Huriwa Accuses The Police Of Persecuting A Catholic Priest In Biu, Borno State
-calls For His Immediate Release
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has accused the Borno State Police Command of the unconstitutional persecution and unlawfully prolonged detention of a Roman Catholic Reverend Father, Peter Chukwuneke Uchebo, over an unproven, unsubstantiated allegation of raping a girl.
The rights group has urged the acting Inspector-General of Police to order the unconditional release of the alleged arbitrarily detained Priest or charge him to a competent court of law.
HURIWA stated that the Nigerian Police, established under the constitution and guided by the provisions of the Police Act of 2020 with a plethora of rights-based provisions, must never be allowed to unduly oppress a Nigerian citizen on seemingly nebulous charges.
HURIWA has also urged the Catholic hierarchy in Maiduguri Diocese and Nigeria as a whole to file a suit at the Federal High Court to seek the enforcement of the fundamental human rights of the priest, who has been detained under intolerable and harsh conditions since July without presenting him before the competent court of law.
It stated that it was told that the Police had decided to release him on the condition that he sign out his right to seek judicial reprieve over his wrongful detention. HURIWA described the method of compelling victims of police brutality to sign an undertaking not to press charges against unlawful detention as primitive, unconstitutional, and despicable.
In a media statement issued Wednesday by the National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, the group stated that findings from credible sources within the Borno State Police Command and the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri, Borno State, revealed that on June 27, a day declared as Sallah public holiday in Borno State, the school manager attached to the Diocese of Maiduguri of the Roman Catholic Church, Rev. Father Peter Chukwuneke Uchebo, instructed that students were not to come to school.
“This message he left on the school WhatsApp page for parents. Being a free day for students, he decided to carry on the decking for an ongoing construction within the premises. He therefore invited the youths and other people to contribute to local support by working with the labourers.
Unfortunately, a few children and wards whose parents might not have gotten the message came to school.
“Father Uchebo and other church members were at the site supporting the work. Among those who were offering local support was the school head teacher, Mr. Philip Peter.
“While this work went on at the site, the few pupils who came decided to stay within the school premises to play. There were 10 pupils who stayed back. Among them was Miss Rifkatu a four-year old girl. This joined the other children to play. After some time, at about 14:00, one Ibrahim took her along with him, picked a tricycle home and dropped her at her house before proceeding to his house.
“Between 21:00 and 22:00, a detachment of policemen and one Rachael, the mother of Rifkatu from Biu police station arrived the Parish house, asking of Father Uchebo to arrest him.
“There were few parishioners there who were still working at the site late into the night to finish the decking work. At this this news, some of them gathered, and there was commotion. They inquired what the arrest was for and they were told by the policemen that there was an allegation of rape committed within the Church premises, and consequently, Father Uchebo was required to be at the station to respond to some questions.
“Enraged by this, the youths resisted the arrest of the priest and insisted rather that the suspect was to be the one to be arrested, not the priest. After calming the situation, the policemen left without arresting the priest.
“The following day, Father Uchebo arrived at the police station. There he was told that an allegation was levelled against the head teacher for supposedly raping a four-year old girl.”
However, Philip denied the allegation, as he claimed he was at the construction site assisting with the ongoing work along with some of the Church Youths.
Upon hearing that there were some children who were at school with the girl, the father inquired and was told the number of the children. He then went and fetched them, with the permission of their parents, to come over and testify.
The children gave their testimony that they had actually played in the school with Rifkatu. At some point, she fell down and began to cry. Other details of the investigation would be contained in the Police report.
Father Uchebu was said to have later, received a call inviting him to come over to the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (SCIID).
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