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Coalition of civil societies express worry over alleged extortions, killings, others at Navy checkpoint in Anambra

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By Pamela Eboh Awka

The coalition of civil societies under the aegis of Campaign for Democracy, South-East zone and the Human Rights, Liberty Access and Peace Defenders’ Foundation, HURIDE – have expressed worry over the activities of Naval officers along Atani Road in Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State.

It regretted that the officers, who are supposed to provide security have now become a threat to security as they continue to carry out “illicit” activities unabated at the several road blocks they have mounted along the ever busy road.

The group reeled out the alleged  attrocoties in the area to include, extortions, stealing, harassments, killings and illegal arrests carried out at checkpoints.

Stating this during an interactive session  with a cross section of victims and family members, in Onitsha on Wednesday, the Executive Director, HURIDE, Mr Dede Uzor, said that Naval ratings are from the Eastern Naval Command, Iyiowa Odeekpe near Onitsha.

He said that many innocent people who have fallen victims either had their accounts hacked by the naval officers and those who are not lucky are killed without any traces, saying that many residents of the area have been declared missing since the development.

Uzor said, “The naval ratings are supposed to be in the sea, but we are surprised to see them mounting road blocks here and there along the Atani Road and Onitsha environs. They now use the road blocks to carry out extortion, harassment and even secretly killings of innocent victims. It is quite disheartening that the people are being tormented by those who are meant to protect them.

“Innocent people are being extorted on a daily basis, while some have their accounts hacked, those that are not lucky are being killed without traces. Few days ago, a young man was saved by divine intervention, he would have been killed and labelled a member of Indigenous People of Biafra or a ‘yahoo-yahoo’ by these naval ratings.

He was stopped as he was going to supply goods to his customers, they checked his phone and saw a huge amount of money in his account, they accused him of being an IPOB member and a yahoo-yahoo and thereafter ordered him to come down from the vehicle, he was blindfolded and as they were taking him to an unknown location, before he raised the alarm.

“What is the aim of blindfolding the young man when he is not a suspect, there is no allegation against him and he is not being investigated of any crime?

“These naval officers are hiding under the guise of mounting checkpoints, but they are using it to pose threat to lives and properties in the area. Their focus is not to provide security, but mainly on the money they are extorting from motorists and passers-by.

“Those people who were on duty on that particular day should be fished out and prosecuted. They have jettisoned professionalism in the cause of their duty and their actions are suggestive that they might be those repentant terrorists recruited into the military and posted to the South-East.

“That is why we are calling on President Bola Tinubu to embark on an aggressive overhauling of all the security apparatuses, especially the Navy and by extension, the Eastern Naval Command at Iyiowa Odeekpe.”

Uzor, however, issued a 14-day ultimatum to the naval authorities to investigate the “illicit” activities of their men on the roads after which the civil groups would embark on aggressive protests if nothing is done.

“We are giving the Navy a 14-day ultimatum to fish out and flush out the perpertrators of these illegal activities against the people they are supposed to provide cover for. And at the expiration of the ultimatum, if they are not fished out, we will embark on aggressive protests. Such characters are not supposed to be in our security system,” he added.

During the session, various victims also narrated their experiences, while calling on both the federal and state governments for intervention. They particularly called on President Bola Tinubu and the chief of naval staff to overhaul the security apparatuses in the South-East.

Among the victims who spoke, an Onitsha-based businessman who identified himself as Francis Tochukwu, said the naval ratings tortured and ordered him to sit on the ground for several hours as they accused him of being an IPOB member and a yahoo-yahoo.

“The incident happened at about 2pm last Tuesday, I am a motor parts dealer, I was going to Uga Junction to supply goods to a customer when two naval officers stopped the tricycle and ordered me to alight.

“As I came down, they immediately collected my phone, asked me to open it and they went straight into my bank details and after checking, they labelled me an IPOB member, probably because of the sum of N2.3million they saw in the account.

“I told them I am not a member of IPOB, they then called me a yahoo-yahoo, which I also said no. I told them I am a motor parts dealer and that my shop is at a nearby market in the area. I also told them that the money in that account is for the supply of goods to customers. It was at that point, they ordered me to sit on the ground by the roadside.

“While they were still with my phone and checking through, at about 4pm, their commander came and immediately ordered them to cover my face, they covered my face, it was when they were dragging me to an unknown location that I started raising alarm and the people who know me in the area reached out to my colleagues in the market.

“Before my colleagues in the market came, they had taking me inside an unknown place with my face still tied. When my colleagues asked the naval officers about me, they denied that I was there, that was when I started shouting again from where I was before my colleagues heard my voice. After all said and done, they released me at about 8pm claiming it was a mistaken identity”, Tochukwu stated.

Efforts to get the commander, Iyiowa Naval Base, Navy Captain Osuobeni at the time of filing this report to react to the development, proved abortive as several calls to his phone were not responded to.

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