By Archibong Jeremiah
Two officers of the Nigerian Navy and a detachment of Operation Akpakwu have been accused of human rights violation.
The Naval officers who happen to be brother and sister – Victor and Peace Owonam and their colleagues from the Operation Akpakwu, violated the family of Mrs. Akpan Esther Bassey by dehumanizing them.
The incident which happened in Calabar, the Cross River State capital was occasioned by quarrel between the Navy personnel mother and the widow.
Dehumanization of Widow, Children
According to Miss Akpan Comfort Bassey who narrated the ordeal of her family in the hands of the officers who abused the sanctity of the Nigerian Armed Forces, its a day never to forget.
In her words, “27th of December, 2020 was the dark day for the family of Mrs. Akpan Esther Bassey when one Victor Owonam, a Naval officer ranked as a Seaman and his sister, Peace Owonam also of the Navy for a slight altercation between their mother and the above named widow, Mrs. Akpan Esther Bassey, a mother of 3 ladies and a son.
“We were at home when loud noise and wailing was heard in the yard threatening my family that, ‘I’ll clear your doubts’, ‘blood will flow’, ‘I will deal with you’ and so on … about 15 minutes later, he trooped in with some guys, one with a camouflage and Navy vest, three others on mufti, locked the main gate to the compound.
“They moved straight to Victor’s mom and inquired, ‘madam, which of them was insulting you?’ She pointed at my elder whom we call Senior and without knowing what happened descended on her, punching, flogging my helpless sister and extended to the entire family, beating us mercilessly, when we tried stopping them from maiming my sister … they even brought out a military jackknife or dagger.
“When we forced ourselves out of the compound, Peace laid siege on the street and confronted us with beatings, whipping with cables. I was able to get across to an Air Force team for rescue. The team met her still clamping down on me for reason of calling them.
“She and her brother got my peaceful and quiet sister who had surgery about 6 months ago naked on the street to glare and amazement of everyone. We were then taken away to Airport Police Station by the Air Force team. We had to incident report with the Police and returned home.”
Not satisfied with the level of violation on the civilians, Comfort went on to reveal that while nursing their wounds in the wee hour of the night, “Victor Owonam reinforced, invited up to 8 military personnel of Operation Akpakwu, with vehicle No. 3032. Violently broke through our burglary proof, forced their way into our living room and put us in into the van to unknown destination in the dark of the night … We were all put in a stagnant gutter with a stench where Hausa men dispose spoils from cow meat in Bogobiri area of Calabar.
“While in the gutter, they were collecting dirty water in containers and pouring on us, flogging us with electric cables. Even in our helplessness and crying for help and my sister bleeding, they never had mercy until the wee hours of the morning, about 2:30am that they left us and went away.”
Defending the weak
A leading rights activist in the State, Barrister James Ibor, Lead Counsel of Basic Rights Counsel has offered to take up the matter with the Nigerian Navy, free of charge.
James who has a track record of offering free legal service to children and indigent women while condemning the act assured the family that justice will be served.
Similarly, in a petition, the Country Director of Citizens’ Solution Network, Richard Inoyo, stated that the Cross River State Governor, Sen. Ben Ayade, and the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, should investigate the assault and bring the erring officers to justice.
The group also called on the Governor to “stand up and ensure this case doesn’t get swept under the rug. We equally call on the highest echelon of the Nigerian Navy to ensure due compensation and apology is handed to the family of Mrs. Akpan Esther Bassey besides the dismissal of all the indicted officers.
“A country where men in naval uniforms will abuse their privileges and mercilessly beat a defenseless widow sends a dangerous and disgraceful message to both the Nigerian Navy and international community, hence the need to offer justice to these victims of naval brutality, so as to serve as a deterrent to other erring uniform men.”
The Navy and Cross River State Police authorities are yet to officially comment, though the matter has been reported at the Airport Division of the Police.
Editor’s Note: The earlier feature image used was not that of Victor but his brother, it has been replaced. Any inconveniences caused is regretted.
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