personnel.
On 15 February 2008, police officers invaded Ogaminana community, a settlement in the Adavi Local Government Area, in Kogi state killing at least 15 people and burning scores of buildings.
The Nigerian Senate set up a panel to investigate the incident, but nobody was brought to account of the killings till date.
Chibuike John Nebeokike
For: Radio Biafra Media