The Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN) today calls on the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) to produce Citizen Oni Adeyemi abducted by the Police from the premises of an Abuja High Court on 16 February 2009. NOPRIN is also calling on the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to ensure the disbarment of Joe Kyari Gadzama, SAN, counsel to the police under whose advice the Police acted in disappearing Mr. Adeyemi.
NOPRIN has followed with serious concern the events surrounding the abduction by the police from the premises of the FCT High Court on February 16, 2009 of Citizen Oni Adeyemi, a star witness in the ongoing proceedings in the tragic killing of the former Chairman of the Kwali Local Government Area, Samuel Mari Gwamna. The Police have refused to produce Mr. Adeyemi or allow anyone access to him since they disappeared him from the premises of an Abuja High Court on 16 February 2009.
Before the Abuja High Court on 23 February, former Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Abuja and Counsel to the Police, Joe Kyari Gadzama SAN, justified the disappearance of Mr. Adeyemi and the refusal of the Police to obey the court order to produce him.
NOPRIN notes that the Police have had custody of Mr. Adeyemi for over three weeks, well beyond the constitutionally permitted 48 hours. His disappearance defies a subsisting judicial order. The police have no justification in law or in conscience for disappearing Mr. Adeyemi.
NOPRIN fears that the Police have procured the extra-judicial execution of Mr. Adeyemi. To allay this fear, we call on the Inspector-General of Police to produce Mr. Adeyemi without further delay.
NOPRIN is outraged at the behaviour of the police and the clearly unethical roles played in this case by one Barrister Ezioku and his Principal, Joe Kyari Gadzama, SAN in this case and will be moving the Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Committee to take appropriate action against these lawyers. In NOPRIN’s opinion, their conduct brings the legal profession in Nigeria into disrepute.
NOPRIN believes that the failure of the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) to publicly condemn the police misconduct, bring those involved to book, and order the authorities of the FCT Police Command to produce the witness in court in obedience to the order of court suggests high level complicity in criminal police conduct.
NOPRIN believes that unless we all act together and forcefully to bring this kind of police misconduct to an end, anyone of us or our loved ones could be next. Unless we do so, the legal profession is not worth the garb in which its practitioners are dressed or the books that they use in aid of their advocacy.
The Police had abducted a witness, one Mr. Oni Adeyemi, from the premises of the FCT High Court in Abuja after shooting into the air on the court premises, in the case presided over by Justice TaIba Abubakar J. NOPRIN spoke to some witnesses in court on the same day. Mr. Adeyemi had testified in Court that the prosecution had on February 8 visited him in the police cell to sign and backdate a written statement to November 13, 2008. After he signed and backdated the statement, he was allowed by the police to follow one Barrister Ezioku from Joe Gadzama Chambers to where he parked his vehicle. It was when they got there that Barrister Ezioku opened the booth of his car and showed him a 'Ghana- Must- Go' bag loaded with money. "He told me that if I can come to the court to testify to the content of the statement, I will be given N2 million. After the promise, some policemen met me in the cell and threatened to kill me if I give a testimony contrary to the content of the statement before the court." Adeyemi said.
After this testimony and fearing for his life, Mr. Adeyemi applied to the trial judge not to commit him to the custody of the Police. In his ruling, the Trial Judge ordered the National Human Rights Commission to take custody of the witness. At the proceedings on 16 February, it is alleged that a contingent of Police officers from the FCT Police Command swooped on the court, shooting into the air to scare court officials, lawyers and witnesses. At least two of the shell casings allegedly fell by the cars of staff of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) conveying the witness. In the ensuing situation of insecurity caused by the police, the police officers forcibly snatched Mr. Adeyemi from the car belonging to the NHRC. He was taken without his shoes which remain trapped in the cars of the NHRC. At the proceedings, the NHRC was represented by Mr. Z.O Sebanjo, Director of Legal Services, and Mr. Olaniyi Omodara, Assistant Director. These officers also conveyed Mr. Adeyemi to the Court.
Following an application to the Court, Honorable Justice Talba ordered the Police to produce the witness in Court on 23 February. However, the Police defied the order of the Court to produce Adeyemi Oni in court unfailingly and alive. One that date, the Police, for the second time, failed to produce the witness. Instead the Police represented by Mr. Joe Kyari Gadzama (SAN) brought a motion to the Court asking Mr. Justice Abubakar Taiba to vacate the order on Police because the earlier order was difficult to obey. Arguing the motion, the counsel submitted that the motion which brought the order came from National Human Rights commission which has nothing to do with the case. He said that the involvement of the human rights body was just to keep the custody of the witness as ordered by the Court and that the order lapsed immediately the witness finished his testimony. Mr. Gadzama accused the human rights commission of crying more than the bereaved adding that it has no locus standi to file the motion and also has nothing to lose with the arrest of the witness. Mr. Gadzama further submitted that Police arrested the witness so as to charge him before a Gwagwalada High Court in respect of the murder case of the former Kwali Area Council Chairman. He therefore asked the Court to vacate the order and allow Police to do their job.
It is NOPRIN’s contention that the claim by the State Prosecution, Gadzaama (SAN) that the abducted witness was being processed for trial in another court is no defence to ignore a clear order of court to produce a body before it. Again, the constitution places a clear limit on the length of time that the police can hold anyone. That duration had clearly elapsed by the time the State Prosecution Counsel gave the court his excuse(s).
NOPRIN has verified that at the two adjourned dates on 23 February and 3 March, the Police failed to produce Mr. Adeyemi. We have tried to make contact with his family to find out where he is. They do not know. The Police have not reported back to the Court.
CONCERSNS: NOPRIN has three grave concerns:
1. That the police may have killed Mr. Adeyemi or, in any case, that he is undergoing constitutionally impermissible torture;
2. That this entire incident brings the legal profession and the judicial process into disrepute and creates the impression that the police is a rogue entity outside the law; and
3. That Mr. Gadzama (SAN) has lent his profession to be used to justify rogue behavior designed to render our judicial system entirely worthless. Gadzama has an obligation to help the family of Mr. Adeyemi and concerned Nigerians to locate his whereabouts and ensure that the police produce him in Court.
NOPRIN CALLS ON THE POLICE:
1. NOPRIN calls on the IGP to break his silence on this matter and make a categorical statement on where he stands on the grave misconduct of his men under the FCT Command. The IGP must direct the Commissioner of Police, FCT Command to reveal to the family of the abducted citizen and concerned Nigerians the whereabouts of Oni Adeyemi, and to further produce him in court on the next adjourned date, in compliance with the order of Court.
2. All the Police officers involved in the abduction of Adeyemi and the desecration of the court of law should be identified and punished according to the law.