CSOs Take Peace Corps Protests to Human Rights Commission
Coalition of Civil Society Organizations for Justice and Equity (CCSO-JE) has expressed displeasure over the Nigeria Police Force refusal to obey court orders to unseal the Peace Corps of Nigeria corporate headquarters located in Jabi, Abuja.
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), on Thursday, confirmed that it has commenced investigations into the petition against the Nigeria Police Force, by a coalition of Civil Society, over disobedience to court orders.
A group, Coalition of Civil Society Organisation for Justice and Equity (CCSOJE), had fortnight ago, petitioned the Commission, over what it described as “flagrant disregard to the rule of law and disobedience to court orders”, especially in relation to “the 2 subsisting orders that the Nigeria Police should unseal and vacate the office of Peace Corps of Nigeria”.
Addressing members of the coalition and various youth bodies who visited NHRC in Abuja on Thurday, the Director of Corporate Affairs and External Linkages of the Commission, Lambert Oparah, said the Commission had made appreciable progress in its investigation, vowing not to leave any stone unturned.
Oparah acknowledged that he received the complaints on behalf of the Executive Secretary of the Commission and assured that the Commission will swing into action, adding that “the procedure of investigation is very clear”.
He explained that the Commission will take a look at the other side of the complaints from the Nigerian Police and seek the opinion of the management as well as the response of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim Kpotum Idris.
He urged members of the Corps, civil society groups and Nigerian youths to be peaceful and law abiding, urging them not to doubt the confidence and trust they reposed on the commission.
“I assure you on behalf of this commission in the next couple of days, I am not saying weeks, you will get response from us. It is important to know those things we can do for you and we can assure you we will do and it is important you also know those ones outside the scope of our mandate so that you don’t begin to have high expectations”, he added.
On his part, the Head of Civil and Political Rights, Harry Ogwuche Obe said that the commission will always encourage the exercise of human rights.
“I know that the freedom of speech and that of association is one of the cardinal rights that every citizen enjoys particularly in Nigeria. We can only emphasis that you should remain peaceful while exercising your own right”, Ogwuche noted.
He therefore assured the group to feel free to come forward anytime, noting that the commission will not be in hurry to make statement or recommendation that would be faulted, adding that whatever the commission would resolve, carries the weight of the law.
Earlier, the Coordinators of the group, Olayemi Success and Edward Omaga, charged the commission not to stand aloof in the matter that has cost the Peace Corps a whooping N13.5million, “being the annual rent it paid on the property which the Police sealed off illegally for the past one year and three months”.
They asked the commission to “urgently redressed, in accordance with the tenets of natural justice, rule of law and in the interest of the nation’s democracy, the monumental injustice perpetrated against the corps and the Nigerian youths by the police. Justice has been delayed long enough in this matter and we urge the commission to act now”.
The group reminded the Commission that, “disobedience to court judgements and constituted authority is a recipe for anarchy”.
“Today we are here demanding that the National Human Rights Commission live up to public expectations by invoking all relevant laws, including its recent directive Reference NHRC/001//2018 derived from NHRC ACT 1995 as amended to compel the Inspector General of Police to expeditiously unseal the Peace Corps office which it has illegally sealed since February 28th 2017”, they added.
The National Headquarters of Peace Corps of Nigeria located at Jabi, Abuja, has been under lock and keys since February 28th, 2017, when the Nigeria Police invaded the premises and arrested its National Commandant, Amb (Dr.) Dickson Akoh and 49 others.
Despite the ruling of Justice Gabriel Kolawole of November 9th 2017 and that of January 15th 2018 by Justice John Tsoho (all of Federal High Court Abuja), that the police should vacate the premises; the office has remained under the siege of the Nigeria Police.
The Attorney-General of the Federation Abubakar Malami had also written to the Police Boss in February this year that the 2 subsisting court orders be obeyed, “in absence of any appeal or valid stay of execution”.
The House of Representatives also, in its resolution of Wednesday, 9th May 2018, gave the Nigeria Police 21-day ultimatum to vacate the properties of Peace Corps, but the status quo has since remained.