Tony Ita-Etim, Port Harcourt
Rivers State Coalition of Civil Society Organisation has raised an alarm over what it called ‘unwarranted harassment of its members” by agents of the Federal Government, particularly the Department of State security (DSS), Nigeria Army and the Police.
The alarm was contained in a statement emailed to The UNION and signed by Rivers Coalition of Civil Societies, wherein it was stated that officials of the organisation have come under constant harassment and intimidation by the security organs.
“Recently, there has been security threats against some key civil society leaders in Rivers State. These threats, harassment and intimidation have been coming from the State Security Services a.k.a DSS, the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Police etc.”, the statement read in part.
The group listed an Executive Director of The Integrity Group, Livingstone Wechie; the South South Chairman of Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), Chinedu Karl Uchegbu; his South-South Director, Styvn Obodoekwe, Rivers state Chairman of CLO, Sotonye George and President of Agape Birthrights Organization and Niger Delta Rights Activist, Annkio Briggs, as civil right activists who had allegedly suffered harassment and intimidation from security agents.
It stated that “the advocacy actions of these rights activists have not obviously gone down well with certain known corrupt government officials, particularly at the federal level, including those who want power at all cost in Rivers State, also ranging from issues such as the fuel price hike, Army invasion in Ogoni land and the mass killings, rights abuse by security agencies, corruption in governance and political rascality.
“Their works are in the public domain and cannot be contested particularly, recently when they jointly and severally, and through various platforms ensured that Rivers state was not hijacked for any reason thus causing political sorrow to certain political desperadoes”, the group stated.
It further said that “the DSS is busy harassing them, playing political scripts against them with a futile view of trumping frivolous charges against them.
“Just in November last year, the Police assaulted Livingstone Wechie and almost shot him dead. He is in court with them claiming damages to the tone of N500 million. Chinedu Karl Uchegbu leading the CLO against Buhari high handedness and protesting the fuel price hike, is now being trailed by the DSS along with his comrades; Annkio Briggs is being threatened left, right and centre while efforts are made aggressively to blackmail her into a frame up.
“About a week ago, the paramount ruler of Yeghe Community in Gokhana Local Government Area of Rivers state was arrested by the Nigerian Army, tortured and blindfolded because of his role in joining the civil society leaders and groups to the National Assembly to advocate for justice over the Army killings in his community.
“A Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, presided over by Justice Mohammed Lima, ordered the Army to release him but rather than do so, the Army released him to the DSS.
“Again, Justice George Omereji of the Rivers State High Court has granted an order restraining the DSS from arresting and detaining Livingstone Wechie and fixed June 9, 2016 for hearing on motion on notice.
“Sure we know the game plan is: first, arrest and intimidate the named activist; next, go after social media activists and opponents and then, go after their lawyers.
“In all, we see an orchestrated plot and alliance between the DSS, Police, and Army to do the bidding of some known political players in Abuja, all in a bid to clamp down on the voice of the masses. If law enforcement agents, and agencies, now disregard the law and thrive in arbitrariness and impunity, then that will portend anarchy and total breakdown of law and order in our society”, the group warned.
It also called on the security agencies to be weary of the role they play in the current democratic dispensation while harping on the need for them to sustain their integrity and refuse to be used.
“We know the DSS and Army, Police and others to be a people of presumed dignity. We hold them responsible for diligence. We are watching and encourage them to break this political pot in their hands and array themselves in honour as injury to one is injury to all”, the group stated.