By Chinenyeh Ozor, Nsukka
UNEASY calm has pervaded Asaba community in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of Enugu State following the arrest and subsequent detention of three persons including a 74-year old sick man from the community, in prison custody, without arraignment in court. Trouble, according to sources, started after the community engaged the services of some prominent indigenes to draft their constitution based on directives of the police in the area. Before then, it was gathered that policemen from Adani division in the area swooped on members of the community accusing them of unlawful assembly and subsequently detained nine members of the committee. It was alleged that after their arrest, the police demanded N450, 000 as a condition for their release at the rate of N50, 000 per suspect.
Petition to Area command: Investigations revealed that the suspects after being released petitioned Police Area command, Nsukka for transfer of the matter for further investigations. However, when the police from Area command went to collect the file from Adani division, the DPO allegedly claimed that the matter has been charged to court thereby stopping the collection of the case file. The case took a dramatic turn few days later after the police in Adani took nine members of the community to court on a three-count charge of conspiracy to commit misdemeanour likely to cause a breach of peace, procuring a document by false pretence and mandating the entire community to sign the document.
The suit with number MUZ/15c/2017 reads, “The nine suspects were in court on a three count charge of conspiracy to commit misdemeanour likely to cause breach of peace punishable under section 496 (a) of the criminal code, procuring a document by false pretence/representation to Asaba community and mandated the entire community to sign thereby committed an offence punishable under section 447of the criminal code cap 30 vol. II revised laws of Enugu State 2004 and bringing constitution from Onitsha purported to have been written by Asaba community with intent to impose it on them without the consent of the traditional ruler, Igwe Alphonsius Agbata, thereby committed an offence punishable under section 274 (I) of the criminal code laws of Enugu state 2004. The nine suspects charged and subsequently detained for alleged breach of peace in Asaba community includes; Okafor Chukwudi, Okoro John, Abuchi Ozoemenam, Onuama Domnic, Okonkwo Cyprian, Edochie Philip, Okoro Peter, Nwajiana Jacob and Chukwuweke Denyelu, who did not appear in court.
Bench warrant: In another suit number MUZ/16c/2017, one Chukwudi Okafor (40), with others at large were charged for showing disrespect on March 24th 2017 to Adani chief magistrate court by refusing to appear before the court, allegedly having been served with arraignment notice dated 20/3/2017 and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 162 (I) of the criminal code laws of Enugu state 2004. The chief magistrate, however, reportedly referred the case to police Area command, Nsukka for re-investigation but the case file was returned to Adani police station where the 74- year- old man, Philip Nwankwo, who was not in the picture of the earlier arrests, was clamped into prison custody in Nsukka for 14 days without police obtaining his statement together with Okafor Chukwudi and Abuchi Onuama.
My ordeal: Narrating his ordeal in the hands of the police to Crime Alert, the septuagenarian, Phliip Nwankwo, said he was on his way to his farm when a team of policemen accosted and whisked him to the station without telling him his offence. “I was arrested on April 22, 2017 and taken to Adani police station where I met two other young men from Asaba community earlier arrested on an alleged involvement in drafting of constitution for the community.
The next day, three of us were taken to Enugu Ezike magistrate court in Igbo-Eze North LGA where we stayed till evening before we were detained without police obtaining statement from us nor arraign us in any court. Later, we were taken to Nsukka prison where we were detained for 14 days. I even fell sick in prison and was treated in a clinic inside the prison because of the physical and psychological trauma I passed through.
The police told us to sign an agreement not to foment trouble but we refused because we have not been told of our offence. There was no way we can sign any agreement since the police have not obtained our statement to determine the allegations levelled against us. I was not a member of the constitution drafting committee, how I was arrested and detained still surprises me,” he said.