•Victim’s father narrates how suspect dramatically fled from police custody
BY JIMITOTA ONOYUME
HOW was it possible for a murder suspect, Mr Ifeanyi Chukwu Maxwell Dike, to escape from the fortified premises of the Criminal Investigation Department, SCID, of Rivers State Police Command? That is a riddle many residents of the state have been battling to unravel since the incident occurred last week.
Those familiar with the SCID premises in Port Harcourt know that it’s a place you don’t walk in and out of with ease. You are thoroughly screened at the gates and your phone taken from you before you are allowed in. No vehicle is allowed to drive close to the building; you park at least fifty meters away. The building is bounded on all sides by security structures. On one end is the Police Area Command and the Central Police Station. The SCID building has a high fence. So it would not have been easy for the suspect to scale it without attracting attention.
The ugly development has given fillip to the allegation by Governor Nyesom Wike that the police were behind the upsurge in crime, especially kidnappings, in the country. The governor had alleged before participants at the just ended Africa Bar Association annual conference held in the state that the police should be held responsible for most of the crimes in the country.
Dike had been arrested and detained for the alleged rape and murder of his eight –year-old relative, Chikamso Victoria Mazu. The Public Relations Officer of the police in the state, DSP Nnamdi Omoni, had, while announcing the suspect’s escape, said on his Whatsapp page, “The Rivers State Police Command with a heavy heart regrets the unfortunate incident of the escape of Mr Ifeanyi Chukwu Maxwell Dike, the (suspected) ritualist who (allegedly) killed little Chikamso Victoria Mazu and removed her vital organs”.
Omoni blamed the alleged negligence of the Investigating Police Officer, IPO, Inspector Johnbosco Okoroeze, for the ugly development, saying his role was being investigated.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that before the escape of the suspect, the father of the murdered girl, Dr Ernest Nmezuwuba, had been asked by the IPO at the SCID to go and buy sachet water for the suspect but he declined, insisting that there was no way he would go on such errand, particularly for a man arrested in connection with the killing of his daughter.
Nmezuwuba told newsmen that he was at the SCID when the alleged killer escaped, adding that he had not come to terms with how the escape was possible.
According to him, the Investigation Police Officer, IPO Inspector Okoroeze unlocked the handcuff on the leg and hand of the suspect to write his statement all he started hearing was, “ hold am , hold am, e dey run o “. He said he looked and saw that it was the suspect disappearing out of sight.
The bereaved father, who said the drama occurred between 7.30pm and 8pm, added that the premises of the SCID were in total darkness that night because there was no power supply. He said he wrote his statement with candle light.
Could there have been a waiting vehicle for the suspect around the premises? This and many more are questions begging for answers since the incident occurred.
Many feared that since the escape suddenly came up when the suspect had started making confessional statements, it could be that some powerful forces, who believed they might be linked to ritual murders in Rivers State or outside, were behind it.
There have also been worries if the suspect could still be alive because of the circumstance of the escape. Could it be that those who plotted the escape may have murdered him quietly as well?
In a related development, the police, on Thursday, arraigned the IPO, Inspector Okoroeze, in court, on a two-count charge of aiding the suspect to escape.
The charge read: “That you Johnbosco on the 19th August, 2017 at about 2030hrs at the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, SCIID, Port Harcourt in the Port Harcourt Magisterial District did assist one Ifeanyi Maxwell Dike, who is to your Knowledge guilty of the offence of murder of one Chikamso Mezuwuba aged 8years for rituals to escape when he was to be detained for prosecution and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 322 of the Criminal Code Cap 37 Vol.II Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria 1999.
“That you Johnbosco okoroeze on the same date and place in the afforsaid Magisterial District did conspire with a suspect, Ifeanyi Maxwell Dike and allowed him to escape from prosecution to prevent and defeat the course of Justice and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 126 (1) of the Criminal Code Cap 37 Vol.II Laws of Rivers State of Nigerian 1999.”
The presiding Chief Magistrate, Mr Sokari Andrew-Jaja, could not take the plea of the suspect, saying his court lacked jurisdiction over some of the charges. Before referring the file to the Director of Public Prosecution for advice, he ordered that the suspect be remanded in custody and adjourned the matter to September 14.
Also last week, the police released the photograph of the fleeing suspected murderer and ritualist, appealing to the public to alert any of its stations for his arrest wherever they see him.
Dike allegedly raped Chikamson after which he murdered her and removed some organs from her body, including her private part, for alleged ritual purpose.
He was allegedly going to dump her corpse at their Eliozu neighborhood when members of the area’s vigilante suspected his move. When they questioned him, he suddenly bolted but he was overpowered and handed over to the police to whom he made revealing statements.
The alleged ritualist and murderer, according to his confession, is 23 years old and a student of the University of Port Harcourt.
Rivers State Deputy Governor, Dr (Mrs) Ipalibo Banigo, and several others have called on the police to ensure they re-arrest the suspect. Banigo spoke in a statement.
Family members of the murdered eight-year-old and others protested on Wednesday, demanding the re arrest the fleeing suspect. The police teargased the protesters from Eliozu Road area to end the peaceful march.
A former media aide to Wike, Mr Opunabo Nko-Tariah, called for the immediate redeployment of the state Police Commissioner, Mr Zaki Muhammed, for alleged negligence of duty, arguing that he should not be absolved of blame in the dramatic development.
He also tasked the police to make sure they produce the suspect, stressing that justice should be seen to be done on the issue.