• Thursday, June 13, 2024
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BusinessDay

Uche Nwosu’s arrest: Matters arising

Imo government to review Owerri Master Plan

Uche Nwosu, the former Chief of Staff and son-in-law to Rochas Okorocha the ex-governor of Imo State was arrested on Sunday, December 26 inside Saint Peter’s Anglican Church in Eziama Obieri during a church service.

Security operatives were said to have swooped at him inside the church during the thanksgiving service of his late mother and whisked him away amidst sporadic shootings and harassment of the congregation.

The crude manner of the assault made people think it was a kidnap. However, the police later declared that they were responsible for the arrest. This left many wondering how policemen could come to arrest an unarmed civilian with guns and masks. Evidently, the action of the policemen depicts some elements of thuggery which should not be associated with the force.

Besides, it is strange that the police are yet to release officially the offence of Nwosu. If his offence was that serious, that could warrant such manner of invasion into a church, it should not be difficult for those implementing the law to make known his offence.

Much as we are not supporting disobedience to laws and rules by the citizens, nor are we concerned or interested in the reason for Nwosu’s arrest, we differ in the manner it was made

Constitutionally, the police have the right to arrest anybody, anywhere, and at any time depending on the gravity of the offence. But what manner of arrest was that whereby armed policemen barged into a church service and dragged off a worshiper by the scruff of the collar, firing wild shots from the altar as they made off with their victim.

The constitution is replete with provisions intended to protect citizens’ fundamental rights. An entire chapter, chapter four, exists for this purpose. This is in addition to the various international instruments on rights protection, subscribed to by the country.

But despite the laws and rules contained in the constitution, security agents have routinely violated Nigerians’ rights with impunity, just like the instant case of Citizen Uche Nwosu.

Much as we are not supporting disobedience to laws and rules by the citizens, nor are we concerned or interested in the reason for Nwosu’s arrest, we differ in the manner it was made.

Yes, it is not in anybody’s place to tell the police how to arrest a suspect, but a suspect is not a criminal until declared so by the law court. A suspect is alleged to have committed a crime, and it is still an allegation until it is proven. Anybody can allege anything against anybody. So why treat a suspect as a criminal. It is quite disheartening that the police could act in such a manner in a democratic government.

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Nevertheless, looking at the volatile atmosphere in the South-East, especially Imo State these days, one would have expected that the police will conduct themselves in a manner befitting honour and dignity, not as thugs even in the face of arresting a supposedly criminal.

If a citizen commits a crime and he or she is to be arrested, there are constitutional approaches to it. Police are not allowed to use excessive force or treat the arrestee cruelly; this is universal and protected by even the Nigerian constitution.

It is unfortunate that the Imo State government and some indigenes of the state could come to endorse the arrest of Nwosu as lawful, and that his arrest was part of an independent police investigation. How can that be without stating his offence?

The incident tends to unmask the complicity of Hope Uzodinma led administration in the insecurity going on in Imo State and the southeast region. This kind of development is not healthy for the South-East, no matter the political interests of the individuals concerned.

Besides, invading the church where Nwosu was worshipping is another sign of impunity on the part of the law enforcement agents. For instance, police generally respect houses of worship and will make an arrest elsewhere, if possible.

A suspect running from the law, who takes refuge in a church, at least temporarily, avoids arrest from the police. But this was not the case as Nwosu was worshipping in a church when arrested.

This kind of unguided action of the police paints the country in a bad image in the eyes of the international community. There is a great need for our law enforcement agents to learn to respect citizens’ rights even in the face of arrest, especially unconfirmed allegations.

Meanwhile, we commend Usman Alkali Baba, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) for his timely intervention and professionalism over the matter. However, we urge the police to investigate the incident thoroughly and prosecute the perpetrators. This is one way in which the IGP can send signals to the populace that ours is not a Banana Republic after all.