NO matter how one looks at it, what happened at the premises of the Umuneke Ngor Magistrate’s Court in Imo State on Thursday, July 19, 2018 was an act of gross indiscipline, lawlessness and unprofessionalism on the part of some police officers. Even though they appeared to have acted out of “righteous rage”, there is no excuse for taking the law into their hands in addressing a perceived wrongdoing. Two wrongs cannot make a right.
In a nutshell the Magistrate, Ngozi Onyenemezu, was reported to have struck out an armed robbery case brought against three accused persons after listening to the prosecuting and defence counsel. This infuriated the police officers who had brought the suspects to court. They reportedly poured vituperations on the Magistrate in an open court session and made to re-arrest the suspects. When the court tried to call the policemen to order they threatened the Magistrate who had to flee into the chambers for safety.
According to media reports, the policemen led by their Divisional Police Officer tried to break down the door to the judge’s chamber but failed. The policemen reportedly brutalised some lawyers while the chaos lasted. There were several gunshots which forced the lawyers, court staff and visitors to flee. The Police Area Commander’s arrival on the scene saved the situation.In a twist of the tale, the Imo State Police Command denied the allegations against the Police, insisting instead that it was the lawyers who attacked the policemen for trying to re-arrest the acquitted robbery suspects.
In angry response to this unwholesome development, Imo State lawyers embarked on three days of protests and boycott of the courts. They called for the redeployment of the Imo State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Dasuki Galadanci, and the sack of the police officers who carried out the alleged assault on the Magistrate and their members inside the temple of the law.
There is no way the Police can justify the unprofessional reaction of their officers to the Magistrate’s verdict. They should have kept their cool and re-arrested the suspects if they felt justified to do so, while appealing the verdict. Thus, they would have, through civilised and professional conduct, achieved the same purpose of preventing the alleged robbery suspects from escaping justice.
If indeed they had cast-iron evidence that the Magistrate had compromised ethical conduct, there are clearly spelt-out avenues for alerting the Judiciary authorities to address it. By taking the law into their hands the policemen showed lack of professional grounding.
We call on the Police and Judiciary authorities to thoroughly investigate this matter and restore sanity and confidence in our law enforcement and correctional system. If found guilty, the officers must pay a heavy price for desecrating the temple of justice.