Ndiaga Amechi Awkunanaw community members in Enugu South Local Government Area of Enugu State have raised the alarm of living in fear over a disputed portion of land.
They have subsequently petitioned the Inspector-General of Police, IGP Usman Baba Alkali over incessant harassments by officers of the SWAT, Force CID, Abuja.
In a petition to the IGP, the community said the SWAT operatives had laid siege on the community and had been on a prowl, hounding every member of the community.
The petition was signed by the legal representative of the community, Barr. V.C. Nwadike.
Enquiries showed that the issue bordered on land dispute between two parties in the community.
In the petition, the community said, “we have, however, now become aware that this unfortunate vendetta was orchestrated against the community by Mr. Kingsley Eze, in order to forcefully take over our communal/ancestral land.
“We are equally aware that the law permits us to defend our property, just like any other owner of a property, against any forceful or unlawful takeover of same, and we cannot therefore be annihilated, completely wiped off or jailed because we resisted abusive use of a few compromised mobile police officers on illegal duty, who were hired and gave themselves out as hirelings and whose presence on the land is clearly to support the greedy, acquisitive tendencies of a land grabber who has selfishly instigated and unleashed them (SWAT, FCID, Nigeria Police Force, Abuja) against the community.”
They disclosed that in the morning of August 4, 2021, “a contingent of SWAT invaded the land in question and chased our members away from their land, apparently for the purpose of putting the land grabber in possession of our land. We are raising this alarm to appeal to the Inspector-General of Police, who is known for professionalism and respect for the rule of law and respect for human rights, to call these officers to order, bearing in mind that it doesn’t fall within the purview of the Police Force to dabble and decide issues bordering on land.
“We consulted with our lawyers and they had written to the Inspector-General of Police, against the use of various police units by the landgrabbers to harass and intimidate members of the community, including the use of some mobile police officers assigned as personal guards to the land grabber, and it appears that the more we complain the more emboldened and reckless they have become, in their invasion of the community with force and arms.
“We don’t want any disruption of peace, law and order or bloodshed in our community, hence this clarion call on the IGP to stop this abusive use of members of the SWAT, Abuja and ensure an impartial and unbiased policing that can inspire confidence in, and respect for the Police.”
Meanwhile, one of the counsels to the community, Barr. Ike Ozo further told journalists that he was surprised the police could wade into a purely civil matter and was using the same to harass the villagers.
He noted that, “it is very strange to some us to hear that the police are intervening in a very civil matter that is devoid of any cloak of criminality; what is in contention between the parties is that some dissident group is not comfortable that my clients were appointed by the villagers to be the land committee.”
He said the party instigating the case had earlier gone to the media to make spurious claims, stressing that all their claims were punctured.
He added that rather than follow the law to press their claims, they had now resorted to the crude use of the police to harass and intimidate innocent villagers.
“Recently, they went to court and brought a civil suit before an Enugu State High Court where they are seeking for declarative reliefs and injunctions against claims. We are yet to join issues with them because our time is still running, when we heard that they have invited the police from Abuja to intervene in a land dispute that has nothing to do with any criminal issue.
“So, we are really shocked to hear that the people from Abuja have been here for days harassing the people.
They came down to Enugu and are harassing innocent, decent citizens of Enugu State, just because they are managing their ancestral lands, and which they have authority to manage.
The much they can do is go to court, which they have done in suit No. E399/2021, where they are challenging the authority of our claims,” the lawyer said.
He recalled that the other party earlier went to court and lost, leading to a fresh election which brought his clients in as the managers of the said communal land.
“So, we have every authority both legally, judgement wise and by the authority of the community to really be in charge of the management of this ancestral land.
“I have not seen anything our client has done to warrant police intervention, rather this is one of the areas of police rascality in operations,” he declared.
In the meantime, a community leader, Mr. Nnaji Sunday, and wife of one of the detainees, called on the police and the Enugu State Government to stop a reign of terror on their community.
At the moment, it was gathered that a detachment of police mobile force 76 from Nsukka were guarding the land, a development described by the community and their lawyers as unlawful.
They urged the IGP to order that they vacate the land immediately.