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In Ebonyi, court disbands Ebubeagu Security Outfit
A Federal High Court in Abakaliki has disbanded Ebubeagu Security Network in Ebonyi State, South-east Nigeria.
The security outfit was created through legislation by the Ebonyi House of Assembly, following the April 2021 resolution of the South-east governors to set up the outfit in the five states of the region to complement the effort of the security agencies in the fight against the upsurge in crimes.
The Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi inaugurated the Ebubeagu in December 2021.
The judge, Riman Fatun, in his ruling on Tuesday, declared Ebubeagu’s activities illegal and ordered the State Security Service and the Nigeria Police to collect all the weapons in possession of the security outfit, according to a report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
Mr Fatun said the disbandment was due to the human rights abuses, extortions, illegal arrests and use of firearms allegedly perpetuated by the outfit.
“I hereby declare the Ebubeagu outfit illegal and therefore, it ceases to exist as Ebonyi State House of Assembly has no powers to approve their existence,” he stated.
The court judgement followed a suit filed by a former commissioner for information in the state, Abia Onyike, alleging that he was abducted and tortured by Ebubeagu operatives in November last year in Abakaliki.
Mr Onyike is a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which is an opposition party in the state.
He is the Director of Media and Publicity of the PDP Campaign Council in the state for the forthcoming general elections.
Friday Nnanna, the commander of the security outfit in the state, would later explain that the former commissioner was arrested by Ebubeagu operatives in error but was released immediately after he was identified.
The court, as a part of its judgement, ordered the Ebonyi State Government to pay N50 million to Mr Onyike as damages for his abduction and torture by the Ebubeagu.
Michael Odo, counsel to Mr Onyike, told reporters that his client approached the court to seek a determination on, “whether the Ebonyi State House of Assembly has the constitutional powers to enact” a law establishing such a security outfit.
“I am happy over the judgement and today, justice has been done to my client,” Mr Odo said.
The counsel to the state government was not available to speak with reporters after the judgment.
‘The position of law’
Bulus Atsen, an Abuja-based legal practitioner, told PREMIUM TIMES that the court ruling was in line with the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended which confers on the federal government the exclusive powers of policing.
“I am inclined to agree with that position to the extent that policing falls under the exclusive legislative list in which case only the federal government or the national assembly can legislate on it,” he said.
Mr Atsen, a former chairperson of the Nigerian Bar Association, Abuja Branch, said although there have been calls for a constitutional amendment to allow state governments to have their police in the states, the calls have not been heeded yet.
“So, until then, state legislations cannot establish a security outfit in a state or region,” the lawyer stated, citing item 45 in part one of Schedule two of the constitution.
Ebonyi govt reacts
Meanwhile, the Ebonyi State Government said it would appeal the court ruling.
The State Commissioner for Information, Uchenna Orji, during a press conference in Abakaliki on Wednesday, described the judgement as “a clear case of miscarriage of justice brought about by sheer misapplication and misinterpretation of the law and abuse of court process.”
A video clip of the press conference was made available to PREMIUM TIMES, Wednesday night.
“The duties of Ebubeagu Security Outfit are that of community policing protected by the laws which are in line with Section 14 of the Constitution that empowers the government of every state to ensure that they take all necessary steps to ensure that the welfare and the security of that state are guaranteed. And they have done that perfectly well,” Mr Orji, a lawyer, said.
“The Government of Ebonyi State will not hesitate to take the matter up to the Supreme Court to know who is right in this circumstance,” the commissioner added.
He argued that the government did not violate any constitutional provision in the way and manner the security outfit was established, including the arguments by the court concerning the exclusive legislative list.
“Having studied the nitty-gritty of that judgment, the legal team of the state government is already on appeal. They are filing a motion for stay of execution and also to appeal on the matter,” he said.
Contents provided and/or opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of The Pacesetter Frontier Magazine or any employee thereof.
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