By Ikechukwu Nnochiri – Abuja
The Independent Investigative Panel on human rights violations by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, and other Units of the Nigeria Police Force, sitting in Abuja, on Wednesday, lambasted Police authorities for failing to produce two officers involved in the arbitrary arrest and detention of one Mr John Emeka Alozie.
The 11-member panel which is chaired by a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Suleiman Galadima, maintained that Police acted with impunity by making excuses instead of complying with two extant orders compelling it to produce the two officers identified as Mr. Obiazo and Mr Uzo Emeana, who were hitherto attached to the infamous SARS office at Awkuzu in Anambra State.
The panel noted that though orders for production of the two officers was made on December 15, 2020 and restated on February 2, 2021, Police had yet to comply.
Justice Galadima, who was visibly irked by the conduct of the Police, said the two officers he described as necessary parties, must be produced before the panel to explain what happened to Alozie who was alleged to have been unlawfully detained at Awkuzu SARS since 2017 without prosecution.
He specifically directed the Inspector General of Police and the Anambra state Commissioner of Police to quickly give effect to the production order to enable the panel to arrive at an informed and just decision concerning the allegations made against the policemen.
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Responding, lead counsel to the Nigerian Police, Mr James Idacha told the panel that one Godwin Ijeoma who was assigned to handle the matter for the police has retired, adding that his team does not have access to the case-file.
Meanwhile, in the petition before the panel marked 2020/IIP/SARS/73, wife of the detained victim, Mrs. Nnenna John, narrated how her husband was arrested in Lagos and whisked away to Anambra state.
She told the panel that on June 15, 2017, at about 7:50am, six armed men later discovered to be SARS officers from Awkuzu, Anambra State invaded their family house at Baale street, Lekki, Lagos, arrested her husband, ransacked their bedroom and carted away some valuable properties including a briefcase containing their children’s birth certificates, their international passports, marriage certificate and other vital documents.
“That the said SARS officers also made away with some sum of money in cash found in the house as well as keys to the two cars (Lexus and Ford) packed in the compound.
“That the Complaint’s phones and the phone of the ze rest of the family were also forcefully taken at gunpoint by ASP Obiozor who threatened to shoot her, to prevent the Complaint or any member of the household from making distress call.
“That upon the Complaint briefing her lawyer, the several attempts made by the said lawyer and herself to have audience with the victim were rebutted by the SARS officers who denied them access to see the victim who they also failed to charge to court for any known offence.
“That the Complaint’s solicitor consequently brought a fundamental rights action and the High Court of Anambra State made an order directing that the victim be charged to court or released on bail, but the order was not obeyed.
“The Police instead alleged that the victim has died in the course of interrogation.
“That another application for the release of the corpse if the victim was made and the court further gave an order directing that the corpse of the victim be released to the family and this order too was not obeyed.
“That the victim has been in custody of the Awkuzu SARS operatives since his arrest on 15th June, 2017, till date”.
The petitioner, therefore, begged the panel to order Police to release her husband to her, dead or alive, as well as to award damages to her family.
In another case, the panel, ordered the IGP to continue treating one Julius Ogalanya, a victim of police gunshot, until full recovery.
The panel noted that though the IGP earlier made payments for Ogalanya to undergo a surgery, the victim is yet to recover from the bullet wound that shattered his thigh.
The victim had narrated to the panel, how his thigh was shattered after a Police officer, Gabriel Adi of the Gwagwalada Division, FCT Police Command, shot him at close range.
The panel, while directing the IGP to bear all medical expenses incurred by the victim, described the case as a clear case of gross violation of fundamental human rights and reckless abuse of power by a police officer.