The last seems not to have been heard about the recent protest at Government House, Awka, by some women from Nkerehi Community, Orumba South, Local Government Area of Anambra State, reports Jude Atupulazi.
Following the protest by the said women, a lawyer, Mr Gozie Okeke, had described the protest as illegal and called on the state government to prohibit further protests.
But another lawyer, this time from Nkerehi, Mr Basil Igwike, says the women were protected by the country’s constitution to carry out the protest and that they were protesting against the intimidation and high handedness of some people he described as coming from the Umuchukwu faction of Nkerehi.
‘The truth remains that the reason for the said protest was because of the women’s complaint about the continuous oppression, suppression, destruction of property and assault on Nkerehi men, women and children by the Umuchukwu faction of Nkerehi Town. The last attack on them that gave rise to the protest was on the wee hours of 7th January 2021,’ Igwike said
On that day, Igwike alleged, a group of those he described as thugs abducted a minor from Nkerehi and beat him to stupor, assaulted many Nkerehi women and their husbands and vandalized their property under the guise of enforcing the Umuchukwu name on them.
He said the Nkerehi Community complained to the outgone commissioner of police, Anambra State, Mr. John Abang, but that none of the attackers was arrested or prosecuted.
He said consequently, the women who felt that their lives, those of their children, husbands and property were no longer safe and in serious threat, had no other option than to cry to their governor for protection since the state police had virtually done nothing to protect them.
‘It is obvious in the circumstance that the women’s outing is very civil and in the exercise of their constitutional rights other than engaging in self-help,’ Igwike stated, noting that it was in tandem with Section 40 of the country’s Constitution of 1999 (as amended) and right to assembly also guaranteed under Section 11 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Right (Rectification and Enforcement) Act 2004.
‘The lawyer belabored strenuously in trying to hinge the reason by the women for the peaceful protest on the issue of change of the town’s name which is sub judice but suffice it to say that such view is grossly misconceived and a calculated attempt to misinform the public by trying to whip unnecessary sentiments against Nkerehi Community,’ Igwike further said.
He said if anyone was in contempt of court in that community, it was those on the other side whom he accused of continually violating the order of the High Court in AG/33/2007 handed down in 2012 wherein the court ordered that none of the two factions of the community should interfere with the activities of the other, pending the determination of the issue of change of name that was in court.
‘It is worthy of note that the two matters bothering on change of name of the town in AG/33/2007 and AG/102/2007 involving the factions and government are still pending at High Court of the State,’ Igwike said, adding that the issue of whether the government had the powers or not to conduct referendum in Nkerehi for purposes of determining the change of name was pending at the Supreme Court.
‘The Umuchukwu faction and Mr. Dubem Obaze cannot claim to have conducted any referendum in the town on 7th January 2008 when the Nkerehi faction appealed against the ruling of Justice Amaechi against them on the order of prohibition and the motion on notice for stay of execution over the judgment which was pending but fixed for hearing on 24th January 2008.
‘It is trite law that a judgement creditor is estopped from enjoying the fruit of his judgment when a motion for stay of execution of such judgment is pending before a court of competent jurisdiction. So I wonder how such purported exercise of 7th January 2008 will attract the blessings of the court and law when a motion on notice for it not to be carried out was not yet moved and dismissed,’ he said.
Igwike said the gazette of Mr. Peter Obi that, according to him, which purportedly changed the town’s name from Nkerehi to Umuchukwu, was made ultra vires the power of the governor as the town’s name was recognized and or provided for in the schedule of the Local Government Laws of Anambra State 2000.
‘It was an act of the legislative arm of government and to that end, any amendment, alteration or change on such Law must be by the act of the House of Assembly of Anambra State and not by the executive fiat of the governor.
‘Secondly, the said Gazette of 2008 was made sub judice as the suit nu. AG/102/2007 between Nkerehi faction and Government of Anambra State over the issue of change of the town’s name, via sign post without the proper procedure is still pending in court,’ he said.