A violent attack on Leo Igwe’s family

Around midnight on Wednesday August  4 2010,two gunmen invaded my family house in Mbaise in Imo state in Southern Nigeria. They shot twice in the air and my mother fainted. They later descended on my aging father and started beating him. They blindfolded him with a piece of cloth and hit him several times with stones.

He later fainted and the hoodlums ransacked the whole house and made away with whatever they found valuable. My father  bled from the right eye, nose and mouth. He had bruises on his head, hands, legs and chest. After the attack, some neighbours came and rushed him to a nearby hospital. From there, I moved him to an eye hospital in Lagos where the doctor confirmed that he had extensive injuries in the right eye and recommended that it be removed. Yesterday, August 11, 2010, he underwent a surgery and the right eye was removed. He is currently recuperating at the hospital. I called the police to inform them, and they said I should send a formal petition.

This attack is the latest in the vicious campaign of harassment and intimidation of me and my family members by state and non-state actors for our efforts to bring to justice a 50 year old man, Edward Uwa, who raped a 10 year old girl, Daberechi, in my community. Since 2007, Edward and his associate, Ethelbert Ugwu, have brought several police and court actions against me, my family members and our witnesses including Daberechi’s father. They have brought many fictitious allegations against us. In January, they brought police officers and soldiers and arrested me and my father for murder. In 2008 Ethelbert Ugwu brought some soldiers who arrested, brutalized and detained my two brother at a local police station in Ahiazu.

Unfortunately, the authorities in Nigeria are not helping matters. They have refused to take appropriate actions against Edward and Ethelbert. The police and judicial systems are corrupt, inept and ineffective. Police officers are only interested in making money from petitions, not in fighting or preventing crimes. And the court system is slow and expensive. So in Nigeria police and court actions are used by criminally minded people to harass and intimidate others, and block access to justice particularly for the poor and less privileged.

The local police stations in Ahiazu and Umuahia have refused to arraign Edward and Ethelbert for misinforming the police. The police in Zone 9 have yet to publish the outcome of the investigation of the murder charge brought by Ethelbert Ugwu and Edward Uwa for which they arrested me in January. Right now the prosecution of Edward for indecent assault is stalled because the Assistant Inspector General of Police in Umuahia, Abubakar Ringim, has refused to release the case file to Imo state prosecutor despite several applications to that respect. The state prosecutor decided to take over the prosecution after Ethelbert Ugwu got a fraudulent fiat through a local lawyer to take over the case. The police prosecutor is no longer coming to the court and the local magistrate has threatened to strike out the case in October. Ethelbert and Edward have filed five civil suits against me, my family members and witnesses. In March, the court ruled against us in one of the suits brought by Edward for police harassment because the police did not appear in court. We are currently appealing the ruling. Since 2007 members of my family and other innocent people in my community have suffered and endured attacks, harassment and intimidation by Edward,  Ethelbert and their police, soldiers and thugs.

And the state authorities have done little or nothing to address the situation.

What we can do

These issues must be raised with the Nigerian authorities at the highest level. They should be kept on the front burner of international relations and human rights advocacy until the Nigerian authorities take appropriate actions. The Nigerian government must be made to understand that the international community is aware of the facts of this case, and that the world is outraged at the way they are handling it. The human rights community should join hands with the IHEU in bringing this disturbing trend to the attention of the world.

About the Author

Leo Igwe is the International Humanist and Ethical Union’s representative for West Africa and Executive Director of the Nigerian Humanist Movement. In 2009 he was assaulted by witch-hunters at an anti-witchcraft conference he organised, and then sued by the very church behind the attacks.

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