The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) yesterday set up a fact-finding team for Oyigbo in Rivers State following reports of alleged reprisal killing of suspected members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) by the military.
The four-man team comprises NBA First Vice-President, Mr. John Aikpokpo-Martins; two former Port-Harcourt branch chairmen, Mr. Victor Frank-Briggs and Mr. Anthonia Osademe, and a former Ukwa branch Chairman, Mr. Chimaroke Elie.
In a statement on his Twitter handle, NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata, said the team would visit Oyigbo and conduct an inquiry into the events in the area and the findings published.
Following the killing of six soldiers and four policemen, along with the destruction of court buildings during the #EndSARS protests, the Rivers State Government, on October 21, had imposed a 24-hour curfew on the Oyigbo Local Government Area.
The state Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, accused IPOB, which is seeking independence for the South-east, of being responsible for the violence.
Akpata said in the wake of the reports of extra-judicial killings and rights violations, he enquired about the situation from the chairmen of the Ukwa and Port Harcourt branches of the NBA (the two branches closest to Oyigbo).
He said: “Whilst the chairmen of the two branches expressed concern over the situation, they, however, informed me that they were yet to conduct an on-the-spot assessment owing to the curfew imposed on the area by the state government to forestall the breakdown of law and order.
“In a separate telephone conversation with the Governor of Rivers State, H. E. Nyesom Wike, he categorically denied ordering any such shooting as rumoured, but acknowledged clashes between men of the Nigerian military and some suspected lPOB members in Oyigbo Local Government Area of the state.
“The governor further explained that the curfew imposed on the area was borne out of necessity and assured me that it would be lifted yesterday, November 3, 2020. I have now confirmed that the curfew has indeed been lifted and that residents of the area are now able to go about their lawful activities.”
Akpata reiterated the NBA’s position that respect for the fundamental rights of citizens is non-negotiable and can only be derogated from instances permitted by the constitution or other laws.