The Prominent Civil Rights Advocacy group-: HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Public Complaints Commission (PCC) with a petition against the Nigerian Police over the persistent harassment, intimidation, and arbitrary detention of community leaders in Ugwuaji community of Enugu South Local Government Area Council of Enugu State, South East of Nigeria.
The Rights group said the Inspector General of Police; Mohammed Adamu, Enugu State Governor and his Housing Commissioner should be invited to provide clarifications why they allegedly took hold of lands belonging rightfully to the community in gross violations of extant Land Use Act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Nigerian Constitution.
The Rights group said it has been approached for intervention by a Coalition of Ugwuaji Progressives (hereinafter referred to as our clients) on whose express request and unequivocal instruction they had forwarded this complaint to these institutions believing that the alleged human rights violators are called to order without any further delay.
The petition sent to these federal government agencies read thus: “The Ugwuaji Progressives is drawn from all four villages in Ugwuaji Awkunanaw, Enugu South Local Government Area namely; Umunnugwu, Ndiaga, Isaigu and Umunnajingene.
“We are constrained to forward this petition to you in order to bring to your knowledge the dastardly act of malicious damage, destruction and vandalization of our community’s properties which properties are also in their peaceable possession, harassment of members of the coalition with men of Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), including acts capable of inciting communal war perpetrated ALLEGEDLY by the Honourable Commissioner for Housing, Enugu State one Vitus Okechi.
“The ALLEGED reckless activities of Vitus Okechi underscore the reason why it is necessary to have articulate and capable hand run the affairs of the ministry as sensitive as the Enugu State Ministry of Housing. It is obvious that this Commissioner is reportedly barely literate enough to acquaint himself with the legal and regulatory requirements for the compulsory acquisition of the land in Nigeria. He also has scant regards for form and procedure.
“Permit us to state unequivocally that from a cursory look at and thorough perusal of the legal and regulatory requirement for the compulsory acquisition of land in Nigeria can be gleaned from the 1999 Constitution of the Feral Republic of Nigeria (FRN) hereinafter referred to as the Constitution as well as other extant laws. The right to own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria is a fundamental right guaranteed under Section 43 of the Constitution. The Constitution is the grand norm of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“We hereby also affirm that it is also trite law that the Governor of a state in Nigeria holds in trust, all lands comprised in the territory of that state? In that light it can be argued correctly that jurisprudentially, there is invariably a need to understand the fundamental and indisputable source of this right that now inheres in the Governor of a state; rights also connote duties; in this case, the duty of accountability.
“In South East of Nigeria and before the Colonialist made their way here historically, the land tenure system was regulated by the traditional conception of land as having, economic, social, political and religious significance. It was conceived of as an institution given by God for the living and unborn. The living empirically hold an ancestral trust for the benefits of themselves and generations yet unborn.
“Recall that whilst testifying before the West African Lands Commission in 1980, Chief Elesi of Odogbolu, a traditional ruler, expounded the traditional conception of land thus: “I conceive that land belongs to a vast family of which many are dead, few are living and countless members are still unborn. Also, in Amodu Tijani v. Secretary of Southern Nigeria, Viscount Haldane held that lands belong to the community, the village or the family, never to the individual. It was therefore inconceivable for any individual to claim ownership of land. Lands were owned by communities and families. Communities’ leaders and family heads held lands in trust for communities and families with the concomitant duty of accountability. These are facts of law and history.”
HURIWA has therefore called on the National Human Rights commission and the Public Complaints Commission to immediately step into this matter to compel the relevant authorities in Enugu State to abide by the letters and principles of the Nigerian constitution and to stop forthwith the continuous harassment and persecution of the claimants to the ownership of the land in Ugwuaji community of Enugu South Local Government Area Council of Enugu State which the Housing Commissioner has reportedly taken illegal possession of without due regards to the Rule of law.