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… Parents Beg SARS Panel

The Rivers State Judicial Commission of Inquiry probing alleged acts of rights violations by officers and operatives of the Nigerian Police have been inundated with cases of missing persons from the custody of the Nigerian Police in the State.

At the resumed hearing of petitions at the commission last Thursday in Port Harcourt, Mrs. Julian Ekezie said her son, Ugochukwu Ekezie who was reportedly arrested on the December 16, 2019 by officers of the defunct Special Anti Robbery Squad has not been seen till date.

Mrs. Ekezie stated that her son who she said had altercations with a friend, called Nelly over girl-friend issues in Rumuepirikom in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, later invited the OSPAC vigilante group to arrest him.

Mrs. Ekezie said she quickly went to the office of OSPAC, where it was confirmed that her son was arrested but informed her that has been handed over to Anti Cultism Unit of the Nigerian Police.

She explained that when she visited the Anti Cultism office at the old GRA near Moscow Road in Port Harcourt, she met one Inspector Dagogo and Sergent John Okon, and was asked to pay the sum of N20,000 to register the case of the arrest of her son.

She said the Police also demand another N20,000 from her to make petition about her son, adding that she spent over N76,000 in the office of the Anti Cultism Unit, adding that despite her efforts, she was never allowed to see her son till date.

She demanded that the commission should order the release of her son alive or if dead, release the body for burial, while compensation should be paid to the family for the loss of her son.

Another petitioner, Dawaye Bob Ikiyo also narrated how his son, Jerry Dawaye Omubo, a professional photographer was arrested on his way home in the Borikiri area of Port Harcourt.

Dawaye told the commission that when he received phone calls from his son that he was arrested by SARS and that he has been asked to pay the sum of N100,000 for his release, he visited the SARS office with the little money he had but was chased away by officers at the desk office, who threatened to kill him if he makes further enquiry of his son.

The 76 year-old man said he later received information from one of the officers whom he said was a Jehovah Witness who confided in him that all the boys arrested along with his son were matched outside in the night, killed by the SARS operatives and buried in a mass grave.

“On hearing the news of my son’s death, I slumped and fell on a hard surface, and since then I have suffered stroke, spent all the money I had and no one to care for me.  I have not seen my son till date,” the witness lamented.

Dawaye described SARS as a dreaded organization that go about carrying out indiscriminate mass arrests of people.

When asked by the counsel to the police if he reported the matter to any police authority, Dawaye said he never did because of the threat to his life by the police.

He demanded that the commission order the release of his son alive and if dead, release his body for proper burial according to Kalabari custom and tradition.

The matter however was adjourned for cross examination for December 21, 2020.  

Also, Mr. Christian Chima on Thursday told the Rivers State Judicial Commission of Inquiry investigating acts of police brutality, murder and violation of fundamental rights of citizens sitting at the Obi-Wali Civil Centre in Port Harcourt how the officers of the Nigerian Police, Area Command in Port Harcourt obtained a forged autopsy report to cover for the torture and murder of his younger brother, Benjamin Chima while he was detained in their custody.

The witness told the commission that his brother was arrested by the Agip Police Division of the Nigeria Police on July 16, 2010 but was later transferred to the police Area Command in Port Harcourt.

According to him, he visited the command on the day and met a police officer Sgt. Bright, who told him to come back the next Friday.

Mr. Chima explained that on the next day when he visited the area command, he was told that there was nobody bearing the name Benjamin Chima in their custody.

The witness also told the commission that while at the station, he met one Livingstone who was in police custody with his brother who told him that the detainees including his brother were mercilessly beaten and tortured in the cells.

He said Mr. Livingstone told him that his brother was among those taken away the previous night to an unknown destination.

He said on further enquiries from the officer in the command, he was told to meet, the then head of the command, DSP Livinus Iwu, who they said was the only officer who could speak on the matter. 

“I met DSP Iwu on the July 18, 2010 in his office and he told me that my brother was sick and had been taken to the then Braithwait Memorial Hospital (BMH) for medical attention and requested that I come back next week,” he explained.

Chima said when he reported back to the command the following week, “DSP Iwu showed me a picture of my brother to confirm if he was the person I was looking for.

He told me that my brother had died in the hospital and that the autopsy they had carried out on him indicated that he died of heart attack.

The witness, through his lawyer tendered several petitions and publications made to human rights bodies, the Inspector General of Police IGP and the then commissioner of police in the state.

“We went to the BMH to enquire about the purported autopsy which the area commander told me was done in the hospital, but the hospital denied that no such autopsy was carried out on the deceased by the hospital” he explained.

He equally told the commission that the area command, DSP Iwu, later invited him for discussion and settlement of the matter. 

However, counsel to the Nigerian Police Iyu Ubulon opposed the hearing of the petition on the ground that a matter that had already been filed at the Federal High court, but was struck out by the court it cannot be heard by the commission.

His submission was over-ruled by the commission who ruled that since the matter was struck out by the court for want of jurisdiction and procedural errors, the petitioner can still be heard by any other court or commission of enquiry.

The petitioner demand for the release of the corpse of his brother for proper burial, and that a compensation of N500m to be paid to the family while a public apology from the Nigerian police to published in national and local newspapers in Nigeria be tendered to the family. 

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