Owerri Market Demolition Controversy: Lawyer petitions NHRC; NBA, Catholic Priest react

Owerri market demolition [Photo: Naij.com]

An Abuja-based lawyer, Charles Mbalisi, has petitioned the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC over the demolition of Eke Ukwu, a market in Owerri, Imo.

A copy of the petition was made available to journalists by Mr. Mbalisi in Abuja on Tuesday.

He also petitioned the NHRC on the alleged killing of a 10-year-old boy in the process.

The governor of Imo, Rochas Okorocha, and nine others were named in the petition.

The boy, Somtochukwu Ibeanusi, was reported to have been killed by a stray bullet while several others were said to have sustained various degrees of injuries during the demolition on Aug. 26.

In the petition dated August 29, Mr. Mbalisi asked the commission to investigate the involvement of the Imo Government, the Nigeria Police Force, Commissioner of Police in Imo and the Nigerian Army in the demolition and the death of the boy.

He also urged the NHRC to investigate the Brigade Commandant, Nigerian Army Brigade, Owerri, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, Imo Security Network and Imo Community Watch.

Mr. Mbalisi said the NHRC was empowered by Section 6 (1), (2) a, b, and c of its Act to conduct investigations and inquiries into a complaint of human rights abuse of this nature.

“Section 33 (1) of the Nigerian Constitution, says the boy has the constitutional right to life and that right has been deprived.

“That is why we have brought this to the human rights commission.

“The commission has every constitutional right to investigate and make inquiries in respect of the cause of the death of the boy.

“Anyone found culpable or liable will then be charged to court by the commission to ensure that justice is done.”

He said that the use of live bullets against harmless citizens in the course of demolition which led to the shooting and extra-judicial killing of Ibeanusi was unwarranted, brutal, unprofessional and insensitive.

He said it was not in harmony with the ethics of effective policing in a civil society like Nigeria and should be investigated.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has called for the resignation or impeachment of Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo state for his alleged role in the demolition of the market.

The NBA Chairman in Imo state, Lawrence Nwaketi, while speaking to journalists in Owerri accused the governor of “flagrant disobedience of subsisting court orders’ on the issue.”

According to him, the governor had abused some provisions of the Nigerian Constitution, which he swore to protect and hence should be impeached as soon as possible.

Mr. Nwaketi recalled that there is a subsisting High Court order, restraining the state government, and its officials from tampering with or relocating the market, pending the hearing and determination of the suit. 

The NBA Chairman said should the State House of Assembly fail to commence the impeachment proceedings on the governor, “Imo people should begin the process of recalling the lawmakers.”

Also, the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province, Anthony Obinna, condemned the action of the Imo State government that led to the tragedy.

The bishop while speaking to reporters wondered why the state government would ignore a court injunction and carry out the demolition.

“Government should ask itself if the relocation of Ekeukwu Owerri market is worth the drop of any person’s blood. The sad death of the 10-year old boy, Somtochukwu Ibeanusi, portrays government in very bad light,” he said.

The Archbishop also announced that a patriotic Catholic, who wished to remain anonymous, has donated N1 million to the bereaved family.


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