Exclusive: Rights Group Petition, Malami, IG Says, Delta Politician Using Police To Grab 100 Acres Of Land
By Bisi Akinola
A prominent politician, Chief John Unukebo Oguma in Delta State has been accused of using his position to intimidate and oppress a poor family whose land has been forcefully acquired by the influential figure.
Chief Oguma is said to be enjoying the collaboration of the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Delta State, Mr. Peter Mrakpor.
The contentious Jarikre family land is located in Akperhe-Olomu in Ughelli South LGA.
Nigerian Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Friday asked the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami and the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu to intervene to stop the persecution of the family whose family members have been arrested and detained at the prompting of the prominent politician in Delta State.
The petition signed by the NHRC Director of Publicity, Mr. Taiwo Adeleye and Abubakar Onola (designation/post?) said the police and the judiciary in Delta State are being used by certain powerful individuals to undermine justice and liberty of the detained five.
Those arrested and detained since February 05 and kept in detention are 80-year old Madam Epinnijigho Ogwuori, (nee Jarikre), 69-year old Mrs. Cecilia Akpomedaye, 60-year old Mr. David Moses, Mrs Margaret Ikpesu, (50) and Pastor Vincent Oviriara, (42). Some of the detained are currently ill while the 80 year old woman and 60 year Mrs Akpomedaye are said to been in a state of depression.
“As we speak, the detained face the threat of death. They are ill and their lives are in danger,” the NHRC said.
The five have been kept in terrible conditions at the Okere Correctional Centre in Delta State, family sources said.
NHRC said the family has approached the rights group with allegations that the Attorney General of Delta State, Mr. Peter Mrakpor is hand-in-glove with a certain influential figure in the state Chief John Unukebo Oguma and that the continued detention of the five people constitute a case of persecution.
The NHRC said the detainees should be allowed to return to their homes. Oguma is said to be the political godfather of Mrakpor and that the two have been working together to subvert justice using the judiciary and the police.
The Jarikre family have sued certain persons, including Oguma, over the piece of land. The matter was first heard at a customary court where it was struck out for lack of jurisdiction, as the court ruled that the land was in an urban area.
The Jarikre family then filed at the High Court on January 31. Before the case could be heard however, on Feb 5, the other party called the police to arrest five elderly members of the Jarikre family in the village and delibrately charged them to a Magistrate Court, which then remanded them in prison custody because it lacked jurisdiction over those very serious, trumped up charges.
The Judge of the High Court avoided sitting on the case three times. Eventually, on the May 18, the Judge sat, bail application was argued, and the Judge fixed June 18 for ruling.
The NHRC said there are strong grounds to suggest that the Judge may deny the five bail because of political pressure, adding that the tactic is to use state apparatus to hold hostage the Jarikre family and frustrate them until they give up their land inheritance.
“We have been informed that the law is being used to cheat and oppress the poor by some powerful interest groups in Delta State who go about, and are desperate to seize lands that do not belong to them,” Adeleye said.
‘’We are confronted with a case of repression and subversion of justice in Delta State. This poor family has been at the mercy of the rich who continues to use state machinery to oppress and intimidate the old and vulnerable poor. We call on the Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice to use his good office to address the situation and ensure justice,’’ NHRC said.
The NHRC said the land has been used for farming by the Jarikre family members for over two centuries. The rights group said knowing that the Magistrate court would have no jurisdiction to grant bail to the Jarikres, the Otu- Jeremy police connived with the complainants and charged for a fictitious crime of promoting Native war.
After keeping them in detention for 4 months, the office of Attorney General in Delta State then filed a case of malicious damage and forceful entering, offences, the Magistrate Court would have granted bail upon arraignment.
NHRC said in February this year, the police in a gestapo manner stormed the Jarikres family compound at 2am, arrested four persons and on that same day, an in-law who lives somewhere else and not a farmer, who brought the wife to the station to see her relations was also arrested and detained.
The police without any investigation, took statements from the five persons and charged them to Otu-Jeremy Magistrate Court, on February 06 and the charge sheet contained trumped up charges the Magistrate Court has no jurisdiction to entertain, but the court ordered they be remanded at Federal correctional center, Okere.
The group described as false and malicious the twist of legal proceedings which has suddenly seen the complainant becoming the accused. The group said the detained should be allowed to return home.
The NHRC said that at the heart of the harassment of the five people is a piece of land of about 100 acres, an inheritance of the Jarikre family and that the family has been holding the land for over 200 years. The land was purportedly sold by powerful political figures who are land grabbers.
NHRC said the family sued the land grabbers led by the politician, Chief John Unukebo Oguma.
The NHRC is a coalition of 75 civil society organisations spread across the country with prominent individuals as members. Established in 2001, the group has been known for protecting the rights of the less privileged. Popular lawyers such as Mr. Femi Falana and Chief Olisa Agbakoba are some of the National Advisers of the rights group.