The Nigerian Merchant Navy has pointed accusing fingers at the Nigerian Navy for arresting their DG/Commandant, Allen Benson Edema, over accusations of wearing a Navy outfit when he was apprehended in the premises of the National Assembly on Thursday 18 November 2016.
According to a press release by Okechukwu Nwanguma, the national coordinator of Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN):
Friday, 6.46 pm, NOPRIN received the following text message from Allen Benson Edema from his phone (+234 8039358739) : ‘WE ARE IN NAVAL BASE ABACHA BARR ARRETED FROM NASSEM.’
Later that same day, NOPRIN received further SOS from members of the Nigeria Merchant Navy, Coast Guard, Seafarers, Maritime Petroleum Security and Safety Corps of the arrest of their DG Commandant Allen Benson Edema by operatives of the Nigerian Navy on Friday November 18, 2016.
Naval operatives arrested Edema at the National Assembly premises on his way, with one other member of the NMN, to attend a scheduled meeting with Senator Ovie Omo-Agege and the Senate President Senator Bukola Saraki concerning a NMN pending bill and other issues concerning the maritime sector.
Edema and the other officer of the Nigerian Merchant Navy identified as John Matep were taken to Abacha Barracks, Mogadishu Cantonement where they have been detained incommunicado in a military cell.
The Nigerian Navy is said to have accused Edema of impersonaation (wearing Naval uniform and rank), which his members have denied.
All efforts by Edema’s members as well as attempts by his wife to see him and to give him food have been rebuffed by officers of the navy unit at Abacha barracks Abuja.
Edema’s wife said she went to Abacha Barracks on Saturday morning to see her husband and to give him food, but she was detained with her eleven-month old baby. She said the naval officers told her that the order for her husband’s detention came from the Chief of Naval Staff and that the Commanding Officer, Naval Unit Abuja ordered that anybody who comes to visit or inquire about Edema should be as well arrested and detained. She said she was later released at about 3:30 pm after being threatened and warned never to come back to the barracks to ask about her husband.
She said they later told her that they handed her husband over to the police on the same day they arrested him i.e., Friday 18 Nov 2016. But when she went to Asokoro Police Station, accompanied by some members of the Nigerian Merchant Navy, to enquire about him, the police said the Nigerian Navy did not hand over Edema to them.
Edema’s wife believes that the Navy still have her husband in their custody because, although they claimed that they had handed him over to the police- which the police have denied, she saw her husband’s car at the premises of the Abacha Barracks on that Saturday she went there to see him but got detained for several hours along with her baby.
The standoff between the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Merchant Navy under Edema has been lingering since far back 2004, and this has resulted to Edema being arrested, brutalised and detained several times by the Nigerian Navy.
The contentious issues of uniform, rank and impersonation have been at the centre of this standoff. These issues are currently subject of a pending court action in an Abuja High Court which had ordered both parties (the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Merchant Navy) to maintain status quo pending the determination of the case.
Members of the Nigerian Merchant Navy believe that in arresting Edema and one of their other members again, the Nigerian Navy have acted in utter disregard aand contempt of the subsisting order of court. They are seriously concerned about the treatment which the Navy maybe subjecting him to, having denied him access to family, legal representation and even food.
They call for his immediate release from unlawful detention and an end to the constant harassment and molestation of Edema and members of the NMN.