An Environmental Right Organization based in Aba, Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy & Development (FENRAD) has petition the Chief Justice of the State of Gross Abuse of Citizens by the Newly Constituted Environment Health Court in Aba and its Environs.
In statement was signed by its Executive Director comrade Nelson Nnanna Nwafor which state that Not minding the bad image Environmental Health Revenue courts have brought to the Government of Abia state in the recent past through their unlawful practices, extortion and selective judgments. Foundation For Environmental Rights, Advocacy & Development (FENRAD) observe that the newly government constituted revenue court on Environmental health issues are at it again. This committee is saddled with responsibilities of prosecuting environmental health/sanitation offenders within Aba metropolis, though with utmost interest of generating revenue for the government without the recourse to the Rights and Privileges of the citizen.
Most of their Victims are arrested without Proper Environmental Evaluation of their Environment to ensure they contravene the provision of the Mandate of the Newly Constituted Court, While some of these Arrested are minor thereby forcing their parents or guardians to come for them which is a gross abuse of the Rights of this children.
Most of the Victims are arrested in the Residence without prior visit to the House to ascertain if the House contravenes some of the provisions of the Mandate of the Court.
In some house you will see a notice boldly written ORDER TO ARREST with the Letter Headed of the Local Government Area signed by the Environmental Heal officer with Contact Phones for immediate contact for negotiations or be charge to court without prior visit to the House. The Notice should have emanated from a competent court after Environment impact visit to ascertain the Environmental Standard of this Building which they never did. Most Citizens have fallen victims as out of fear call these officers for negotiations and discussion for the fear of not being arrested.
The said sanitation related offences made known to us among others included: Dirty Environment, Bore Hole Permit, Drainage/Sewage issues, Dilapidating/Dilapidated buildings, Site Approval for Building, Approved Building Plan, Excavation Permit, Certificate of Fitness, etc.
FENRAD wonders how the Revenue court will be saddled with various responsibilities which are the work of the Town Planning Authority and other Agencies which the process of certification takes various stages and process.
Recently, one of the victims of this revenue court narrated to his ordeal in the hands of the combined team of environmental health officers in Aba South and sanitation court located in Aba North LGA. On the 29th of March, 2019, some officers of the Aba South Environmental Health Department in collaboration with officers of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) and hired thugs stormed some selected residences within Aba South LGA as early as 7am, humiliated and forcefully took away some law abiding citizens indicting them of sanitation related offences and contempt of court without prior notice via Demand Notice and Court Summons.
The affected residents were initially falsely detained at the Environmental Health Office in Aba South. Victims, who were opportune to meet-up with their initial monetary demands with amount ranging between N25,000 and N50,000, were released by the health officers while the unfortunate ones that could not provide such amount were later taken and arraigned before the said sanitation court for onward prosecution.
Among those affected was a fifteen (15) years old teenage student, who fell victim while preparing for school on that fateful day. This, which we see as an unlawful act and gross violation of their rights to freedom and human dignity as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and other relevant International Human Rights instruments and Newly Domesticated Administration of of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) in the State.
However, the issue took another turn in the sanitation court when the persecuting team led by a Director in Environmental Health Department, Michael Nwagbara read-out the offences of those arraigned before the Magistrate, Enyinnaya Nwagbara.
At the end of the hearing on charges leveled against these arraigned persons, the Magistrate knowing quite well the nature of such offences as civil except the contempt of court which is address as a quasi-criminal charge. Although those arraigned for contempt denied ever being summoned to the said court before but the said magistrate went on to remind the victims (including young women) in prison custody for a period of one and two weeks without an option of fine, remind or Production Warrant.
Foundation For Environmental Rights, Advocacy & Development (FENRAD) hereby condemn such selective judgment which we see as unlawful and gross violation of the victims’ rights as enshrined in the recently domesticated Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu on issues bothering the arraignment of Non Juristic Persons, which is a common term use by revenue agents in addressing summons to buildings as Landlords/Occupants (which is not directed to anybody).
FENRAD calls on the Chief Justice of the State to review the status of the court and its composition as the Activities of the court is questionable as there is serious extortion and Gross abuse of the Rights of the Citizens in the Name of Generating Revenue for the State and Decried the inability of the Abia State Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA) to get dirt out of Aba due to their inability to clear Heavy refuse Dump across Aba and its Enviros
Foundation For Environmental Rights, Advocacy & Development (FENRAD) threatened to Approach a Higher court to seek for redress the Fundamental Rights of these Citizens which the Activities of these Constituted court breach their rights to freedom and self expression
FENRAD calls on the Abia State Government; National Judiciary Council (NJC); Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Abia State and other relevant stakeholders to look into the above raised issue and other related matters concerning Revenue courts within Abia state and Aba metropolis in particular as residents are made to pass through unlawful arrest and illegal extortions by alleged law enforcement officers and thugs attached to revenue agencies on daily basis. FENRAD urged the Abia state Government to step up its efforts in refuse Evacuation and management, provision of refuse Disposal Equipment and calls for Environmental Education and Awareness to senitize Abians, especially resident of Aba on Refuse Management and sanitation.
Foundation for Environmental Rights, advocacy and Development (FENRAD), is an organization based in Aba, Abia state that seeks the advancement of proper environmental protection, the enthronement of healthy community levels, and the support of peace, justice, development and good governance. Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy & Development (FENRAD) was incorporated into Corporate Affairs Commission under the Trusteeship Act of non-political, non-religious and non-profit making organization in November 2011, although it has been working and participating in awareness activities and campaigns since September 2003 on Environmental issues and sustainable Development across the country.