For Mr. Chijioke Uraku, a physically challenged young man from Ikwo, in Ikwo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State who was physically assaulted by two military Police officers along New Market Road Onitsha, Tuesday, February 6 and Friday, February 10, 2017 will remain evergreen in the memory.
Tuesday was the day he was mercilessly beaten up by two soldiers who seemed to have lost milk of human feeling, considering the level of physical assault they meted on him which attracted massive condemnation even from the military, just Friday was the day the military authority from Enugu and Onitsha Military Cantonment took him to the Army Barracks to appease him with cash gifts and cloth as well as recognise him as a friend of the Onitsha Military Cantonment and the Nigerian Army.
This was even as the Army High Command disclosed last Saturday that the two soldiers who maltreated Uraku had been sentenced to prison with hard labour for the alleged offence.
While the maltreatment of Uraku lasted, there was no intervention from any quarters as those who witnessed the incident remained passive, cowardly looking on, watching the physical torture of the crippled victim.
Physical torture of the crippled victim
Uraku was alleged to have been beaten to stupor for allegedly wearing some clothes which resembled military uniform. The two soldiers asked Uraku to pull of the clothes and hand them over to them but the cripple was said to have refused to pull off and be naked in the public.
Apart from Aba, Umuahia, Enugu, Owerri, and even Nnewi, other residents of the South East geopolitical zone are docile when it comes to protection of their neighbours who are being manhandled by people in uniform. South East Voice, gathered that the two soldiers who beat up Uraku, popularly known as C.J or Commander of Edgerton Street, for allegedly wearing Army Camouflage uniform were arrested when the beating became viral following the posting of the incident on the internet.
The two soldiers were later tried in-house in Onitsha before the case was referred to Enugu for appropriate sanctions; which according to a military source could involve a transfer out of Onitsha among other forms of sundry punishments. However, on Friday last week, Uraku was brought to the 302 Artillery Regiment on the instruction of the General Officer Commanding 82 Division Nigerian Army, Adamu Abubakar to be pacified by the Military which offered medical treatment to him by a doctor of his choice in or outside Onitsha.
As early as 9.30am, the Deputy Director Army Public Relations, 82 Division Nigerian Army, Col. Sagir Musa had arrived Onitsha from Enugu. This was after a two day search for the assaulted Uraku by the Commander of 302 Artillery Regiment, Col Idongesit Akpan and his men to prepare ground for Col Musa's visit and subsequent interface with the assaulted young man.
A statement by the Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, 82 Division Nigerian Army Col. Musa said: "The soldiers were identified through a video clip while maltreating the man, and we are condemning their action as gross professional misconduct.
"The attention of the Army Headquarters, 82 Division, Nigerian Army has been drawn to a video clip of two military police soldiers who maltreated a physically challenged person along New Market Road, Onitsha, for allegedly wearing Army camouflage uniform.
"The Division has with great concern studied the video, identified and arrested the perpetrators of this gross professional misconduct. It is our position that their action does not reflect the attitude of today's Nigeria Army under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Turkur Yusuf Buratai.
"The action is uncalled for, unwarranted and is therefore condemnable by all civilized people/ organizations. The soldiers have been tried at the unit level and referred to higher level for appropriate punishment commensurable to the offence committed. The Nigeria Army has always preached tolerance, respect for others and peaceful coexistence. The Army of today has consistently maintained zero tolerance for indiscipline and human rights violation.
"Whatever human right infraction is seen, appropriate sanction will be applied to serve as deterrence to others. This case would not be an exception."
The South East Voice was at the Onitsha Military Cantonment, when Mr. Uraku arrived with his people, just as Col. Musa arrived from Enugu, and in their first interaction, Col Musa, and Col. Akpan appealed to him to be taken to a hospital for treatment or a doctor be invited into the barracks to treat him, but he rejected the offers, saying "since I was born, I have never been to hospital; it is against my faith. I do not take any medicine."
All entreaties by the two Army Colonels, for them to take him to hospital, before any other thing could be done, were rejected by the victim, who further said, "As you can see me, I am strong, I do not have any pains on any part of my body, am not angry, I am strong and normal, I don't feel any pains. Going to hospital is not part of my nature."
One noticeable thing about Uraku was that he looked naturally strong and exuded excessive strength and stubborness. He preferred to push his wheel chair and every other thing himself.
While the Commander 302 Artillery Regiment Onitsha and the Deputy Director Army Public Relations, 82 Division Nigerian Army Enugu, were still discussing with the victim on the need to take him to hospital, which he flatly rejected, the Commissioner for Women Affair sand Social Welfare in Anambra State, Mrs. Victoria Chikelu arrived from Awka on the instruction of Governor Willie Obiano on a fact finding visit over the incident.
However, addressing newsmen on the issue later, Col. Musa said, "you are all aware of what happened; what happened for the purpose of clarification on that day was that two military police me, (soldiers) of 302 Artillery Regiment here in Onitsha were at the New market Road Onitsha and they got this gentle man in pairs of army uniform. "They talked to him and in the process what we saw on the social media truly was that he was physically assaulted by the soldiers, Nigerian Army as a disciplined, professionally sound and morally sound organization does not condone indiscipline, does not or encourage professional misconduct and above all under the present leadership of the Nigerian Army, under the command of Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, Nigerian Army has no place for human rights violation.
"Human right violation in the Nigerian Army is something that the leadership at the highest level and all levels of the Nigerian Army leadership do take very, very seriously, the leadership frowns at it, they do not condone it, they do not encourage it, and whenever it happens we apply maximum sanction commensurate to the offense committed. This case is not going to be an exception.
Already those who participated in this act have been identified and arrested, were tried by the commanding officer Col I.U. Akpan here by my left and because of the seriousness of the offense committed, they were referred to a higher authority for further disciplinary action.
"What has happened, we feel strongly about it; the Nigerian Army is fully concerned about it and we want to make sure that the members of the public particularly Nigerians and international community, that it is against our core values, particularly that of respect for others and peaceful coexistence.
"This case has violated fundamentally, our most cherished core value of respect for others. It is fundamental principle that we maintain respect for others anywhere we go. Those soldiers, their attitude sincerely do not reflect the attitude of contemporary, Nigerian soldiers under the command of Lieutenant General Buratai. We urge you to look at this issue as an isolated case, because in this Onitsha Military Cantonment, we have about 2000 soldiers specializing in different backgrounds and of different parental upbringing...