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Ex-Nigerian Super Eagles Player Uche Nwofor Seeks Justice After Assault, Humiliation By Soldiers, Writes Army Chief Over Incident

Posted by Samuel on Thu 04th Jul, 2024 -

Mr. Uche Nwofor was reportedly assaulted on May 20, 2024 at Modebe Memorial Primary School in Onitsha.

Uche Nwofor

Human rights lawyer Inibehe Effiong has lodged a petition with Lt. Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja, the Chief of Army Staff, regarding the alleged torture of a former Super Eagles player by Nigerian Army personnel.

Mr. Uche Nwofor was reportedly assaulted on May 20, 2024 at Modebe Memorial Primary School in Onitsha.

In a petition dated June 7, 2024 and obtained by SaharaReporters, Inibehe Effiong described the attack on the Nigerian footballer as barbaric, absurd, condescending and embarrassing.

He said the action of the soldiers was a flagrant violation of the fundamental right to dignity which is criminal, illegal, unjust, unlawful, and unconstitutional.

The lawyer therefore urged the Chief of Army Staff to set up a disciplinary panel to investigate the case, and sanction the erring officers in line with the Armed Forces Act, 2004.

He also demanded monetary compensation for the victim for unjustifiable violation of his fundamental human rights.

The petition read in part, “We act as Solicitors to Mr. Uche Nwofor, a professional footballer and ex-Nigerian Super Eagles International (hereinafter referred to as "our Client") and it is in line with his instructions that we write you this petition. A brief profile of our client as reported by the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) Updates is herewith attached as "Annexure A" for your perusal.

“Our client briefed us and we verily believe him as follows: On the 20th day of May, 2024 at about 5:30 pm, after his daily football training with his club - "All Stars Football Club" at Modebe Memonal Primary School, Onitsha, our client together with two of his friends and teammates (Mr. Ozor Philips Ex-Enugu Rangers International and Mr. Uzoma Charles (based in Turkey) entered the Onitsha Army Barracks in their usual manner, to relax and see some old friends, since they could safely be regarded as 'barracks boys' having spent most of their formative years in football playing for the Barracks Football Team - Vulcans FC Barracks.

“Shortly after our client and his friends got to a restaurant at the Onitsha Barracks, the CO of the barracks whom our client immediately recognized as Mr. Nandang together with two other soldiers, in the most condescending, embarrassing, and intimidating manner, ordered our client's friend Mr. Uzoma Charles to come out from the restaurant and sit on the bare main road.

“Every explanation of our client and Mr. Uzoma Charles to the soldiers that they are footballers whose identities can easily be confirmed by a simple search on Google fell on deaf ears and being aware of the possible outcome of any resistance, Mr. Uzoma Charles succumbed to their order. His dreadlocks which he has had for many years were consequently shaved off with a very unhygienic pair of scissors by CO Nandang and two other soldiers.

“Thereafter, they commanded and forced our client to also sit on the tarred road in the public glare. Our client initially resisted and tried all he could to explain who he was to them (a fact our client reasonably believes to be well known to them, especially to CO- Nandang; our client and his friends having presented a signed and customized All Star Football Club jersey to him sometime in January 2024, when they paid him a courtesy visit after hearing of the wanton, illegal, wrongful, unsanitary and arbitrary shaving of head being carried out by officers of the Nigerian Army, especially within the Onitsha Barracks), but all efforts proved abortive.

“Our client whilst being brutally forced to sit on untarred road, reminded CO- Nandang that he had assured them during that courtesy visit that professional footballers or other "stars" were safe from the rampant shaving of heads by the military but they remained adamant. We have attached as "Annexure B" a copy of the photograph of CO- Nandang and our client (with the same Mr. Uzoma Charles and Mr. Ozor Philips) during the said courtesy visit for your perusal.

“The ill-treatment of our client and Mr. Charles Uzoma shortly became the fate of Mr. Ozor Philips. Throughout this ungodly, embarrassing, and humiliating exercise, these officers made mockery and fun of our client and his friends. Our client was called all sorts of unprintable names and was even referred to as "Yahoo boy", "bad boy" and "guy man" by both the officers and some passersby alike.

“In light of the above, it is abundantly clear that the actions of these soldiers constitute a flagrant violation of the fundamental right to dignity of our client's person, and are criminal, illegal, unjust, unlawful, and unconstitutional.

“Our client is not just a well-respected member of the society, but is also one that has brought so much joy to millions of football-loving Nigerians in the past. There cannot, therefore, be any justification whatsoever for the dehumanizing treatment he faced in the hands of these soldiers.

“Our client by keeping clean and well-maintained dreadlocks, did not commit any crime known to Nigerian law nor has he done or omitted to do any act that would warrant the degrading treatment which he suffered in the hands of the soldiers.

“Our client was wrongly and unjustly profiled and treated as a common criminal and we dare say, that even criminals do have and enjoy fundamental rights recognized and protected by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) except where such fundamental rights have been taken away from them by a Court of competent jurisdiction.”

The lawyer said in view of the foregoing, “demand is hereby made upon your good office to immediately set up a disciplinary panel to investigate this case, and award appropriate punishment to the erring officers in line with the Armed Forces Act, 2004”.

“In addition, we strongly demand appropriate monetary compensation to be paid to our client for the unjustifiable violation of his fundamental human rights,”
he added.

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