Governor Hope Uzodinma’s administration wants to extricate itself from the controversial arrest of Uche Nwosu inside the church during Sunday service by armed police officers.
The state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba, in a statement on Monday, condemned the police invasion of the Saint Peter’s Anglican Church in Nkwerre, Imo State, and said the state government “will not support any form of disrespect for a place of worship by security agencies”.
Although there is no evidence linking Mr Uzodinma and his administration to the arrest, the acrimony between the governor and his predecessor, Rochas Okorocha who is Mr Nwosu’s father-in-law, and the attitude of the police during and after the incident have caused many to see the arrest as “political”, and the governor as being behind it.
Mr Nwosu said he was neither invited by the police nor served with a warrant of arrest, a claim that is yet to be refuted by the police.
Also, days after the incident, the police are yet to disclose why Mr Nwosu, a 2019 governorship candidate of the Action Alliance in Imo State, was arrested, what investigation has been done or is still being done and if he would be charged to court or not.
It is Mr Nwosu himself who disclosed to reporters in Owerri that he was arrested based on a petition that he was “sponsoring insecurity” in Imo State.’
Questions the police must answer
Here is one question begging for an answer from the police: was it really necessary for over 15 officers to “jump” into the church during Sunday service and fire gunshots in order to arrest Mr Nwosu?
Mr Nwosu told reporters, “They (officers) asked me to remove my clothes, handcuffed me, snapped me, made a video, and sent it to the CSO.” This claim has also not been refuted by the police.
So, until the police come out to say otherwise, it is assumed that the officers took photos of Mr Nwosu while he was handcuffed and wore only a singlet and then deliberately released the photos to the public.
One more question, why did the police release Mr Nwosu the very day he was arrested, after such a show of force inside the church, after spending huge funds to fly him on a chartered flight from Enugu to Abuja? Is it that they just realised that they had picked the wrong person or what?
Until the police provide answers to these questions, many Nigerians would continue to see the arrest as what they think it is – a high and very shameful drama staged by the Nigerian Police, backed up by some powerful persons, to humiliate and ridicule Mr Nwosu and his father-in-law, Senator Okorocha.
And many Nigerians think the powerful persons here are Governor Uzodinma and officials of his administration.
The utterances of Mr Emelumba, the spokesperson of the Imo State Government, have not really helped matters here.
Mr Emelumba’s first reaction sounded celebratory – something like “Yeah, we’ve got you guys” – when the news of Mr Nwosu’s arrest broke out.
“This is a man who looted the commonwealth of the people of Imo state. Neither he (Okorocha) nor his son-in-law is above the law,” Mr Emelumba told reporters in Owerri.
A day or so after, when Nigerians began to condemn the police for the church invasion, when Mr Emelumba spoke again with reporters, he did so with some moderation.
“The arrest of Mr Nwosu within the church premises could have been avoided and, therefore, stands condemned,” Mr Emelumba said.
“While government regrets the manner the arrest was made, we wish to emphasise that since it was purely a security matter, the full reason why such an action was taken will eventually unfold, and perhaps guide the public better.
“Government therefore wishes to appeal to those negatively affected by the action to bear with the security agencies,” he added.
Why Nwosu’s arrest is bad for police, Uzodinma
The way the armed officers, all of them masked, invaded the church has got some people thinking what’s the difference between the police and the ‘unknown gunmen’ responsible for the several killings in Imo and other South-east states.
“The reckless and ruthlessly lawless mannerisms displayed by the Imo State Police Command in the vicinity of the church will make it impossible for citizens to separate terrorists from law enforcers,” the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria said in its reaction to Mr Nwosu’s arrest.
Even the pro-Biafra group, IPOB, said what happened to Mr Nwosu, apparently referring to how the masked officers were firing gunshots in the church, has vindicated it on the deadly attacks and kidnappings in Imo.
The security challenges in Imo and the other states could get complicated because of the actions of the police.
Also, the way Mr Nwosu was arrested could erode whatever trust the people have in Mr Uzodinma and his administration.
“The attack on Uche Nwosu is an attack on human rights and freedom. It also shows the disdain law enforcement has for the public. We are not a banana republic, but actions like this will surely drive us toward it,” Babatope Falade-Onikoyi, a Lagos-based economist and management consultant, said in a Facebook post.
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