Protest at Harassment of Leo Igwe in Nigeria
Leo Igwe is the highly respected and capable West Africa representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union. He is also Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Humanist Movement. He has been subject to a campaign of harassment by the police, apparently instigated by the man he has accused (in his role as a defender of human rights) of raping a ten-year-old girl in 2006. In March 2010 he wrote to EHF:-
On January 5 2010, some soldiers and police officers [of the Zone 9 Police headquarters in Umuahia Abia state] arrested me and my father following a fictitious murder charge brought by one Ethelbert Ugwu. . . Since 2007 several fictitious allegations have been leveled against me and my family members by Ethelbert Ugwu and Edward Uwa because of our efforts to bring to justice Edward Uwa who raped a 10 year old girl in my community in 2006. Unfortunately, the investigations were never concluded . . . In the past three years, these malicious petitions have been used by policers officers and soldiers to arrest, harass, detain and extort money from me and my family members. In 2007, one of the petitions was used by the police in zone 9 to invite, arrest and detain my family members three times. The police authorities in Abuja, Umuahia, Owerri and Ahiazu have continued to pretend and feign ignorance of the abuses.
If the police and state authorities in Nigeria are not pressured to drop this pending charge and take action against these criminals, this murder charge would once again be used to harass and arrest me and my family members in future.
Since he started working on the rape case in 2007, Leo Igwe has been arrested three times. His father, a 77-year-old man suffering from diabetes, has been arrested on six occasions. Two of Leo Igwe’s brothers have also been detained three times. Ethelbert Ugwu and Edward Uwa have together filed three civil suits against Leo Igwe, his family and the rape victim’s father at three different courts, in Ahiazu, Owerri and Aba, claiming damages of over 500 million naira (2.4 million euro). Two of these cases are still pending. Ethelbert Ugwu and Edward Uwa have also written petitions calling for Leo Igwe’s brothers to be fired from their jobs.
In his letter to EHF Leo Igwe asked EHF and its member organisations to press the the state and police authorities in Nigeria to drop the murder charge against him and his family and to prosecute the petitioners for misinforming the police.
The EHF accordingly wrote to the Vice-President (acting President) of Nigeria, with several copies to other authorities. Our letter provides further background information.
In August 2010, in a further appalling episode, two unidentified men entered the home of the Igwe family and blindfolded Leo Igwe’s father, Oliver Igwe, who is 77 years old, and attacked him with stones, causing extensive injuries to his face and head. Oliver Igwe had to have his eye removed by doctors on 11 August. Guns were discharged and valuables stolen. The police were informed of the incident but did not come to the couple’s home and have so far refused to open an investigation, telling Leo Igwe to send a formal written request for them to investigate the attack. Amnesty International have taken up the case. The EHF wrote to the state police commissioner.