From Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
75 Obigbo residents, comprising 55 women and 20 men, arrested between October and November last year and ferried to Abuja where they were detained in several army formations, have been released and reunited with their families.
Board Chairman, International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety), Emeka Umeagbalasi, who made the disclosure in a statement issued yesterday in Onitsha said the 75 were freed on March 4 and 5, having earlier been granted bail by the Grade 11 Magistrate Court, Wuse 11, FCT Judicial Division, Abuja.
Intersociety, while giving further insight into the travails of the 75 Obigbo residents, disclosed that while some of the victims were abducted between 7 pm and 8 pm in Obigbo and environs on their way home from work and other lawful social activities and held secretly for days at the headquarters of 6 Division of the Nigerian Army in Port Harcourt, before being bundled to the Mogadishu Barracks in Abuja, others were similarly abducted and bundled to Obinze Army Barracks in Owerri, Imo State, from where they were disappeared and surfaced next day at Mogadishu Barracks in Abuja.
‘All the freed 75 abductees were abducted at night and moved from 6 Division/Obinze Army Barracks to Mogadishu Barracks in Abuja late into the night or at hours of the blue law. Among the 75 abductees are 55 women mostly between 18 and 25 years of age. The oldest among the 55 women are between 27 and 39 years of age including mothers of children and the newly married and among those in the 18 and 25 years age bracket are university admission seekers, salesgirls, hairdressing/plaiting and tailoring apprentices, fresh university undergraduates, etc,’ the statement read.
‘There are also hospital staff and a Day-Care proprietress, etc among those in 27 and 39 years age bracket. The 20 men among the 75 abductees are also of productive age bracket (18 years and 35 years and two are in their late 50s and mid-60s) including traders, trade apprentices, panel beaters, Secondary School leavers, university admission seekers, etc. All personal belongings of the 75 abductees including women’s handbags and their contents, cash sums, mobile phones, identity cards, etc were taken away by soldiers till date and each of 55 women among them was forced to wear in Army captivity same underwear worn at the point of her abduction over four months ago.’
Intersociety also disclosed that the abduction and captivity of the 75 Obigbo residents were also done amidst grave inhuman conditions and without court trial and regretted that till date, the Nigerian Army and its immediate past Chief of Staff and authorities of DSS and Nigeria Police Force have refused to speak on their roles in the abductions.
The group also described the freed Obigbo residents ten days journey from Abuja to the South-East as ‘tortuous’, noting that during the period, the traumatised and the fainted among them were revived while their conveying vehicles broke down severally even as funds also became a major hindrance.
The group appreciated the doggedness of Richie Okoroafor, a legal practitioner, the leadership of IPOB and others contacted including lawmakers who played positive roles towards securing their freedom.
‘Intersociety wishes to state again that by the existing laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria including Decided Cases (Case Laws), the Armed Forces Act of 2004 and the 1999 Constitution, the Nigerian Army or any other branch of the Armed Forces is disempowered from arresting, detaining, investigating and prosecuting civilian citizens not subject to the Armed Forces Act of 2004 and the Nigerian Security Agencies Act of 2004, governing the conducts of DSS, the Service is disempowered from usurping the core duties of the Nigeria Police Force such as investigation, arrest, detention and prosecution of civilian citizens or their discharge and acquittal.
‘DSS is also disempowered by the referenced laws including Sections 35 and 36 of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution from accepting civilian citizens abducted or illegally arrested and held for months by any branch of the Armed Forces particularly the Nigerian Army for purpose of incarcerating them further and unlawfully without trial. The Nigeria Police Force as lawful or authorised investigating, arresting, detaining and prosecuting authority, is barred by law from holding civilian citizens without public knowledge and trial outside the constitutionally prescribed periods.’