Nigeria: Police refuse to investigate attack on 77-year old man
Amnesty has expressed dismay at the police authorities’ refusal to investigate an attack on a 77-year old man which caused him to lose an eye. Oliver Igwe – father of the human rights defender Leo Igwe – was attacked in his home by unidentified men.
The incident is believed to be linked to the Igwe family’s campaign for justice for a child rape survivor and the family is at risk of further reprisals.
At around midnight on 4 August, two unidentified men entered Oliver Igwe's home in the town of Mbaise Imo State, south eastern Nigeria. They blindfolded the elderly man 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, and is recovering in hospital. His wife, who was at home during the attack and had just undergone heart surgery, was unhurt.
Their home was ransacked and valuables were 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.
The Igwe family have been campaigning since January 2007 for access to justice for a girl who was raped when she was ten years old in 2006. Since then, numerous petitions have been sent to the police seeking the arrest of members of the Igwe family and the young rape survivor’s family, and several civil suits have been filed in court.
Amnesty believes that the attack on Oliver Igwe is the latest in a series of incidents intended to force the family to stop their campaign for justice.
Amnesty International’s UK Director Kate Allen said:
“For the police to not investigate the attack of a man who is so severely assaulted that it results in him losing an eye is absolutely disgraceful.
“Amnesty’s urging the authorities in Imo State to thoroughly investigate this attack and to investigate the ongoing harassment of Oliver Igwe and his family.”
The police and State Security Services have previously arrested, detained and questioned members of the Igwe family on a number of occasions. The Igwe family say that since 2007 they have paid the police over 100,000 Naira (equivalent to US$664), for 'bail'. However, bail in Nigeria is normally paid to the courts, not to the police.
Amnesty International believes that the attack on Oliver Igwe and repeated legal harassment of the Igwe family are intended to intimidate and threaten Leo Igwe, his family and witnesses and to distract attention from the rape case.
In 2007, Leo Igwe – a human rights defender and President of the Nigerian Humanist Society – wrote several letters to the police expressing his concern that the rape of a ten-year-old girl in 2006 was not being investigated, and claiming that the girl, her family and other members of their community were being intimidated in connection with the case.
Leo Igwe and his three brothers have been invited or arrested, interviewed and detained at least four times.
Amnesty International is urging its supporters around the world to take action on behalf of Oliver Igwe.