Posted by News Express | 24 October 2018 | 732 times
The International Human Rights and Equity Defense Foundation (I-REF) has charged the police authorities to hasten action on the investigation process regarding the kidnapping and threat to murder of Citizen Ugochukwu Oraefo and taking of ransom to the tune of N6 million as well as the grievous torture by the Commander of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Awkuzu, SP Sunday Okpe and other officers of SARS.
A statement issued on Monday in Onitsha and signed by Justus Uche Ijeoma Esq, I-REF Executive Director, and Akachuwku C. J. Azubike Esq, Legal Officer, noted that the petition has become necessary because justice delayed is justice denied. It also advised that the outcome of the investigation and actions taken against those found culpable be made public “as it will serve as a deterrent to others who may still want to journey on this perilous path of dishonour.”
“This case offers an excellent opportunity to the Inspector General Police (IGP) to demonstrate a sincere commitment to reforming SARS as recently directed by the presidency,” the statement further highlighted.
The group gave the update of the case as follows:
“Recall that the International Human Rights and Equity Defense Foundation (I-REF) had on the 5th of July, 2018 written a petition to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) on the above subject matter. The petition contains vivid details of the unlawful arrest and detention of the victim; the very harrowing and excruciating torture inflicted on the victim; and the criminal extortion of the sum of Six Million Naira (N6,000,000.00) as ransom from the victims by officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Awkuzu.
“There was also a letter from the Amnesty International Nigeria, which independently forwarded our petition to the Nigerian Police Force- Public Complaint Rapid Response Unit (NPF-PCRRU)calling for prompt, detailed and impartial investigation into the allegations therein contained.
“The prayers in the petition to the IGP are as follows:
“We call on you, Sir, to direct that a discreet investigation be conducted into this matter with a view to bringing all the persons involved to justice. As a first step in this direction, Sir, we request that you direct an immediate redeployment of all the officers involved in this egregious perfidy capable of further sullying the already suffering image of the police, pending the conclusion of the investigation.
“This we believe will forestall any move by any of them at interfering with the investigation process. At the conclusion of the investigation, every person found complicit in any way must be adequately sanctioned, which we know the most appropriate in the circumstance would be dismissal. All monies extorted from the victim must also be refunded to him without delay.
“Furthermore, Sir, in view of the overt and unmasked threat to the life of the victim and that of his family by SP Okpe and his men, particularly the Commanders of Ogidi and Neni SARS, we call on you to take steps to ensure that nothing untoward happens to the victim and his family before, during and after the investigation and prosecution of those found culpable in this matter. We will hold the police, SARS in particular, responsible for any violence or attack of any kind on the victim and his family henceforth,” the statement noted.
Also, “The petition was received at the office of the IGP on the same day (5/7/2018) and assigned to the IGP’s X-Squad at the Force Headquarters headed by DCP Elumelu, which assigned same to an investigation team led by Supol Edwin.
“We were invited with the victim to the Force Headquarters in Abuja to make a statement on the 24th of July, 2018. After that, on the 28th of August, 2018 parties (the victim, suspect-officers and Mr Andrew Onwurah Mordili whose account was used to receive the money) were invited to the Force Headquarters for police interview before DCP Elumelu.
“While that was going on, we were contacted by a team of officers from the NPF-PCRRU (Nigerian Police Force- Public Complaint Rapid Response Unit) sometime in mid-September 2018. They informed us that they are also investigating our petition on this. About a week later, the PCRRU team came to Anambra and obtained the statement of the victims, other persons that witnessed the arrest and that of our Legal Officer who visited SARS Awkuzu while the victim was in custody. We are also aware that they visited SARS office in Awkuzu as part of their steps into the investigation. We also informed them of the pendency of the matter before the IGP-X-Squad in Abuja and they assured there us that their work is complementary and is geared towards ensuring that justice is done in the matter. This we saw as a sign of good things to come.
“We were later informed by the Team Leader at the X-Squad, Supol Edwin that the money extorted from the victim has been recovered. We requested that the money be paid into the victim’s account but he insisted that we must come to Abuja to collect the money. Consequently, we went to the Force Headquarters on the 4th of October, 2018 to receive the recovered sum. However, when we were filling the bond for the release of the money we found that the amount that was written on the bond was Five Million Naira (N5,000,000.00) instead of the actual sum extorted, which is Six Million Naira (N6, 000,000.00) and we quickly drew the attention of the female officer who was filling the bond to it.
“She initially argued that what was contained in the victim’s statement is the sum of Five Million Naira (N5, 000,000.00), but when we insisted she took us to the DCP Elumelu’s office. We pointed to the DCP that we have remained consistent both in our petition and in the victim’s statement on the amount. The DCP then went through the victim’s statement and confirmed the truth of our assertion.
“At that point, the DCP asked us to decide on whether to take the N5, 000,000.00 already recovered and allow them time to recover the balance or to leave it with them for some time while they recover the balance. Then we opted for the former but the DCP told us that it is better for them to keep it until they recover the remaining One Million Naira (N1,000,000.00). At that time we expressed our frustration as to the delay in concluding the investigation and the number of times we have had to travel all the way from Anambra to Abuja, with its attendant time and cost implications. The DCP assured us that we will not have to wait for too long before coming back as they would do everything possible to recover the balance within the shortest time and that he would make sure that we come only once more.
“We were informed after about one week later that the balance has been recovered, that we should come and take the money. On the 17th of October, 2018 we went to the Force Headquarters to receive the money. The bond was completely filled for the sum of Six Million Naira (N6,000,000.00). However, they brought a cash sum of Four Million, Nine Hundred and Eighty Thousand Naira (N4,980,000.00) and handed over to us, explaining that that was the money brought earlier as Five Million Naira, but that when they confirmed it at their Budget Office they found that the money was less by Twenty Thousand Naira (N20,000.00).
“Supol Edwin, however, informed us that SARS officers have paid in the balance of One Million, Twenty Thousand Naira (N1,020,000.00) into his personal account and that he would take us to his bank to transfer same to the victim’s account. On the way to the bank the Supol told that he is banking with a different bank from that of the victim, and so he decided to drop us at the Victim’s bank (Diamond Bank) for us to lodge the cash they gave us while he proceeds to his own Bank (First Bank) to effect the transfer of the remainder to the victim’s account. In fact, that was the last time we have heard from the Supol till date.
“After lodging the money (cash) into the victim’s account we started calling the Supol on phone but all the calls put across to him that afternoon was not answered neither were they returned. And the victim did not receive any credit alert for the money (N1, 020,000.00). The following morning we went back to the Force Headquarters but did not meet the Supol on the seat. We were told that he was yet to come to the office. We called his line, no response. We sent a text message to him but did not receive any reply.
“When we waited till about 1 pm and did not see the Supol. We went to DCP’s office to lay the complaint before him. To our greatest chagrin, the DCP could barely allow us to utter a word before he started scolding us. He accused us of going to report him at the PCRRU office for withholding the money they recovered for us. We made efforts to explain to him that we did not go to the office of the PCRRU to lay any compliant.
“What happened was that while we were waiting at the corridor of the office of Supol Edwin at the first floor of the Force Headquarters, we saw one of the officials of the PCRRU at the ground floor, who was among the officers that came to Anambra State for the matter earlier. We greeted him and when he finished what he came to do on the ground floor he came up to the first floor where we were waiting for Supol Edwin. After exchanging pleasantries with him, he asked about the progress of the matter and we told him the frustration we were having with Supol Edwin over the recovered money. The officer asked us to wait for about 30 more minutes and if the Supol did not get to the office we should send his number to them so they could call him since he was not taking our calls. We did exactly that and they contacted the Supol.
“Though we see nothing wrong even if we had reported to anyone about the dillydallying of Supol Edwin, we needed to make the clarifications. But whether our explanation to the DCP availed anything is yet to be seen. The DCP then told us that he has been informed by his Admin Officer that Supol Edwin was already at the bank to transfer the money. He asked us to wait for one more hour and if we did not receive alert we should go to the bank to find out what is happening. It was obvious to us that the DCP was unhappy with us and so we decided to leave. It was only later in the evening, at about past 5 pm that the victim got credit alert for One Million Naira (N1,000,000.00) from Supol Edwin, leaving a balance of Twenty Thousand Naira (N20,000.00),” the statement explained.
The group also made the following observation: “We wish to highlight that it is now about four months since we brought the matter to the attention of the police authorities via our petition to the IGP dated 5th October 2018.
“That we have been invited to the Force Headquarters in Abuja by the investigating team for at least four times since the matter commenced. The journeys to Abuja are not only long, tortuous and tiring, they are also money and time-consuming.
“That the victim has received the sum of FIVE MILLION, NINE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY THOUSAND NAIRA (N5,980,000.00) from the investigating team as part of the Six Million Naira (N6,000,000.00) extorted from the victim by officers of SARS Anambra State.
“That despite the overwhelming evidence against the officers, no sanction, to our knowledge, has been meted out to any of them and all are still in their previous postings as if nothing has happened.
“That there is a clear strain in communication between us and the X-Squad that is currently investigating the matter, particularly with the poor handling of the transfer of the recovered money. This has resulted in lack of faith in their ability to conclude the investigation dispassionately henceforth. We are a lot more comfortable with the way and manner the PCRRU has gone about the matter since they came on board,” the statement declared.
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