From Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
The Human Rights Human Rights, Liberty Access and Peace Defenders’ Foundation (HURIDE) has condemned the invasion of House of Prayer International Covenant Church, Okporo in Orlu Local Government Area of Imo by suspected soldiers where some members of the church were injured and arrested.
The group called on President Muhammad Buhari, the Chief of Army Staff, the Governor of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodinma, the Commander of 34 Artillery Brigade, Obinze, the Imo State Commissioner of Police and well-meaning Nigerians to deploy their good offices to affect the release of the worshippers.
In a statement signed by the Campaign and Publicity Secretary, Unah Zack Unah, said the church in the course of the routine morning devotional service at about 6 am on January 22 unknown to the faithful that the soldiers have surrounded the church promises, shooting sporadically and forcefully gained entry into the sacred church arena and arrested over 12 members and injured several others including women and the aged, while some were taken to an unknown place.
HURIDE lamented that the soldiers destroyed the most sacred worship centre and many things in the church including gates, doors and windows, water tank reservoir as they attempted to gain entry into the women populated church by force.
He said the soldiers who came with military vans did not state their reasons for the unfortunate invasion of the church and destruction of their property as well arrest of their members.
The group alleged that the military went to a wrong location in search of some hoodlums who killed some security officers in the area.
HURIDE further warned that the invasion of the church with its attendant destruction of property and arrest of members including old people who have health challenges is a gross abuse of their rights and desecration of the worship centre.
He noted that the military is notorious with arresting and killing innocent people who were not involved in any crime just to show their strength.
He said this negate modern military operations and challenged them to carry out an investigation before they invade a place to avoid unnecessary damage to the victims and their unnecessary embarrassment.
Unah also condemned the killings of the Policemen and burning of their operational vehicles by some hoodlums at Okporo and Umutanze both in Orlu local council area and charged security operatives to spread their dragnet so as to bring the situation under control.
They demanded the immediate and unconditional release of those arrested at the House of Prayers, Church and urged the authorities to immediately withdraw the military in Orlu.
Unah further urged the authorities to engage the youths instead of forceful approach to avoid the repeat of the security situation in the North-East.