The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has urged the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, to investigate the allegation of misconduct of some officers of the Air Force accused of being hired by the Enugu State Ministry of Housing to harass and intimidate legitimate land owners with a view to depriving them of their constitutionally guaranteed fundamental human rights to own immovable property in any part of the country.
In a media briefing in Abuja the National Coordinator of HURIWA, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, restated the allegations made by some petitioners in Enugu State who approached the rights group claiming that they are being harassed and physically abused by some alleged officers of the Nigerian Air Force even as the rights group said it was not proper for the spokesperson of the Air Force to dismiss these weighty allegations with a mere wave of the hands without first and foremost carrying out discreet probe of the allegations as made even in a letter from the legal representatives of the Landlords that was reportedly served on the office of the Chief of Air Staff.
The group said they were also sent some photographic evidence and video alleged to be the vehicles driven to the site by the alleged Air Force personnel in Enugu.
HURIWA has also asked the petitioners to seek redress through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) because their claims that those parading about as land owners who approached the Enugu State Ministry of Housing to take over ownership of the juicy plots of lands had allegedly sold their lands to investors from all across the country on the understanding that the allocations bought would be turned into sprawling estates in Enugu State.
The right group said under no circumstances should any Nigerian be deprived of his/her human and commercial rights to own immovable property in Nigeria unjustly.
HURIWA which reacted to the claims by some persons who said they are the leaders of the community expressed shock that some Nigerians are still behaving like Nigeria is in the 16th century and have forgotten that in the 21st century Nigeria, citizens under a constitutional democracy have the fundamental human rights to ventilate their distress and seek redress whenever they believe that they are about to be deprived of their constitutionally guaranteed fundamental freedoms.
The rights group said that it was in possession of a petition sent to the office of the Chief of Air Staff titled ‘The Unlawful Use Of The Air Force Personal To Aid And Abet Land Grab Activities: A Cry For Your Intervention.’
Investigation conducted by our clients revealed that the said Air Force personnel were deployed to the layout by the Air Officer Commanding the 155 Air Force Base Enugu at the instance of Hon. Vitus Okechi who about three months ago was appointed the Enugu State Commissioner for Housing Development, and who even prior to his appointment and after has exhibited more than a casual personal interest on the said layout.
However, the Nigerian Air Force has denied a publication by HURIWA, who alleged land grabbing activities by some unnamed personnel of the NAF in Enugu State.
In a release made available to newsmen which reacted to the publication on June 23, 2020, The Director of Public Relations and Information Nigerian Air Force, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, stated that the online publications which alleged that some NAF personnel in the State confiscate land from owners and sell to land speculators is not only laughable, unfortunate and ridiculous but also against all known ethics of Journalism. It shows clearly that the Association was out to smear the good image of the NAF and dance to the tune of whosoever had engaged it, as no effort was made to contact the NAF before going to press.
“For the benefit of the public, it is pertinent to note that a certain person claiming to be ‘Flight Lieutenant Isaac Akporibo’ had been falsely parading himself as a NAF officer and settling land disputes between civilians in Emene whilst collecting large fees from land speculators.
“The suspect, who has been arrested and is presently being interrogated by appropriate security agencies to determine the extent of his involvement in the scam, may have been mistaken by HURIWA and/or the publishers of the offensive article to be a NAF personnel. Evidently, a little journalistic enquiry by the publishers would have prevented them from associating the suspect with the NAF,” he added.
It would be recalled that the NAF has in the recent past made numerous public arrests of fraudsters masquerading and impersonating NAF personnel.
Dramola advised the public to be wary of suspicious people in uniform and should report such unscrupulous elements to the nearest security agencies.
“The NAF, as a highly disciplined and professional force wishes to reiterate that it does not tolerate or condone acts of indiscipline or violation of human rights of citizens in whatever guise,” he concluded.
Also, the community leaders of Ugwuaji Awkunanaw in Enugu South Local Government Area of Enugu State dismissed the allegations of land grab by the Enugu State Ministry of Housing even as HURIWA has restated the allegations made in the petitions by some landlords of the said proposed Estate and asserted that it has asked the petitioners to file a petition before the EFCC as that is the best legal institution to investigate their weighty allegations of land grabs while charging the Air Force to undertake a concrete investigation and not to dismiss the allegations without proper and open investigations.