Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Hon Onueze Chukwujinka Okocha, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), has been honoured at different times across the country.
But when he clocked 40 years in law practice, his colleagues from the Ikwerre ethnic nationality decided to honour him. They resolved that he should be celebrated for his contributions to the growth of law practice in Ikwerreland, Rivers State and Nigeria.
The celebration of the 40 years of legal practice of Hon OCJ Okocha by Okpo Club of Nigeria (Association of Ikwerre Lawyers Worldwide) was a comprehensive affair. It attracted the best of the Rivers society under one roof. Senior and junior lawyers, other professionals, top government officials, traditional rulers, academics, media, women and youth groups.
For a man who has devoted 40 years of his life to the promotion of the rule of law and access to justice, an eternally grateful society gathered to appreciate his commitment to their welfare.
Guests learnt at the event that Hon OCJ Okocha had kicked against the elaborate celebration. But the executives of the Association of Ikwerre Lawyers Worldwide would have none of it. They insisted that such a legal luminary deserved all necessary accolades to encourage younger professionals to toe the right path.
Chukwuma Chinwo, Chairman of Okpo Club of Nigeria, said that OCJ Okocha’s contributions to the development of the legal profession are very fundamental, as he helped in grooming different generations of lawyers in the state.
He said: “We met him in the legal profession as a gentle giant who had no difficulty in stooping down to carry the younger ones along and make all have a sense of worth. There may be some who claim he did not do it as well as they would have wished, but we are very satisfied with what he did for us all.
“We realised that though he is of gigantic proportions by all means, he stood on the shoulders of pioneers who were giants in different endeavours.”
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, who was the Special Guest of Honour at the celebration, thanked the Association of Ikwerre Lawyers Worldwide for honouring Okocha whilst he is still alive.
He said: “This is 40 years of successful law practice. I commend Chief OCJ Okocha for mentoring young lawyers to be worthy legal practitioners.
“He has had forty years of successful law practice because of commitment. He is committed to the profession. This is somebody that everything he does is centred on legal practice. He never comes to seek for contracts. For OCJ, law practice is his job”.
The governor said that God has kept Hon OCJ Okocha alive to continue to build young lawyers and contribute to the overall growth of the profession.
Chief Moses Wifa (SAN) said that Okocha deserves the honour because he is a bridge between old and young lawyers.
Former Rivers State Governor, Sir Celestine Omehia said Okocha is a living icon who has contributed to the development of the state.
He said: “We are here for the celebration of an icon. We are here to celebrate a man of honour. We are here to celebrate a legal icon. We are here to celebrate our own, OCJ Okocha .
“Usually, people celebrate a person when he is dead. But today, we are celebrating a living icon, OCJ Okocha”.
The highpoint of the celebration was the presentation of a book written in his honour by lawyers of Ikwerre ethnic extraction.
Titled: “Opening and Enriching the Channels of Justice in the Nigerian Society: Essays in Commemoration of Four Decades of Legal Practice of OCJ Okocha”, the book is “designed to be a celebration of the intellectual prowess of the generation of Ikwerre lawyers and judges coming after the honouree and particularly a show of commitment of Ikwerre lawyers to celebrate their own”.
Editor of the book, Chukwuma Chinwo, in the preface explained that the topics treated were carefully and deliberately chosen to reflect on the honouree and his contributions to the development of the law profession and grooming of young lawyers.
The foreward of the book was written by the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike.
He wrote: “Hon. OCJ Okocha means-several things to many persons. As a legal luminary, OCJ has been phenomenal in his pursuit for justice and defence of the rule of law and independence of our judiciary.
“For our youths, he has always been an inspiration and a counsellor to many of us who love and admire his exemplary leadership. He has contributed immensely to the advancement of legal education in Nigeria”.
Chief celebrant, Hon OCJ Okocha started his remarks with a praise hymn, “To God Be The Glory”. He thanked God for the privilege to serve humanity using the legal profession as a platform.
He said: “May I say how grateful and thankful I am at this celebration organised by Okpo Club to celebrate my attainment of 40 years of legal practice, and for the honour done to me today, and also for the award just bestowed on me. I give all the thanks, praise and glory to the Almighty and Eternal God for my richly blessed life, and for the success I have made of my career in the legal profession. I must also thank you all who have come here today to honour me, and also thank all those, living and dead, who have in their several ways helped me along the way.”
He recounted his experiences through the practice of law since he was called to Bar in 1978, maintaining that he has continued to remain focused in pushing for the promotion of the rule of law, independence of the judiciary and greater access to justice by members of the society.
In his foreword to the book that has been presented to the public today, His Excellency, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, CON, GSSRS, POS (AFRICA), Governor of Rivers State, has stated that yours truly “…. has been phenomenal in his pursuit for justice and defence of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary”. That is true, if I may humbly say so myself. That is also what all of us who are lawyers, and all of us who are judges and magistrates, must most chiefly concern ourselves with. As the motto of the Nigerian Bar Association loudly proclaims, our responsibility is and always ought to be : PROMOTING THE RULE OF LAW.
“Sometimes, indeed most times, when I reflect on my life, and wonder what, if any, I have achieved, or I would like to achieve, I settle on the thought that I would personally like to be an inspiration to others to join the legal profession, and do much more than some of us have tried to do, to improve the machinery in place in Nigeria for the administration of justice, and the maintenance and enforcement of law and order. I do hope that, God being my helper, I will remain faithful to the pursuit of that thought, and the ideal which I hope to attain for so doing. Happily, I seem to be making a success of that aspiration, as three of my own children, without any prompting by me, have studied Law and become legal practitioners.”
He expressed gratitude to his wife, Mrs Ifeoma Okocha, who has been a pillar of support all through the years, enabling him to carry out his responsibilities for the good of the society.
Like every other great professional leader, Okocha also has people who have mentored him on his way to becoming a living icon.
“May I also, with the greatest respect to you all, crave your kind indulgence to use this opportunity to thank all those who had helped me to enter the legal profession, and to build my law practice, my MENTORS, so to speak, and some others. First, Chief Richard Akinjide, CON, SAN, FCIArb (UK), in whose Law Firm in Ibadan I did my Law Office Attachment in 1978, as a student of the Nigerian Law School. He has led and still continues to lead me in several matters before the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. Second, the late Alhaji Shettima Liberty, who was the Honourable Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of Borno State, when I arrived Maiduguri in August, 1978, for National Service in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). Third, the late Professor Niki Tobi, CON, former Justice of the Supreme Court, who was Dean at the Faculty of Law, University of Maiduguri, where I was later re-deployed for NYSC Primary Assignment, to lecture the students in Nigerian Legal System and Constitutional Law, during the 1978/79 Academic Session. Next my professional father, the late Chief C. A. B. Akparanta, SAN, in whose law firm I started practising law in Rivers State in July, 1979. Then, my professional grand-father, Chief Nwobidike Nwanodi, SAN, who was Chief Akparanta’s Senior in the Law Firm of NWOBIDIKE NWANODI & CO. The late Chief Nwobidike Nwanodi was the trail-blazer for all of us who were and are Ikwerre-born lawyers.
“Then, there was Dr. Mudiaga Odje, OFR, SAN, FCIArb., now deceased. He led me in my first case before the Court of Appeal. I must also mention in a special way, my own Chairman, Chief The Honourable B. M. Wifa, OFR, SAN, KJW, JP, who at all times, and even now, would advise and guide me through the difficulties I encountered and still do encounter in the practice of law. I need not add that he also taught me a few things about how to deal with CONFERENCE MATERIALS at Bar Conferences, at home and abroad. And, of course, my dear colleagues in the Manuchim Chambers Family, the legal practitioners and secretarial staff, from time to time, past and present, who have helped to build the Law Practice of OKOCHA & OKOCHA, Legal Practitioners and Notary Public.”
The honour bestowed on the legal icon by his professional colleagues of Ikwerre extraction is well deserved. The beauty of the entire ceremony is that it is a departure from the norm.
It is a call to the society to rise up and appreciate societal leaders while they still live. This act of appreciation will encourage more leaders to improve on their commitment to the development of their respective communities. That way, Nigeria will be a better country.
Nwakaudu is Special Assistant to the Rivers State Governor on Electonic Media.
Insecurity, Traditional Rulers And Community Policing
The hue and cry about insecurity in Nigeria reached an alarming crescendo when the daughter of Afenifere’s leader, Reuben Fasoranti, Olufunke Olakunrin was killed by suspected herdsmen at Ore junction, Ondo State on July 12.
The ensuing reactions were charged, emotional and combustible.
President Muhammadu Buhari swiftly offered a soothing response; he directly commiserated with Fasoranti and reassured Nigerians of Federal Government’s commitment to the protection of lives and property.
In the aftermath of Olakunrin’s death, alongside other incidents of killings, the Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, ordered killer herdsmen to leave South-West now or face serious confrontation. The organisation said that a lot of people had been killed due to the activities of killer herdsmen between 2015 and 2019.
An Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said the quit order was because of the killing of Olakunrin.
Determined to assuage feelings and find lasting solutions to the reoccurring security challenges, Buhari directed the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, to confer with traditional rulers and get their input vis- a-vis adopting community policing.
Consequently, on July 20, Osinbajo held separate consultations with the Akarigbo of Remoland, Oba Babatunde Ajayi, and the Awujale of Ijebu Kingdom, Oba Sikiru Adetona, all Ogun monarchs.
Osinbajo was accompanied to Ajayi’s palace by Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun.
“As you know, there are many significant security concerns all over the country, and there are concerns also in the South-West. So, I am here on the instruction of the president to consult with the traditional ruler, the governor and others on what to do to beef up security and to generally improve the security architecture.
“Of course, you know that Kabiyesi is not just a traditional ruler, but a very important part of the government. That is why we are here; to talk to him and agree on few modalities for beefing up security; and ensuring that we are fully conscious of all that is going on, just to be sure that peace and security reigns here and across the country.’’
Osinbajo expressed optimism that by God’s grace, Nigeria would overcome all its problems and set itself on the path of peace and prosperity. The vice president, who also visited the palace of the Awujale of Sagamu, said the monarch was one of the most important voices in the South-West.
He said they had discussed on the important steps to take in order to improve the security architecture generally. According to him, the monarch has given a lot of insight; his own views, on what needs to be done, how to go about it, and what has been done already.
“But very importantly, he showed his commitment to ensure that there is peace and security, and that everybody lives in peace with one another and maintains the highest level of security.
“We are consulting with many of the traditional rulers across the country, but there are concerns in the South-West now. The president has spoken about the role of traditional rulers in maintaining peace and security in their own localities. As we know, they are the closest to the grassroots; the closest to their communities.
“One of the critical things we expect from our community policing efforts is some integration between the traditional rulers, the community and the police; and efforts they are making to improve intelligence; and we need to understand what is going on.
“We need to know who is where, and what exactly is happening all around, so they can be transmitted to the more formal security agencies, such as the police and the army, depending on where and what the situation is,” he said.
In the same vein, Osinbajo, on July 23, met with Osun monarchs at Osun Government House, Osogbo. The vice president, after the meeting, said that community policing was one of the methods that may be adopted to improve security.
In his contribution, Osun Governor, Gboyega Oyetola, who was represented by his Deputy, Mr Benedict Alabi, applauded the Federal Government’s efforts in nipping the security challenges in the state in the bud.
“On behalf of the government and people of the state, we appreciate President Buhari’s administration for being pro-active and for showing interest in the security of our people in the state and in the South-West,’’ he said.
Buhari also held a consultative meeting with South-West Obas on July 31 at the Presidential Villa. Buhari said that the vice president had already begun consultations with some Obas and he had been receiving feedbacks and observations.
He said that the consultations were important because traditional rulers formed a critical part of governance structures, especially in their respective communities, where they felt the pulse of the people being the closest to the populace.
The president said that the dynamics for safeguarding security kept changing and stressed the need to adopt modern, technological and people-centred methods in achieving the goals. Buhari said that as the traditional authorities in their communities, government and the security agencies would be relying on them to monitor the communities. The president also announced other measures government intended to adopt to tackle security challenges.
“Some of these interventions include an expedited commencement of community policing, a robust revamping of police intelligence gathering capacity and the significant boosting of the number of security personnel in our local communities.
“This, in specific terms, will include recruiting a lot more police officers and doing so right from their local government areas, where they would then be stationed in the best practice of community policing.
“Working with the state governments also, we intend to beef up the equipping of the police force with advanced technology and equipment that can facilitate the work of the security agencies.
“I will be issuing directives to the appropriate federal authorities to speedily approve licensing for states requesting the use of drones to monitor forests and other criminal hideouts.
“We also intend to install CCTVs on highways and other strategic locations, so that activities in some of these hidden places can be exposed, more effectively monitored and open to actionable review.
“ We will equally continue to bring in our military when needed to complement the work of the police, including possible deployment of troops on certain highways on a temporary basis, and the use of the Air Force assets to bomb hideouts where criminals are located,’’ he said.
On his part, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, who spoke on behalf of the Obas, said that the president had agreed to fast-track the monitoring of the forests in the region with the use of technology such as drones. He said that policemen and officers would be recruited among people born and living in the various communities in the region.
“We can use that strategy to avert tension going on now in the South-West,” he said.
Deserving no less attention was the recent kidnap of a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) and four others, along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, and the killing of a Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Paul Offu along Ihe-Agbudu Road in Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State. The incidences, among others, buttress the call for drastic and effective measures to be adopted to tackle insecurity across the country.
Undoubtedly, bringing traditional rulers into the security architecture will enhance intelligence gathering and effective community policing that will reasonably address the nation’s security concerns.
Okoronkwo, writes for the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
Boosting Nigeria’s Cassava Competitiveness
The Presidential Initiative on Cassava, launched in 2003 during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, was designed to promote cassava as a viable foreign exchange earner for Nigeria.
Then President Goodluck Jonathan sustained the programme by launching the cassava flour initiative. The progamme was meant to bring to the fore, the potential of cassava cultivation and to encourage Nigerians to consume cassava bread made from cassava flour.
The initiative was commended as it would help reduce the cost of bread, because of the high cost of wheat, as Nigerians currently cherished and consumed bread made of wheat. Stakeholders are worried that cassava bread is yet to become popular, while the desired production level of cassava is yet to be achieved.
They blamed the development on poor attitude of farmers to cassava cultivation and lack of technology and the needed infrastructure to churn out cassava flour and called for viable policy to strengthen cassava cultivation and processing to encourage farmers to cultivate cassava.
Cassava Compact Leader, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Mr Adebayo Abbas, who spoke on the need to strengthen cassava policy, stated that cassava remains one of the most consumed food crops in Africa. According to him, the potential market for cassava products is large and growing.
Abbas stated that Nigeria is the highest cassava producer in the world, producing a third more than Brazil and almost double the production capacity of Thailand and Indonesia.
He stated that cassava had been recognised to become agro-industrialised across the African continent to achieve key poverty reduction and economic growth target.
According to him, Africa imports annually about 50 million tons of food, such as rice, wheat, maize and sugar, worth over 35 billion dollars and such food imports have been projected to increase to nearly 100 billion dollars by 2025. He said such increase in food imports is a risk to the balance of trade for most African countries and it also represents a unique opportunity for crops such as cassava.
“Cassava grows well in the continent because it can replace up to 80 per cent of our food imports, especially in processed forms such as flour, native and modified starches, sweeteners and beverages,” he said.
Abbas stated that for cassava to become an important carbohydrates source in Africa, the triangle of productivity, processing and rural infrastructure must be met. According to him, farmers must have access to technologies to raise cassava productivity from the current 10 to 15 million tons per hectare in many African countries to 20 to 25 million tons.
Abbas said that incentives for investment in processing would be achieved through the development of robust supply chains and government’s policies that reduce transaction costs for processed cassava. He noted that rural infrastructure is as important in cassava farming as technology or investment in cassava processing.
The National President, Nigeria Cassava Growers Association (NCGA), Mr Segun Adewumi, called on the Federal Government to review cassava policy in order for the commodity’s value chain to penetrate the international market. To him, the cassava industry has gone beyond growing for consumption and if properly harnessed would generate huge foreign exchange.
He stated that the government and other stakeholders must cooperate to ensure that Nigeria’s cassava penetrate the international market. Adewumi said that many players are interested in cassava farming but the environment has not been conducive, especially the issue of price.
The Chief Executive Officer, Psaltery International Company, Mrs Yemisi Iranloye, also called on the government to promote the cassava business, through the review of government’s cassava policy to meet international standards. Iranloye stated that the present cassava policy for starch and cassava flour have been there since 2005.
She said that the policy had not been reviewed, noting that the last policy was made when there were not many players buying cassava products in Nigeria and there was no standard in the cassava business. According to her, the policy had been in place when there were no big processors, stressing that there was need to review the cassava policy.
She added that just as the review of cocoa, palm oil and other farm commodities’ policies, cassava is now used to produce food grade starch sold to breweries, packaging and confectionary industries. Iranloye said that the starch industry had a lot of challenges, adding that it must be encouraged in order to compete in the international market.
“Most times, when there is price drop in the international market, the multinationals often expect the price to also drop in Nigeria.’’
She, however, noted that the case is not always the same when the price goes up in the international market, but negotiation is however ongoing to get to the desired destination.
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Muhammed Umar, said that the Federal Government raised the production of cassava from 36.8 million MT in 2013 to 54 million MT, and also developed efficient value-added chains for high quality cassava flour.
He said that the ministry was working with a Malaysian firm to establish one cassava starch processing plant of one ton per hour capacity in each of the six geo-political zones. This, according to him, will complement the 2-3 tonnes per day plant earlier established.
“Also, in the current fiscal year, provision has been made to equip Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), with tissue culture laboratory with modern equipment to enhance rapid provision of quality and disease resistant cassava planting materials,” he said.
As requested by players in the cassava business, the Federal Government should strengthen its cassava policies to enable the country generate reasonable foreign exchange from export of cassava products.
Ogunshola and Olaifa write for News Agency of Nigeria.
Femi Ogunshola and Bukola Olaifa
Reps In Rowdy Session Over Shiites As Police Clampdown On IMN Again …Don’t Release El-Zakzaky On Court Orders, Reps Tell Buhari …Two Injured In IMN’s Fresh Protest In Abuja …Iranians Join Protest In London Over El-Zakzaky
Danger signals emerged yesterday as the House of Representatives was thrown into a rowdy session following a sharp disagreed between members over a motion urging the Presidency to obey court orders to release the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zinat from detention.
The development in the lower chamber followed another confrontation between armed policemen and members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, IMN, during fresh rounds of protest yesterday against government’s continued detention of their leader Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky. The incident left no fewer than two persons injured.
The Islamic sect had on Monday clashed with the police during a similar protest which resulted in the death of about eight persons, including a Deputy Commissioner of Police Usman Umar, and a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member with Channels TV, Mr. Precious Owolabi.
However, the renewed hostilities between IMN and the police, which played out around the popular Banex Junction in Wuse II district, left no death on its trail.
An eyewitness told newsmen that the police were proactive in dispersing the Shia protesters before they actually took over the streets for their planned demonstration.
“The Shi’ites had barely commenced their activities this afternoon when policemen stormed the gathering and released tear gas in the air. Gunshots were also fired into the air to disperse the crowd,” the source said.
When reporters spoke with Abdullahi Musa, the Secretary of IMN’s Academic Forum, the organ responsible for organising the protests, he claimed two members of Islamic sect were injured as the people scampered for safety.
“The police injured two of our members at Banex junction. The two injured have been taken to the hospital,” he said.
Asked to mention the hospital the injured were rushed for medical attention, he declined; saying “I can’t reveal the hospital for obvious reasons.”
But after a heated debate yesterday, the House of Representative asked President Muhammadu Buhari to shun the court orders on the release of the detained leader of Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.
This followed an amendment to a motion on the need to stem the rising incidence of attacks and insecurity occasioned by the violent protests of the movement sponsored by Hon. Ahmed Shamdudeen from Kano State.
Hon. Herman Hembe from Benue State had suggested that the motion be amended to accommodate urging the President to obey the court orders and release El-Zakzaky.
But the naysayers shut down the motion when subjected to a voice vote by Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila.
The same fate almost befell another amendment by Hon. Lynda Ikpeazu from Anambra who forwarded an amendment specifically calling on the Kaduna State government to also release El-Zakzaky.
When put to vote, the naysayers almost had their way again. But sensing a tie in the respective responses of “yea”, and “nay” sayers, the speaker called for a division.
“I am going to do the division right here and now”, Gbajabiamila said.
At this juncture, the House became rowdy and swiftly dissolved into an executive session. At the moment, members are still in the closed meeting.
However, President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, reiterated his commitment in fighting insecurity that is threatening the unity of the country.
While commiserating with the families of Channels TV reporter, Precious Owolabi; Deputy Commissioner for Police, Usman Umar, and others that died, last Monday, in Abuja during a clash between Shiites and police operatives, Buhari in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media & Publicity, Femi Adesina, told Nigerians not to doubt or test his administrations will to act in the higher interest of majority of Nigerians.
The President also condoles with the management and staff of the television station and police leadership over the loss, urging them to remain steadfast and committed to their professional callings.
Describing Owolabi and Umar as “law-abiding, hardworking and vibrant Nigerians with a promising future,” Buhari called their untimely fate, “sad, regrettable and worrisome.”
“Sequel to his directive to the leadership of security and law enforcement agencies to safeguard the nation against such mindless attacks, the President reassures residents of Abuja in particular and the country in general to go about their lawful activities without fear.
“Buhari adds that perpetrators of the mayhem will not go unpunished, stressing that no government can tolerate unceasing affront to constituted authority”.
According to the President, “Let nobody or group doubt or test our will to act in the higher interest of majority of our citizens.
“He prays God Almighty to grant rest to the souls of the departed and speedy recovery to the injured.
“The unaltered desire of President Buhari today about Nigeria is to leave a legacy of total reformation of Nigeria, a country all Nigerians would see reasons to proudly boast even in foreign climes as the land of their birth”.
However, the President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, yesterday, expressed sadness over the loss of lives in the violent clash between members of Islamic Movement in Nigeria and security agents in Abuja, last Monday.
Lawan, in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media, Ola Awoniyi, described the death of Channels TV reporter, Precious Owolabi, in the incident as tragic.
“It is tragic that a brilliant life and professional prospect was abruptly cut short in a manner that diminishes us as citizens of a democratic nation,” he said.
Lawan also extended his condolences to the family of Owolabi, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).
He also commiserated with the family of Mr Usman Umar and the Nigeria Police over the death of their son and Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations) during the incident.
He condemned the habitual resort to violence by members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria under the guise of the exercise of their rights to freedom of association and expression.
The Senate president also decried the use of excess force by the security agencies.
He called on the security agencies to evolve new approach for peaceful enforcement of law and order, even in the face of provocation.
Lawan urged the Federal Government to find a speedy resolution to the agitation by members of the movement, within the context of the rule of law, national peace and security.
“All lawful options need to be considered towards avoiding carnage from needless confrontations of citizens with the security forces,” he stated.
Similarly, the Nigeria Union of Journalists has expressed grave sadness over the killing of a Reporter with the Channels Television in Abuja while covering a protest by members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN).
A statement by the National Secretary of the union, Shuaibu Usman Leman, read: “We regret the sudden violent turn of events during what was supposed to be a peaceful protest by the IMN members who were demanding the release of their leader, Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.
“The Reporter, Precious Owolabi, who was on national service died of bullet wounds sustained during the coverage of the protest.
“It was not clear who actually fired the fatal shots.
“A Deputy Commissioner of Police, in charge of Operations at the FCT Police Command, Umar Usman equally died from gun shots sustained during the violent protest.
“The Nigeria Union of Journalists demands for a thorough investigation to ascertain those responsible for the death of 23-year old Precious and bring such persons to account for their crime.
“We regret the death of this young professional occasioned by the rising threats being faced by Journalists on daily basis while performing their duties.
“Until recently, outside war zones and other conflict areas, journalists usually didn’t have to be too much concerned about safety issues, but unfortunately today, media professionals are facing a whole new set of occupational hazards.
“We are worried by these dangerous trends and note with disgust that Nigeria is shifting down in the overall press freedom rankings.
“While we grieve with the family of the deceased journalist, we caution media organizations against sending young and inexperienced journalists to cover dangerous assignments that ideally should be given to experienced professionals who are better prepared and equipped to carry out such duties.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria should as a matter of urgent concern address the lingering protest by IMN members calling for the release of their leader, Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.
“This is the right time to take a second look at the continued detention of not only Sheik El-Zakzaky and his wife but also of Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd), before it gets too late”.
But the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (aka Shiites) has absolved itself of the murder of the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations in the FCT, DCP Usman Musa, saying that he may have been a victim of “friendly fire”.
Umar, a Channels TV reporter and several other members of the IMN died during a protest by the IMN on Monday that turned violent.
In an interview with newsmen, the spokesman of the IMN, Ibrahim Musa reiterated that members of the movement do not carry weapons so they could not have been responsible for the senior policeman’s death.
According to him, several members of the movement died during the protest as a result of the violence unleashed on them by security agents.
He said “a quick analysis of images and video clips showed that the Free El-Zakzaky procession was peacefully progressing prior to the brutal crackdown.
“It also clearly showed that the protesters weren’t bearing arms and traffic was moving smoothly without hindrance.
“The images also showed the police, armed to the teeth, intent in stopping the movement of the protesters. Few other policemen and plain cloth security agents were seen piling used tyres for use to set bonfires.
“By the time the police struck, about a dozen members of the Islamic Movement had been killed. The police were seen picking the corpses to an undisclosed location, perhaps for mass burial.
“Also shot were a journalist with the Channels TV and their colleague, an Deputy Commissioner of Police, whom photographs showed was struck from the back of his head with the bullet exit in front, an indication that he was a victim of “friendly fire.
“As if to hide this fact, the late policeman was hurriedly buried without any form of post-mortem examination, which would have revealed the source of the bullet”, he said.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations, Federal Capital Territory Command, DCP Usman Umar, who was shot dead during the violent clash between the Police and protesting Shi’ite members in Abuja on Monday, has been buried.
He was reportedly buried at the national cemetery on Monday evening after a short prayer at the National Mosque.
The FCT Police spokesman, Anjuguri Manzah, confirmed, yesterday, that the deceased officer had been buried.
Umar, described as a kind man, was pacifying the Shi’ite members when he was felled by a bullet. He died before he could be taken to the hospital for treatment.
In anticipation of another round of protest by the members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, the police, yesterday, beefed up security around the Federal Secretariat, Abuja, scene of Monday clash.
Armed and battle-ready policemen could be seen in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, inside the Eagle Square and generally within the three arms zone.
The area was, however, calm as commuters and workers went about their businesses.
Our correspondent also observed riot police officers in trucks being deployed in parts of the Federal Capital Territory to forestall a breakdown of law and order.
The carcasses of the ambulance and fire truck belonging to the National Emergency Management Agency, set ablaze by the rioters are yet to be evacuated.
In the mean time, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, says the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government refused to obey Justice Gabriel Kolawole’s order on the release of the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzakky, because it appealed the ruling.
Adesina said this during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily, yesterday.
The President’s spokesman said the Attorney-General of the Federation at the time, Abubakar Malami (SAN), may have had his reasons for doing so since the government had the right to appeal the bail.
He said, “I know that the immediate past AGF in whose purview it was to make pronouncements on that, address the issue. If bail is granted and another case subsists and there is an immediate filing of appeal, you have to wait till it is dispensed with. So, that is a legal matter which is outside my purview but as a layman, an unlearned man as lawyers would call us, we know that until all cases are dispensed with, you don’t say that it has been concluded.”
Adesina said the matter had since been taken before a court in Kaduna State and the bail hearing would come up next Monday.
He, therefore, called on the Shiites to wait for the court to make its ruling.
Responding to allegations that the police ought not to have fired live bullets into the protesters on Monday, the President’s spokesman said the police deserve to be commended, adding that the death toll would have been much higher if the police did not show some restraint.
Adesina argued, “I tell you despite what happened yesterday, if the police had responded with greater force, you know we would not be talking about what we are talking now.
“A deputy commissioner of police was killed. Yes, very sad, that is one life just like any other life. He did not deserve to die in service to the country but if the police had responded in similar fashion, you would have been talking of rivers of blood in Abuja now.
“I still believe there was some restraint yesterday despite what happened and personally I still commend the police for showing that restraint.”
In his reaction, a political activist and former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Timi Frank, said that the numbers of death recorded at Monday’s violent clash between the police and the protesting Shiites members are avoidable, calling on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to hold President Muhammadu Buhari responsible.
The Shiites are demanding the release of their leader, Ibraheem El-Zakzaky, who has been in detention for alleged murder since December 2015.
Reacting to the clash which led to the death of many Shi’ite members, a Deputy Commissioner of Police and a staff of Channels Television, in a statement made available to newsmen, yesterday, in Abuja, Frank demanded for unconstitutional release of the Shia leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky to prevent the crisis from degenerating into more dangerous dimensions.
While commiserating with the families of a Deputy Commissioner of Police, Channels TV staff and others who died during the violent fracas, Frank accused the Buhari administration of abuse of court process, saying the President has taken dictatorship to the Next Level.
The Bayelsa-born political activist said security strategy in a crisis situation must be targeted to calm the situation and not shooting at protesters.
He reminded Buhari that when he personally led a protest against the police in 2014 no single shot was fired at his group.
According to him, no past government has supervised the killing of her citizens directly or indirectly like the current administration.
He warned against creating another terrorist group by deliberately disobeying court orders and refusing to release the leader of the Shiite by the APC government.
Frank, who said it was the right of the Muslim group to demand the release of their leader from illegal and unjustified detention, added that “whether we like it or not, Shiites members are Nigerians, therefore Nigerians must condemn the clamp down on the group.
“The Buhari government has refused to obey all the court orders granting the Shiite leader bail before now.
“Why is Buhari’s government finding it difficult to obey the numerous court orders? It is also on record that the leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and their Muslim counterparts had visited Buhari concerning this illegal detention and that of Col. Sambo Dasuki but the APC’s government has consistently paid deaf ears to all their concerns.
“The demand for his release has now gone international. In London recently, a group of protesters were seen calling for the release of El-Zakzaky and the UK Government did not send police to shoot the protesters even when the Shia leader is from another country.
“Nigerians must speak up now and channel the blame to the right direction, which is Buhari and not the protesting Shiites members who were demanding for the release of their leader.
“If Buhari’s government could negotiate with Boko Haram, bandits and other dreaded groups, why is it difficult for him to find solution to the Shi’ites’ agitation?”
Frank called on all Nigerians including religious leaders and Civil Society Organisations to boldly speak out now and prevail on the President to release the detained El-Zakzaky and Dasuki.
He warned the government which he accused of attempting to kill El-Zakzaky to release him unconditionally.
He also appealed to the international community to mount pressure for the release of the Shiite leader.
He called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to indict the IGP, the Chief of Army Staff and the President for consistently killings the protesting group.
Another group, a coalition of Igbo youths, yesterday, given the Federal Government a 7-day ultimatum to proscribe the activities of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), nationwide.
It was reacting to the Monday’s attack by the Shiite militants on emergency point of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
Several persons were injured while many vehicles belonging to the agency were set ablaze in the bloody attack.
There has been constant violent clash between the sect and security operatives, which has claimed many lives and government properties.
Reacting to the saga, the coalition affirmed that the Islamic group must be outlawed within seven days.
The ultimatum was given by the National Publicity Secretary of the Coalition, an amalgamation of Igbo Youth Groups in Nigeria, Comrade Ogbonna Ogbonna, at a press conference on Monday in Abuja.
Ogbonna stated that Federal Government must act now in the interest of Nigerians before it gets too late.
According to Ogbonna: “It is instructive to note that the IMN as an organization has displayed violent tendencies in Nigeria as far back as the early ’80s which culminated in the incarceration of its spiritual leader Sheik Ibrahim El-Zakzaky by successive governments for crimes against the state, disregard for constituted authorities and the disruption of public peace.
“The IMN carried on with this trend unabated with the active support from the government of Iran and some other extremist organizations that have continually funded their operations in Nigeria since the early ’80s.
“The Coalition of Igbo Youth Groups having viewed the current situation in Nigeria with regards to the resurgence of the violent activities of the IMN that has led to the death of innocent Nigerians as well as security operatives calls for concern and urgent action from the federal government in the interest of peace and tranquillity.
“The IMN cannot continue to insult the sensibilities of Nigerians by arrogating the propensity for violence to itself alone, forgetting that the heterogeneous nature of Nigeria and experiences of the past makes each ethic group mutually suspicious and ready to take laws into their hands if the situation arises.
“The coalition consequently wishes to state that our silence should not be taken for humility, and our respect for the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should equally not be misconstrued as foolishness.
“The activities of the IMN has indeed caused countless tears and sorrow to a large population of Nigeria that are law-abiding and steadfast in the belief that Nigeria shall make progress and reclaim its spot in the comity of nations in the world.
“The IMN cannot continue to constitute themselves as an executive terror group terrorizing Nigerians and the Federal Government, and by extension, the Nigerian Police Force would not act proactively towards containing their nefarious activities in the interest of peace and tranquillity in Nigeria.
“This is unacceptable and insults to the sensibilities of the millions of Ohanaeze youths in Nigeria who would not hesitate to take up arms and protect the interest of Ohanaeze youths in Nigeria.
“This is on the heels that during the period the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Nnamdi Kanu was incarcerated, the Igbo Youths did not take laws into their hands by not constituting themselves to nuisance to public peace in the country.
“The actions of the Ohanaeze youths should not be taken for granted by the relevant authorities in Nigeria in the light of the prevailing circumstances that has clearly shown that the IMN group has an agenda to destabilize Nigeria with the active support of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and other terrorist networks around the world.
“The coalition states in unequivocal terms that the lackadaisical attitude of the federal government in dealing decisively with the IMN terrorist group sends a dangerous signal and if care is not taken might eventually lead to the disintegration of Nigeria.
“The IMN has consistently violated all known international laws as regards the protection of human rights and the right to freedom of association of Nigerians regardless of their ethnic and religious affiliations.
“The more curious is the fact that the Nigerian government has refused to sever ties with countries that have supported and funded the nefarious activities of IMN. This is suspect and highly unacceptable to the Coalition of Igbo Youth Groups.
“The coalition at this moment states that it would no longer seat and watch as the IMN continues to constitute a threat to the sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under whatever guise.
“It, therefore, advises the leadership of the IMN to seek legal methods in advancing the case of their leader in line with existing laws in Nigeria, instead of taking the laws into their hands by embarking of violent street protests and other activities that do not augur well for Nigeria and Nigerians.
“The coalition consequently gives the Federal Government and the Nigerian Police Force a 7-day ultimatum to proscribe the IMN as a terrorist group in line with the avalanche of evidence before the general public.
“It wishes to state in unequivocal terms that failure to proscribe the IMN as a terrorist group would leave the coalition with no option than to take laws into our hands.
“The exigencies of time require that the Federal Government should act proactively if it is desirous of keeping the country united and safe for all concerned. The federal government must act now in the interest of Nigerians before it gets too late.
“A word is enough for the wise because the coalition would not continue to watch in silence as innocent Nigerians fall victim to the nefarious activities of the IMN and their sponsors.
“The 7-day ultimatum given to the Federal Government to proscribe the IMN as a terrorist group stands sacrosanct and must be treated with all seriousness that it truly deserves.”
In faraway the United Kingdom, Iranians, whose country backs the Shia Islam which the El-Zakzaky-led Islamic Movement of Nigeria a.k.a Shi’ites practices, yesterday, took their protest down to the Nigerian High Commission in London.
The Iranian protesters were heard chanting ‘Buhari’s government, shame on you’, as they called on the Nigerian government to release El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat.
We reported earlier that court document filed on behalf of El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat at the Kaduna State High Court, revealed that they are suffering metal poisoning.
The metal poisoning is reportedly caused by the gunshot pellets in their body system, and the couple are seeking the court’s permission to travel to India for medical attention.
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