Rights Group Petitions IGP for Parading Man for Crime Committed Elsewhere While in Police Custody
The Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre, RULAAC, has petitioned the Inspector-General of Police, IGP Usman Alkali Baba to order a prompt and impartial investigation to unravel the mystery surrounding the claim by the Imo State Police Command that a man who had been in police custody was among those who carried out the dastardly killing of police officers in Imo State on a date that the man was still in the custody of the police.
The RULAAC is worried over the parade of the suspect, Mr. Thaddeus Ikechukwu Ojokoh by the Imo State Police Command along with others accused of killing some police officers in Imo State, a crime that was committed while Mr. Ojokoh was still in the custody of the Anti-Kidnapping Unit, Imo State Police Command following his arrest on April 15, 2023.
They are asking the IGP to guarantee the accused right to life, human dignity and fair trial.
In the petition to the IGP, the Executive Director of the RULAAC, Okechukwu Nwanguma said Mr. Ojokoh, a 53-year-old professional tailor and father of five, was arrested by operatives of the Anti-Kidnapping Unit, Tiger Base, Owerri, Imo State on April 15, 2023 and has been detained incommunicado since that date.
He further said on April 30, Imo State Police Command issued a statement that Ojokoh was among the men that murdered the policemen on national duty in Ngor-Okpala, Imo State on April 21, 2023.
“Ojokoh, a tailor at Afor Oru Market in Ahiazu Mbaise, Imo State, was arrested on April 15 on the claim that he is a member of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
“The attack against police officers was launched on April 21. He was still in police custody as at that date and has not been released till date.
“He was eventually paraded by the Imo State Police Command along with others who were later arrested following the killing of the police officers on April 21 and said to be among the assailants who attacked and killed the police officers in Ngor-Okpala, Imo State on April 21, 2023,” he said.
Nwanguma noted that members of Ojokoh’s family of Umugwa Umuokrika, Ahiazu Mbaise LGA Imo State had informed RULAAC that Thaddeus was still in police custody as at the date of the condemnable attack and killing of the police officers.
He said the family members have not had access to him since the day he was arrested.
“They (the family) seriously fear for his life because most people arrested by the police in Imo State and labelled IPOB members have usually been executed extrajudicially or disappeared.
“There have been instances of people arrested on the claim that they were IPOB members and killed or disappeared and evidence later emerged to disprove the claim.
“Thaddeus Ojokoh’s family members find it both curious and ironic that Ojokoh who was arrested on April 15 and still detained at the Tiger Base Owerri as at April 21 when the attack was carried out and has not been released up to date could be paraded alongside others alleged to have carried out that same attack.
“Ojokoh’s family members were hoping that the police would have finished their investigation and cleared him of any links with IPOB or charged him to court.
“But on April 21, six days after his arrest, armed men attacked policemen on patrol at Ngor-Okpala and killed four of them,” he said.
The rights group descried the attacks on police installations or killing of police officers as totally condemnable and unjustifiable crimes.
It said; “the attack and killing of 4 police officers at Ngor-Okpala junction on April 21, 2023 was unjustifiable and all those responsible should not be spared the maximum penalty permitted by law.
“However, parading a man for a crime committed while in police custody raises serious concerns and questions, and calls for careful investigation to ensure that an innocent person is not accused wrongly or made to pay the price for a crime he did not commit.”
RULAAC requested the IGP to order a discrete investigation to unravel this mystery.
According to the group, it has also become necessary to call the IGP’s attention to the attitude of many police officers in the Southeast presuming everyone accused of being an IPOB member of having automatically lost their Constitutionally guaranteed rights to due process, including the presumption of innocence until otherwise proven in a fair trial.
It said; “this is a very dangerous attitude that has led to the murder of many innocent citizens.
“The Constitution guarantees every person arrested for a recognizable offense the right to fair trial.
“Summary executions and extrajudicial killings amount to murder and can have ugly repercussions including creating a cycle of violence.
“We request the IGP to order an investigation into the continued detention of Thaddeus Ikechukwu Ojokoh and the circumstances surrounding his being accused of being among those who carried out an attack on police officers on a date he was still in police custody.
“He should be released or charged to court if he has any case to answer. His family and legal representatives should also be allowed access to him.”