By Chuks Eke
ONITSHA – Nine indigenes of Ufuma community in Orumba North Local Government Area of Anambra state have dragged fellow indigenes of the community to an Aguata High Court sitting at Ekwulobia claiming a total sum of N120.5 million for breach of their fundamental human rights and ostracizing them from the community.
Joined in the suit which has been fixed for hearing on January 13, 2020, as 8thy, 9th, 10th and 11th respondents are the Officer In-charge of Anambra State police Commmand Monitoring Unit, the State Commissioner of Police, the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, AIG Incharge of Zone 9 Zonal Command, Umuahia and the Inspector-General of Police, IGP.
The Motion No. AG/MISC51/2019, filed on their behalf by Anayo Emejue Esq., lead counsel to the applicants, was brought pursuant to to Order II, Rules 1, 2 and 3 of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009 and Sections 34 (1), 35 (1), 41, 42 and 43 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria, and Articles 4, 5, 6 and 12 of the African charter on Human and Peoples Rights.
Out of the total of N120.5 million being claimed by the applicants jointly and severally against the respondents, N120 million is for exemplary, special and general damages for unwarranted violation of the fundamental rights of the applicants, while the remaining N500,000 is for the cost of the suit against the first to seventh respondents.
In the suit which was filed at the High Court Registry, the applicants, Chief Ferdinant Orji an octogenarian, Ifeanyi Orji, Anayo Orji, Okwudili Nwankwo, Chimezie Anuka, Okechukwu Nwankwo, Chike Nwankwo and Udochukwu Nwankwo are seeking a declaration of the court that the arrest, detention and intimidation of Messrs Vincent Chukwu Nwokolo, and Isaac Nwokolo, together with the search persistent search, threat and attempts to arrest and detain other applicants, by the 8th to 11th respondents, at the instigation of the 1st to 7th respondents, for challenging the 1st to 4th respondents in a civil court over 1st to 7th respondents’ criminal trespass into the lands the applicants is wrongful and unlawful as it violates their right to liberty and dignity of human person as enshrined in the constitution.
The applicants further prayed the court to declare that the acts of the respondents in arresting, detaining, intimidating, harassing, embarrassing and threatening to arrest, detain and torture more of the applicants as to force them to relinguish their landed properties, subject of Suit. No. AG/88/2018 and other civil suits without any justification amounts to breach of their right to acquire and own immovable properties in Nigeria.
A declaration that the complaint of the 1st to 7th respondents to the 8th to 11th respondents sometime in November 2019 or thereabout, which gave rise to the arrest, detention, persistent search, threat and attempts to arrest and detain more of them by the police for no justifying reason(s) is malicious, mischievous, spurious and false.
They therefore prayed to court to make an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents, their agents, servants, privies from further arresting, detaining or attempting to arrest or torture them over the matters forming the grounds for this application.
Also in a 16-page written address attached to the motion in support of the grounds of the application, the applicants recalled that in ostracizing them, the respondents had decreed that no native of Ufuma should ever associate with them, neither should anybody ever do any kind of business with them, nor visit their houses or compounds, not to talk of honouring any invitation for burials, marriages or any other kind if event held at their places of abode.
The applicants also recalled that the respondent followed up the decree with a stern warning that whoever flouted their decrees would pay huge sums of money to them as fines or penalties.
They noted that so far, Nwokolo Jekwu, Nwokolo Isaac, Nwokolo Godwin, Nwokolo NwabuezeOrji Ferdinant, Orji Anayo, Orji Ifeanyi and their family members from Obuagu, Umuagu, and Ugwu, Umuagu, Ufuma have fallen victims of the ostracism saga, adding that never in their history have they ever been subjected to this kind of injustice, ridicule, banishment, ostracism and subjected out cast in their own town of birth and in the modern day and age.
They attached a letter to the traditional ruler of Ufuma community, Igwe Sylvanus Chika Uchime and his cabinet known as Diji-in-Council, written by one of their legal counsels, N. B. Gbarade Esq., asking for their confirmation and intervention in the ostracism saga
They also attached a reply/confirmation letter from the Ufuma Diji-in-Council confirming that the respondents actually ostracized some people in the area without the approval of Diji-in-Council, even when villages, clans or families in the community, by custom and tradition, have no traditional authority to do so without approval by the Diji-In-Council of Ufuma which must only be if a traditional abomination is committed.
In the letter signed on their behalf by the Ufuma Cabinet Secretary, Nze Bertram Orji, the Diji-in-Council also confirmed that some people have been ostracized in Obuagu, and Ugwu, Umuagu-Ufuma by a group led by Mr. Obinna Nwankwo, to the extent that a widow named Mrs. Paulina Okoli was fined N10,000 only for selling akara balls to one Edna Okoli who is said to be ostracized, adding that apart from the widow, other people were also fined for associating with those said to be ostracized