An Enugu State High Court has ordered the Enugu State Government to set up a Judicial Panel of Inquiry to investigate the killing of 22 unarmed Igbo youths in Emene.
In her judgement in Suit No. E/569M/2020 brought by the REGISTERED TRUSTEES OF CHRISTIAN NETWORK AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT & ANOR. V. GOVERNOR OF ENUGU STATE & ANOR., Justice Chinyere Ani (PhD) held that the applicants’ case had merit.
The court declared “That the 1st respondent is hereby ordered to institute a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to unravel the cause(s) of unlawful and illegal killing of 22 unarmed youths at Emene, Enugu, Enugu State, on 23 August, 2020.”
Meanwhile, Nzuko Umunna has urged the Enugu State Governor, Mr. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to immediately comply with the court order.
In a statement signed by Mr. Ngozi Odumuko and Mr. Paschal Mbanefo on behalf of the Executive Council, the leading Igbo think tank said: “We welcome this judgement which is lucid and well-reasoned. While commending the judge for the uncommon scholarship and industry which the judgement typifies, we urge His Excellency, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to without further delay set up this long overdue panel of inquiry to unravel the circumstances that led to the gruesome murder of these defenceless and unarmed youths. This is consistent with Nigeria’s Constitution and the Enugu State Commission of Inquiry Law, Laws of Enugu State 2004.
“In so doing, we urge the Governor to appoint only persons of high repute and integrity into the panel with a view to ensure that such unacceptable killings in peace time do not go unpunished and to serve as a deterrent to other perpetrators.”
The think tank which is made up of Igbo professionals in Nigeria and the Diaspora also commended other groups and persons who collaborated with it to achieve the judicial victory, adding: “We especially thank veteran human rights activist and scholar, Dr. Sam Amadi who led the legal team to pursue this case to its conclusion and ensure that the perpetrators of this heinous crime are brought to justice.”
It is recalled that Nzuko Umunna and the Registered Trustees of Christian Network and Community Development had in a pre-action notice given Governor Ugwuanyi four weeks ultimatum to constitute a judicial commission of inquiry into the killings. The groups warned Governor Ugwuanyi that they would seek the following orders should he fail to comply with their demand:
A DECLARATION that the massacre of 22 unarmed youths who were various physical exercise/ trainings by the Police and Officials of Department of State Security Service on or about 22nd August 2020 violated Section 33(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria (as amended) and Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act Cap A9 LFN 2004 which guaranteed right to life and prohibits the killing of human beings without an order of court.
2. A DECLARATION that the extra judicial killing and/or massacre of 22 unarmed youths at Emeni by the officers of the Nigerian Police and Officials of Department of State Security Service on or about 22nd August 2020 violates the fundamental rights to life of the deceased and is therefore unconstitutional, illegal and unlawful.
3. A DECLARATION that the failure and/or refusal of the Governor of Enugu State to set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to look into the unlawful killing of over 22 unarmed youths on or about 22nd August 2020 at Emeni Enugu State by persons suspected to be Security Officials amounts to a dereliction of duty.
4. AN ORDER that under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act Cap A9 LFN 2004, it is the duty of the Defendant (Governor of Enugu State) to protect and defend the life and properties of the people of Enugu State.
5. AN ORDER OF MANDAMUS compelling the Defendant (Governor of Enugu State) to set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to unravel the cause(s) of the unlawful and illegal killing of over 20 youths on or about 22nd August 2020 at Emeni Enugu.
Following the governor’s failure to comply with ultimatum, the two groups spearheaded the lawsuit to compel compliance by the Enugu State Government, culminating in the judgement.
The groups in the letter dated August 27, 2020 stated that the unprovoked attack and murder of the innocent and unarmed indigenes of Enugu had caused unrest within Enugu and its environs, as the citizens were living in fear of who may be the next victim.
The letter, written on behalf of the groups by their lawyer, Mr. Edwin Anikwem, noted that it was one of Ugwuanyi’s primary responsibilities as the chief security officer of the state to protect the lives and property of its citizens, adding: “In view of the above, we urge the governor to set up a judicial commission of inquiry as provided under the Enugu State Commission of Inquiry Law, Laws of Enugu State 2004 to ascertain the immediate and remote cause(s) of the persons involved in the aforementioned killings at Emene, Enugu State, recommend appropriate sanctions to be meted out to persons identified to be related with the massacre and also proffer solutions on how to prevent future occurrence in the state.
“It is our belief the execution of the above request will help to restore peace among citizens of Enugu State and its environs, especially Emeni where the incident occurred.”
Persons suspected to be Department of State Security (DSS) operatives had on August 23, 2020 opened fire on unarmed youths who were engaging in various physical exercises in Emene, Enugu State killing 22 of them. However, in a statement by its Public Relations Officer, Dr. Peter Afunanya, the DSS claimed “that its patrol team was, today, 23rd August, 2020, attacked in Emene, Enugu State by members of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).”