Friday, November 7, 2008

UPDATE: Ms. Okere just won a N100mn judgment against her assaulters. To learn more, click here.

Nigeria is an interesting place and there are interesting updates on Uzoma Okere's case. These updates raise serious issues that every Nigerian should be concerned about.

FASHOLA STEPS IN: Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, apologized to Uzoma, saying,
"Those of us who exercise authority in the state who owe it a responsibility to protect you have actually turned against you. I am sorry.
This matter has been brought to my attention by e-mails, well placed on the internet on what took place. I can assure you that our democracy will protect you, you will get justice....
Whatever legal assistance you will require, the state government will provide it for you. I will make representation to his Excellency, Mr. President and all the reports I get from the Ministry of Justice, I will pass it to him. I am sure that he will do justice to it."

NIGERIA'S SENATE LAUNCHES AN INQUIRY: The Senate Committee on Navy has asked the Chief of Naval Staff, for an explanation of why his subsidiaries assaulted Uzoma. This was a reaction to a petition submitted by Uzoma's father, Sergeant-At-Arms of the National Assembly, Col. Emmanuel Okere (rtd), seeking justice for his daughter.

NIGERIA'S NAVY LAUNCHES INVESTIGATION: Not to appear inadequate, and because they are "sensitive to how the public perceived [it]", the Navy has not only ordered an investigation into the incident, but has publicly promised that anyone directly or remotely connected with the incident would be sanctioned if found guilty.

WOLE SOYINKA & OTHERS SPEAK UP: Interest groups like Project Alert, Women Arise, Real Woman Foundation and the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) have all spoken about their outrage over Uzoma's assault. While Soyinka has asked for Arogundade's sanction (the Admiral whose men assaulted Uzoma), CDHR is demanding, among other things that,
"... Arogundade and his men, who are ratings in naval uniform, be relieved of their posts via dismissal from service for engaging in conduct that show that they are not fit and proper persons to be retained as officers and men of the Nigerian Navy."
I applaud Governor Fashola for taking this first step of offering not just an apology but pledging to use state legal resources and his influence to get justice for this victim of a brutal assault. The reality is that many other governors would not have paid this matter any mind. I also commend the Senate Committee on the Navy for stepping in, this action could be crucial, even if it be symbolical only, in preventing further shows of violence by the military on civilians. It is also good to know that the Navy has promised to punish anyone tied to this assault. If that actually happens and all those tied to the assault, regardless of rank or favor, are disciplined, that will be a significant deterrence of such behavior in the future.

Unfortunately, I have my doubts as to Fashola's promise that Yardy will get Uzoma some justice. Considering the fact that Elendu is still forcibly in Nigeria (without charges) and might miss his appointment with USCIS, that Emeka Asiwe has seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth and that there are far too many other instances of infringed freedoms and rights in Nigeria, I can only hope that the President of Nigeria, or someone from his staff, will make the time address these human rights issues in this and other cases. This same skepticism applies to the Senate inquiry and the Naval investigation - will anything good come out of it? Only time will tell. But if history is anything to go by, I won't hold my breath.

There are issues that continue to trouble me about this event and while I am glad that Uzoma is getting attention and will hopefully get justice, these questions remain,
  1. what if the video had never been broadcast online, would Uzoma be getting this much attention?
  2. what if Uzoma's father was not a former Naval officer and not the current Sergeant at Arms of the National Assembly, would the Senate Committee have moved so quickly
  3. given the questions above, would the Navy have bothered to announce that they were investigating the incident? will they actually investigate and punish those involved?
  4. what measures are in place for others who have suffered similar fates to have their assaults/murders addressed by the powers that be?
  5. when are we going to hear from the President on these and other issues?
I continue to support the notions of justice, respect for human rights and constitutional freedoms. Until the answers to those questions above suggest that we are in the direction of protecting all Nigerians regardless of who they are, we will continue to hear about assaults similar to Uzoma's and maybe even worse. And, Nigeria's dream for democracy will continue to wither away and die under the heel (or gun butts or horsewhips) of injustice.

Related Articles of Interest:
- Uzoma Okere Won N100mn
- Confronting A Culture of Brutality and Injustice
- When Nigeria's Military Attack Citizens
- Chinyere Igwe: Reflective Of A Bigger Nigerian Issue
- Turning Away from Democracy
- "Free Jonathan Elendu Now!"
- Suppression In A Democratic Regime

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Yewande Atanda said...

Thank God Fashola (SAN) and others are already fighting for the FHR of the victim. We only hope there will be a tangible result. This is the best time to test Yar'Adua's due-process agenda.

Femi B said...

Baby steps to democracy. The more things get caught on camera, the more scape goats to be caught When these people are made an example of believe me those uniform members would be less likely to react this way again. When they file serious law suits on their asses and some lose their jobs...other people would think twice before the maltreat anyone
More videos more videos of injustice need to surface. Me I am going to naija with my secretly installed camera...lol

Anonymous said...

I think it's really awesome that someone was able to capture this on video and spread it around the internet. It'll, in the very least, allow for some accountability...It's so sad though, how we keep degenerating...
The more (human rights) groups that clamor for justice, the more justice will be served (I hope)

webround said...

i am suspicious of the navy. the person who is anouncing the investigation and saying all concerned will be brought to justice is the same person who had previously announced that Uzoma "provoked" the naval men.

someone needs to bring this to the attention of the authorities.

webround said...

Pls tell me I'm wrong - I haven't seen reports about this incident on both the Guardian and Thisday Newspapers. These are supposed to be the frontline papers in the country.

webround said...

the wonders of technology
as reported by the punch this is the explanation given by the Navy. Thank God the incident was caught on camera

ChiefO said...

dem just start, there'll sure be more incidents that would be caught on camera and revealed. personally i think the next person to get caught misbehaving big time is going to be a senator. dem just start! lets go there!

i knew there was a reason i have been thinking of picking up fotography as a hobby. my choice of camera already seems like more than a good idea. evil laugh (long range, zoom lens, hi-def etc etc think of camera's used by paparazzi who cover soccer games)

guerreiranigeriana said...

...lol @ chiefo's photography comment...

...good that they are at least appearing as though they will do something...but what bothers me most is that everyone is behaving as if this is an isolated incident and not the norm...it won't change until we recognize the normalcy of such and address that...this girl is seemingly lucky because of who her father is and the video camera...but what if she had been some rural girl...who would listen to her without video camera or daddy's clout?...would we even know/hear of such incidences?...the ones i know of are because it has happened to relatives or family friends or neighbors (and we know how fast gossip spreads)...

Dami said...

chiefo, best stick with the mobile phones with good resolutions, heard those with cameras at the scene were whipped too!

she is suing for N100m

Anonymous said...

Wow, education has evolved, it now includes web as a new science. "Amina J Ibrahim is good old me!" was the 1st selfless blog reply I ever saw until this one by Gov Fashola. Another huge milestone and congratulations to those that cared to shout out loud.

Nigerian Curiosity made history with the proclamation (thanks to the BBC and others) but we cannot stop now, quality (pls note I did not say good) blogs are important. The state governor concerned in the UZOMA OKERE case is now involved but like a virus, how do we infect the other 35, plus the #1?

Applauding Governor Fashola for doing his job could be frowned upon but then again we are beginning to see the effects of positive contribution in only 1/1M cases. This is a reason to wake up those still in the dark ages. Sol, you dare help dream imposible dreams.

Insane advice to Baba-Go-Slow (aka Yardie) all is forgiven, sack all your press hangers on, they have failed to brand you (just ask Obama). Get yourself a decent sat web service, get online and let your people help you. Why?

poeticallytinted said...

Sceptical is my name! I am just holding my breath and watching and trying to rein in my temper. I still drive on 3rd mainland everyday and guess what? Maniacs in jeeps with blaring sirens still think they own the rest of us. It happened yesterday and I wanted to wind down and shout "What are you gonna do! BEAT ME UP???!" yeah juvenile i know, but that would've been satisfying.

Dami said...


your friend yardy is apparently 'very upset' about the incident and has order an investigation

thanx Syelle

webround said...

thisday reports that the Admiral's family says the Admiral was not in the convoy.

I'm curious, if he wasn't in the car how come he didn't say so himself and he didn't say it immediately the news reports were first published? well, let's wait for the investigation

Anonymous said...

1. Quite surprised that only punch newspaper has really raised a lot of dust on the incident out of all the newspapers.

2. Only one person caught this incident?

Okey.Chukbyke C. said...

"....anyone directly or remotely connected with the incident would be sanctioned if found guilty......"
Haba!! who is being fooled? When was the last time a 'soja man' was punished because of 'an idle civilian?' Am I poorly informed?. Ok I accept that.

I think the last time would be in 1970-71 just after the war when late General I.D BISALA commanded the Ist Infantry division (?)in Enugu(may his gentle soja soul continue to rest in peace). The rampaging 'occupying vandals'(as we were made to perceive and call those Federal troops/ soldiers) were sometimes afraid that the gentleman soldier BISALLA would 'lock-up'anyone who exeggerated in punishing the Igbo civilians. We kids I THE NEARBY VILLAGES were made to understand he really did punish officers(BATTALION COMMANDERS) in the villages that did not control their boys.
The best road in Enugu then was named afetr him i.e BISALA ROAD the Nigerian Govt, later renamed it ...INDEPENDENCE AVENUE and this was almost a blasphemy to the good(older) Enugu people who continue to call it BISALA Road.
Did he the late General BISALA do more to them than the independence?
Reamians a good question to all.

NneomaMD said...

"what if Uzoma's father was not a former Naval officer and not the current Sergeant at Arms of the National Assembly, would the Senate Committee have moved so quickly"

I have secretly wondered that as well. Hopefully the victory the Okere receives will be extended to others in the future who may find themselves in a similar fate, regardless of IMM (that is i ma madu, that is to know people referring to her dad's connections).

There is another victory here, the power of netizens (bloggers, casually internet surfers, and online media) to effect change. We saw this amply demonstrated in the rise of Obama's campaign from obscurity to the presidency. I think in order to elicit more change towards a true democracy would be to get more Nigerians involved in the internet (please let no one mention the rise of Yahoo Yahoo boys....we've heard enough). I think the overwhelming majority of Nigerians would be appreciative of efforts to get involved in eliciting change in their individual communities by organizing online.

oh, and note to SSD, I sent you a message using kontactr....dont worry about it.

bArOquE said...

i more than terribly need answers to the 'what if' questions you posed...a big thanks to Gov. Fashola, i pray his 'sincere' intentions are seen to their utmost conlusions

Yewande Atanda said...

just hope we'll get to the root of this matter sha.

Anonymous said...

why does the ill president need to get in on this? this is a state problem and the Fashola fool should be able to enforce laws in his own state. enough talking. more action. and definitely more videos. Nigeria will never be like the United States but maybe we can try a little decency and respect for the rule of law. And God punish all them bad people.

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