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Controversy Trails Alleged Forceful Eviction Of Retired Army Officer

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Controversy surrounding the reported forceful eviction of a retired Colonel and his family from their residence at House 7 on Abakaliki Lane in Enugu State by the Nigerian Army. The military retiree, Colonel Emeka Ugwoke was reportedly evicted after some soldiers, about 40 in number from the 82 Division Enugu, invaded his residence at about 1:15 am on Wednesday.

Earlier reports alleged that the wife of the retired senior Army officer and his children were allegedly assaulted in the process.

But on Thursday the Army said it had issued three official notices and several appeal to Colonel Emeka Ugwoke (Retd.) to vacate the said House 7 on Abakaliki Lane in Enugu State, after his retirement in 2021, before it ordered his eviction.

Confirming that its soldiers evicted Colonel Ugwoke (rtd) from the house but denying brutalising his wife and children, the Army dismissed as misleading, earlier reports in a section of the media that soldiers invaded the Enugu residence of the retired army officer and evicted his family.

The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, in a statement on Thursday, said the story was deliberately skewed to tarnish the image and reputation of the Nigerian Army.

Setting the record straight and clearing grey areas on the ejection of the retired senior officer, the Army Spokesman explained that House 7 on Abakaliki Lane was among Federal Government houses accommodating Nigerian Army officers in Enugu for over two decades.

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He said that the house was allocated to retired Col. Emeka Ugwoke, then a Major, as his official residence when he was posted as the Deputy Commander 82 Division Intelligence Group in 2007.

Nwachukwu explained that that the officer continued to occupy the house even after he was posted out of the division.

He added that it was later discovered that he attempted to dubiously appropriate the house to himself, using some officials of Enugu State Government.

Nwachukwu said that in 2020, a committee was instituted by then General Officer Commanding (GOC) to ascertain the status of the property.

He said that the property was discovered to be among the houses handed over to 82 Division by past administrators to ameliorate the accommodation challenges of the Division.

He disclosed that the said property was not among 26 residential quarters officially handed over to the Enugu State Government in 2015.

According to Brig.-Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, “there are no documents to confirm that the said property was sold or paid for by anyone.

“It is worthy of note that officers of the army occupying institutionalised houses are expected to vacate such accommodation while on posting or retirement.

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“However, the retired senior officer failed to comply knowing fully the rippling effects on accommodation status of others posted in, and serving officers,” he said.

The Army spokesman also said the alleged brutalisation of the retired officer’s wife and children in the said publication was outright falsehood aimed at whipping up undue sentiments.

He said the Nigerian army was a disciplined institution with utmost regard for family institution and the vulnerable, particularly women and children.

According to him, the ejection process was audio and visually documented, as it was envisaged that such allegation could arise.

“Emphatically, neither the wife nor children were brutalised and no property was damaged in the process of eviction.

“The retired senior officer’s belongings were simply transfered from the house in question to his personal house at number 127 Park Avenue, GRA Enugu to pave way for other serving officers to be accommodated.

“This was after serving the retired officer three previous official notices and several appeals for him to vacate the property after his retirement in 2021.

“The general public is advised to disregard this misleading publication as it is devoid of the actual facts of what transpired.

“The Nigerian army will not relent in catering for the wellbeing and welfare of its serving and retired personnel within the ambits of legitimacy,” he said.

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However, the victims are yet to respond to the reaction by the Nigerian Army even as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights), the leading UN entity on human rights, posted on its website that forced evictions can be broadly defined as “the permanent or temporary removal against their will of individuals, families and/or communities from the homes and/or land which they occupy, without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protection.”

The UN Human Rights Commission added that forced evictions constitute gross violations of a range of internationally recognised human rights, including the human rights to adequate housing, food, water, health, education, work, security of the person, freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and freedom of movement.

“Forced evictions are often linked to the absence of legally secure tenure, which constitutes an essential element of the right to adequate housing. Forced evictions share many consequences similar to those resulting from arbitrary displacement, including population transfer, mass expulsions, mass exodus, ethnic cleansing and other practices involving the coerced and involuntary displacement of people from their lands and communities”, the UN Human Rights Commission stated.

Comrade James Ezema is a veteran journalist and media consultant. He is a political strategist. He can be reached on +2348035823617 via call or WhatsApp.

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