The Network on Police Reform in Nigeria NOPRIN is alarmed by the invasion, on February 16, 2009 by heavily armed policemen numbering over 20, of the premises of the FCT High Court sitting in Gudu district, Abuja, where they shot sporadically into the air and abducted Mr. Oni Adeyemi, a star witness in the murder trial of the suspended Vice Chairman of the Kwali Area Council and his Special Assistant, accused of killing Mr. Samuel Gwamna, former Chairman of the council. The bullet shells fell on the side of a Peugeot 504 Saloon car with registration number FG 23 G15 belonging to the National Human Rights Commission in which the Commission was conveying the witness. Staff of the Commission collected two shell casings. The police took the witness bare-feet from the custody of the National Human Rights Commission. The Commission still has his shoes which were left in the car after the police removed him. The abducted witness is on bail.

NOPRIN calls on the Police Service Commission, Ministry of Police Affairs and the relevant Committees of the National Assembly, particularly, the committees on human rights and the police to investigate this reckless and contemptuous display of brigandage by the police with a view to bringing those responsible to book. The federal government must also guarantee the safety of the abducted witness.

BACKGROUND
The late Kwali Area Council chairman, Samuel Gwamna was murdered in cold blood on 28th January, 2008, by yet-to-be-identified gunmen along Abuja-Lokoja road. During the trial at the FCT High Court, Adeyemi was produced as a prime witness to testify that Alhaji Ashara, the suspended Vice Chairman of the council was responsible for the assassination of the late Kwali Council Chairman.

NOPRIN is aware that the trial judge, Justice Abubakar Talba of the FCT High Court sitting in Gudu District, behind Apo had last week ordered that the witness be kept in the custody of the National Human Rights Commission, following an allegation he made during the court’s hearing that the police tortured and threatened to kill him and forced him to write statements implicating the suspended area council's Vice Chairman. Adeyemi told the court that he did not know anything about the Council Chairman’s death. He asked the court to disregard the purported statement which the police tendered as exhibit, and said he was tortured and forced to sign it. The National Human Rights Commission had the witness in court in obedience to the order of Justice Talba of the FCT High Court to produce him to continue his testimony.

While people were scurrying about, the Police forcibly removed the witness from the custody of the National Human Rights Commission. There were two officers of the National Human Rights Commission in the car who represented the Commission as counsel in the case, namely: Mr. Z.O. Sebanjo, Director of Legal Services of the Commission and Mr. Olaniyi Omodara, Assistant Director, Legal Services in the Commission and Head of the Litigation Unit.

CONCERNS
NOPRIN considers this action by the police as lawless, scandalous and antithetical to democratic norm. It is, no doubt, a further dent on the battered image of a government that has continued to advertise its commitment to the rule of law and due process.

It is NOPRIN’s concern that if the police could brazenly perpetrate this disdainful act against a witness on bail, and who was placed in the custody of the National Human Rights Commission by the court, and within the hallowed precincts of the court of law, then it is revealing of the enormity of the horrific brutality and oppression that citizens routinely go through in the hands of the police on the streets and in police stations o daily basis.

CALLS
NOPRIN hereby calls on all agencies and organs of government that have the powers of oversight on the police to ensure that this act of gross misconduct by the police is not left uninvestigated and that all the police officers responsible are identified and brought to book. The Commissioner of Police, FCT and the IGP must be made to answer to this despicable barbarism by police officers under their supervision.

NOPRIN also calls on the Police authorities to guarantee the safety and psychological integrity of the abducted witness.

The NBA and the ICPC should investigate Adeyemi’s further claim that one Barrister Ezeokwu approached him on February 2, 2009 with a Ghana-Must-Go bag containing the sum of N2 million in N1,000 denominations, and that the barrister told him that the money will become his if he testifies that Alhaji Ashara, the suspended Vice Chairman of the council was responsible for the assassination of the late Kwali Council Chairman.

The NBA should also investigate the role and conduct of the prosecution counsel, Chief Joe Kyari Gadzama (SAN) who reportedly told the court that the allegation by the witness that he made the statement under duress was a normal thing for accused persons to say, and that the police hear such accusations every day.

NOPRIN also calls on the Police Service Commission to investigate Adeyemi’s earlier claims that about 22 policemen stormed his Kwali residence on November 12, 2008 and arrested him and other members of his family, after forcing their way into his room; that they severely beat and handcuffed him for 31 days in order to pressure him to testify against the suspended Vice Chairman; that the police broke one of his fingers on the eve of last year's Christmas for refusing to participate in an orchestrated press briefing by the police, where he was supposed to tell Nigerians that the suspended Vice Chairman was responsible for the assassination of the late chairman of the council; and that he was also forced into signing an additional statement on February 8, 2009 that was backdated to November 13, 2008, and that the police threatened to kill him if he says anything contrary to what is in the statement he was forced to sign.

All the police officers responsible for these abuses should be fished out and punished in accordance with the law.

Okechukwu Nwanguma
(Program Coordinator)

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