- Anambra State law permits the police to deal summarily and extra-judicially with ‘kidnappers’-CSP Nwafor
The Special Anti Robbery Squad, Awkuzu Anambra State Police Command has come under the hammer of the Network on Police Reform in Nigeria, NOPRIN. The group, in a petition submitted to the Inspector General of Police dated January 8, 2015 called on the IGP to investigate the activities of CPS James Nwafor who is the officer charge of Special Anti Robbery Squad, SARS, Anambra State Police Command.
According to the petition titled: FLAGRANT HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES, CORRUPT AND UNPROFESSIONAL PRACTICES AND SUBVERSION OF DUE PROCESS AT SARS AWKUZU, ANAMBRA STATE POLICE COMMAND:NOPRIN CALLS ON THE IGP TO INVESTIGATE THE ACTIVITIESE OF CSP JAMES NWAFOR (O/C SARS) AND CHECK IMPUNITY AT SARS signed by Okechukwu Nwanguma, the National Coordinator of NOPRIN stated thus; “On June 12, 2014, NOPRIN – Network on Police Reform in Nigeria- wrote to your predecessor, the former Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mr. M. D. Abubakar concerning numerous disturbing complaints of gross abuse of human rights, misuse of police powers, breach of legally established procedures for arrests and detention and flagrant disobedience to Court Orders by police officers at the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS), Awkuzu Anambra State under the supervision of CSP Nwafor James (O.C. SARS).”
The petition also stated that; “NOPRIN received no reply and did not know of any action taken in response to that petition. Therefore, NOPRIN feels constrained to once again write to you on the same subject and to call on you to take urgent and decisive actions to check the excesses of CSP James Nwafor and bring an end to the brutality, misconduct, corrupt activities and impunity at SARS Awkuzu. SARS Awkuzu is very notorious for flagrant abuse of human rights, subversion of due legal process and disobedience to court orders.
“We will illustrate the lawlessness going on at SARS with the case of the INDEFINITE AND INCOMMUNICADO DETENTION OF CHINAGOROM IHEJIAGWA IN DISOBEDIENCE TO COURT JUDGMENT
Sometime in June 2014, NOPRIN received information that one Chinagorom Ihejiagwa (31) a businessman who operates a wines shop at Triple M Plaza, Asaba Delta state and his wife Mrs. Ifeyinwa Ihejiagwa, a nursing mother of a one moth old baby were arrested and detained on Thursday May 29, 2014 by some operatives of SARS, Awkuzu, Anambra State. They were arrested between 4 and 6pm by police officers, one of whom was identified simply as ‘Pele’.”
The petition further stated that; “Chinagorom was arrested at his wines shop and taken away without being informed of his offence or the reason for his arrest. His wife was arrested about two hours later at the same shop when she came to find out what happened after she heard about her husband’s arrest. Chinagorom’s wife was detained overnight and released the next day and she reported that she was ‘physically and emotionally molested’ and that one of the officers slapped her. But Chinagorom has since then remained in custody without charge. His family members and counsel have not been allowed access to him and his younger brother reported being told by the O/C SARS James Nwafor that ‘we will kill him because he is a confessed kidnapper’. His family believes that he had been tortured to make ‘confessions’, as is the common practice in SARS.”
According to NOPRIN it was informed that prior to Chinagorom’s arrest, ‘Pele’ called him many times, accused him of having bought a stolen vehicle and demanded that he should bring his ‘own share’. Chinagorom denied the allegation of buying any stolen vehicle and said he had nothing to give to ‘Pele’. It was after several futile efforts by ‘Pele’ to extract from Chinagorom his ‘share’ of what he believed to be the proceeds of crime that he arrested and detained him and then labelled him ‘kidnapper’, adding further that; “Since Chinagorom’s arrest and detention in May 2014, the O/C SARS, CSP James Nwafor has continued to deny him access to family and legal representation and has disregarded court orders that the police should either release him on bail or produce him before a court.
The O/C SARS has contemptuously disregarded a Court Order dated 30th June, 2014 and a Judgement dated 27th November, 2014 on the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Action filed on behalf of the victim in which the Court ordered the Anambra State Commissioner of Police and in particular, the O/C SARS,Awkuzu, Anambra State to release Chinagorom Ihejiagwa on bail or bring him before the Court.”
The group also accused Nwafor of an abuse of legally established arrest and detention procedures, as it stated that; “Just like Chinagorom, his wife also reported that the policemen who arrested her did not inform her of her offence or the reason for her arrest. They took her at gun point to the SARS, switched off her phone and locked her in a cell till the morning of the following day. She said she pleaded with the policemen to allow her take along her one month old baby whom she was still breast-feeding but they vehemently refused.
Sir, it is startling how trained police officers with conscience, could take away a nursing mother without her one month-old baby and detain and abuse her overnight ignoring all her pleas to be allowed to take her very tender baby along!”
“The next day, the policemen took her to her residence in Asaba, ransacked the whole apartment in the pretext of searching for gun which they did not find. Then they took away with them all their electronic items and many other properties belonging to her and her detained husband. The policemen then proceeded with her, along with the carted properties to her husband’s shop, went into the shop and carried away all the goods and money in the shop. They also impounded her husband’s Hyundai car and Morrano Jeep and took them to the station.
“The police officers also arrested Chinagorom Ihejiagwa’s neighbour, an old man, Mr. IYKE MOUKA who also has a shop at the same plaza because he handed over the keys to Chinagorom’s shop and his phones to his wife after the police took him away. The old man was released on June 12 after the police extorted the sum of 20 thousand naira from his wife.
“On June 18, 2014 some newspaper reports quoted Mr. Usman Gwari, Commissioner of Police Anambra State Command, as having referred to a certain ‘Anambra State Law’ which supposedly empowers the police in the state to deal summarily with anyone accused of kidnapping and to demolish any building/property ‘used for kidnapping’ in the state. He said this while parading some people as ‘kidnappers’.”
Narrating further the petitioner stated that; “One of those paraded as kidnappers on June 17, 2014 by the CP Anambra and the O/C SARS was Chinagorom Ihejiagwa. The parade took place few days after NOPRIN, in response to the complaint it received from Chinagorom’s relatives, inquired from the O/C SARS Awkuzu about the indefinite detention of Chinagorom at SARS and the fears that he was being tortured to confess as is the common practice in SARS. The O/C SARS did not give any definite response to NOPRIN’s inquiry. About three weeks before they were paraded, Chinagorom Ihejiagwa’s younger brother – Callistus Ihejiagwa, a lawyer visited SARS to see his brother but the Police officers denied having Chinagorom in their custody. It was only when he pointed out to them that he saw his brother’s two cars parked within the police station premises that they admitted having him in their custody. He said the Officer in charge (O/C) Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS), Awkuzu Mr. James Nwafor (CSP) later warned him not to come back to ask for his brother again because ‘the law in Anambra’ authorises the police to deal summarily with kidnappers. He claimed that Chinagorom confessed that ‘he is a kidnapper and we will kill him’. The O/C SARS refused Chinagorom’s brother’s request to be allowed to see Chinagorom face to face and hear from him.”
According to NOPRIN in its report, it stated that; “Two days after Chinagorom’s family members read the news about his being paraded with others as a kidnapper, another relative was again sent to the O/C SARS to inquire and the O/C told him that they (police) have taken Chinagorom’s case file to the Governor Mr. Obiano and that they are awaiting his response. NOPRIN wondered whether the Anambra State Governor combines the roles of the Attorney-General and the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) who gives advice as to whether there is prima facie evidence to prosecute or not.”
According to Chinagorom’s younger brother, Callistus, the lawyer decided, after consultation with NOPRIN, to go to the office of the DPP, Ministry of Justice, Awka to find out if the police had referred the case file to the DPP. After the visit, he reported back to us as follows: ‘I met with the Attorney General and the DPP at Awka yesterday (June 24), both complain about the extrajudicial activities of James Nwafor and his SARS but unfortunately there is nothing they can do at this point until the file is transferred to them when they are eventually charged to court…’
By another letter dated August 8, 2014 NOPRIN wrote again to the Inspector General of Police: ‘TIME TO CURB ANAMBRA STATE POLICE’S LAWLESS’ wherein NOPRIN, again brought to the attention of the IGP, the continued indefinite detention of Chinagorom Ihejiagwa by SARS Awkuzu, Anambra State in disregard of a court order.
According to NOPRIN this was one case; “among the numerous, that illustrates the impunity by the Police in Anambra state, particularly, SARS, Awkuzu. NOPRIN is concerned that Anambra State Police Command has continued till date to condone the continued unlawful detention of Ihejiagwa at Awkuzu SARS for eight months as at date without trial and in utter disregard of a Court Order and a Court judgment ordering them to either release him on bail or charge him to Court. NOPRIN’s interventions and investigations into several cases at SARS Awkuzu in the past two years have revealed the fact that many detainees at SARS Awkuzu are innocent people who have been framed with false and malicious allegations for which the police often have no evidence to prosecute and secure conviction. They therefore resort to extrajudicial execution, especially in cases where they are unable to extort huge bribe from the family of the detained person.”
Meanwhile it was gathered from NOPRIN’s petition that the family of Chinagorom took a Legal action to enforce Chinagorom Ihejiagwa’s fundamental human rights, according to the group it stated; “After several visits to SARS by Chinagorom Ihejiagwa’s family and Counsel without being allowed to see him, and since the O/C SARS refused to grant him bail or charge him to court, his family approached an Anambra State High Court seeking to enforce his fundamental human rights.
The Court, sitting in Otuocha in Suit No. OT/MISC.106/2014 between Chinagorom Ihejiagwa vs the Commissioner of Police, Anambra State and CSP James Nwafor, O/C SARS, Awkuzu, Anambra State, on Monday 30th June, 2014 issued an Order directing the Anambra State CP, Mr. Usman Gwari and particularly, CSP James Nwafor, O/C SARS Awkuzu, Anambra State to produce Mr. Chinagorom Ihejiagwa to the Court on Monday 7th July, 2014 for the hearing of the substantive application on notice for the enforcement of his fundamental human rights.
The Court also ordered the police in the alternative to grant him bail or arraign him before a Court of law within 7 days of making the Order pending the determination of his substantive application. The Anambra State CP and the O/C SARS were duly served the Court Order. But they ignored the Order and have continued to hold Chinagorom Ihejiagwa in unlawful detention without allowing him access to anyone.
The O/C SARS actually told Chinagorom Ihejiagwa’s brother that the Court Order was meaningless because the Anambra State law permits the police to deal summarily and extra-judicially with ‘kidnappers’.”
Moreover, according to NOPRIN: “In a subsequent Judgment made by Justice D.O.C. Amaechina of Otuocha High Court, Anambra State, dated 27th November, 2014, in suit No. OT/MISC.106/2014 between Mr. Chinagorom Ihejiagwa and Commissioner of Police, Anambra State and (CSP) James Nwafor (Officer in Charge of Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Awkuzu, the Judge declared that ‘the continued detention of the Applicant by the 2nd Respondent (O/C SARS, Awkuzu) from 29th May 2014 till date at SARS Awkuzu without the order of any competent court amounts to a gross violation of the Applicant’s fundamental rights to personal liberty and freedom of movement enshrined in sections 35 and 41 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).’
The Judge further made ‘AN ORDER directing the Respondents to release the Applicant from police custody forthwith or alternatively charge him to court of law within seven (7) days from the date of this judgment.’ Seven months after the ORDER following the application by Motion Ex-Parte and two months after the judgment on the substantive application, the O/C SARS Awkuzu has continued to show contempt for the Court and the rule of law by continuing to unlawfully detain Chinagorom Ihejiagwa, incommunicado.”
According to the Petitioner, NOPRIN , it said that: “it requests you(IGP) to ensure that the Anambra CP and the O/C SARS Awkuzu comply with the court order and judgment without further delay. Sir, lack of effective accountability measures to sanction and deter police misconduct accounts for the increasing number of cases of abuse and misconduct that continue to damage police image and erode public trust and partnership. In a democracy, such level of impunity by police officers, who are charged to enforce the law, cannot be condoned or tolerated. Without the rule of law, democracy is imperilled.
NOPRIN requests you to order a prompt, impartial and exhaustive investigation into the lawless activities going on at SARS Awkuzu Anambra State, and to particularly, investigate the O/C James Nwafor whose conduct leaves much to be desired of a professional police officer in a civilised and democratic society.”
NOPRIN said, SARS Awkuzu stands out as the most notorious police stations which has continued to feature in several complaints of human rights abuse that NOPRIN receives frequently. SARS Awkuzu routinely breach legally established procedures for arrests and detention, flagrantly disregard Court Orders and indulge in other practices that brazenly undermine the rule of law.
According to NOPRIN it said, it has documented and brought to the attention of police authorities numerous cases of arbitrary arrest, unlawful detention, incommunicado; torture, denial of detainees access to their families and legal representatives, enforced disappearances and summary execution/extrajudicial killings perpetrated mostly at Awkuzu SARS. But the authorities have failed to address these complaints and the underlying causes of the abuses which make them routine, as it hereby requests you to treat this complaint with the urgency it deserves and ensure that sanity returns to SARS Awkuzu and, in particular, that the O/C SARS, James Nwafor accounts for his numerous acts of impunity.”