Armed attack against the offices of an NGO and death threats54
On 24th October 2003, some 20 armed men burst into the offices of the Consulting Centre for Constitutional Rights and Justice (C3RJ) in Port-Harcourt. After vandalising the premises, they held up Mr. Churchill Ibeneche, the executive director of C3RJ, and staff members at gunpoint and threatened to kill them if they didn't clear out within 24 hours.
This happened in the presence of Mr. Bishal Khanal, the representative of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Project Evaluations, with whom a meeting had been scheduled that day. Mr. Ibeneche and the C3RJ members decided to evacuate the premises. Mr. Khanal's visit may have instigated this attack.
The next day, at the end of the 24-hours deadline, the attackers came back to destroy and steal the remaining documents, computers, books, files, etc.
Still fearing for their life, by end 2003 the C3RJ members had not yet been able to return to their office. All their programmes, especially the support programme for victims of torture, were suspended.
The case was reported to the Nigerian police, but no suspects have been questioned as yet.
On 14th October 2002 in Lagos, the customs office impounded 2 000 copies of the report entitled Hope Betrayed? A Report on Impunity and State – Sponsored Violence in Nigeria published by the OMCT, and the Centre for Law Enforcement Education, Nigeria (CLEEN). State Security services agents harassed Mr. Idris Bawa, a researcher for the National Human Rights Commission, as well as Mrs. Isioma Ojugbana and Mrs. Ijeoma Nwachukwu, two members of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), who worked on this report.
After the report was seized, CLEEN lodged a complaint against the customs services with the Federal high court in Lagos which heard the case in June 2003. On 10th November 2003, after several adjournments, the CLEEN lawyers at last were able to submit their arguments. But because of an overburdened schedule, the court interrupted the hearing and postponed it until 26th January 2004.
On that date, the defence, represented by Mr. S. T. Shodikare, a lawyer who had just taken over the case, asked for the court's leniency, and to postpone the hearing until he could get a certified copy of the legal action underway. The lawyer for the prosecution was not against this request but reminded the court that the hearing had been scheduled for that day, and hence asked that the plaintiffs be awarded 5 000 naira compensation. The judge accepted the hearing to be postponed for 24th March 2004 and 2 000 naira were awarded to the plaintiffs.
[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website (www.fidh.org) was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]
54. See Urgent Appeal NGA 001/1103/OBS 062.
55. See Annual Report 2002.