Is it a lawful Police procedure to detain a married woman under investigation for affray in the same cell, with two males, and before nightfall, to add two other males into the same cell, overnight?
This is the public law question the Nigerian Police confronts but without a clear or convincing answer as yet.
Variously published reports suggest on-going frantic movements by the Police high command to find out why this un-usual detention procedure was adopted by the station’s policemen. The Police high command is also reported to have set up an internal inquiry; despite that irreparable harm has already been suffered, and acknowledged to have been suffered by the female detainee as a result of being locked up overnight with four strange males in the same cell.
All over the world, and as a matter of common sense, police cells are divided into male and female sections, just as public toilets are, without any access for ingress. Why this global rule was recklessly violated by the Nigerian Police is the question now nagging both the country and a clutch of overseas human rights campaigners.
“Only a failed state will lock up a married woman in the same cell with four strange men overnight”, a foreign journalist commented. “Nigeria is now showing the severe symptoms of a failed state”.
For all that, the Police answer is urgently expected for public safety, if other Nigerian women are to avoid the traumatic experience Mrs Ese Isaiah said she suffered overnight, for no just cause, as distilled below, from Nigeria’s newspaper reports:
“A woman, Mrs. Ese Isaiah, who protested being serially raped by four men whilst detained at the Abraka Police Station, Delta State, has petitioned the Inspector-General of Police, Muhammad Abubakar, for justice.
In the petition delivered to the Assistant Inspector- General of Police, Zone 5, Benin City, by her counsel, Mr. Ejomasuvwe Efe (of E. J. Efe & Co.), she specifically accused the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) and the men of the Police station of inhuman treatment, negligence and for failure to protect her.
She detailed her painful experience as starting from a fight between her and a neighbour, Mama Afoke, following which police from the station came to arrest her, acting on a complaint from the said neighbour.
She further said that during her detention, efforts by her husband, Mr. Isaiah, to bail her were rebuffed by both the DPO and the DCO who intimidated, abused and thereafter pushed her husband out of the station.
“Shortly after her husband was pushed out of the Abraka Police Station, the Police IPO instructed the police at the counter to take Mrs. Ese Isaiah to the police cell and deliver her into a cell where there were two men locked in. As soon as the police locked the gate of the cell, two younger boys came into the cell where she and the other two men were already kept. The men started caressing her. She protested that she is a married woman and a mother of five children.”
“The boys asked her to keep quiet and they grabbed her by her neck and closed her mouth with their hands, whilst the others held her two hands and threw her on the ground and started to rape her”.
In the process, she started shouting, but the policemen on duty refused to come to her aid until she went into a coma. She only realised herself the following morning”, the petition said. She said she went into coma during the rape session due to excessive force and exhaustion.
According to her, when she woke up the next morning, she saw her husband locked up in the opposite prison cell. Her husband had come to the Police station the next day to seek her bail but the DCO had instead ordered that the husband too should be locked up.
The Police high command has truthfully conceded that Mrs. Ese Isaiah was serially raped overnight inside the cell where she was kept with the four men.
The Police have since taken two of the male detainees in the cell to court and, again, truthfully charged the two men with rape, but un-accounting for the other two men in the same cell, even as the Police high command has also not said a word on the bizarre detention procedure adopted by its station officers, for locking up a married woman overnight with four male detainees in the same cell.
At the Abraka Magistrate’s Court, the Judge remanded the two rape suspects, Enamuotor Akpevwe (21) and Ugbede Obruche (20) in prison custody. In the suit referenced: MAB/25/C/2013, the suspects were charged on two-count charge of felony and rape.
According to the charge sheet, “Enamuotor Akpevwe ‘m’ and Ughede Obruche ‘m’ on 26th February, 2013, in the night time, at Abraka Police Station, in the Abraka Magisterial District did conspire with one another to commit felony to wit rape and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 516 of the Criminal Code, Cap ‘C’ 21, Vol. 1, Laws of Delta State of Nigeria 2006.”
Count II charge read: “That you, Enamuotor Akpevwe ‘m’ and Ugbede Obruche ‘m’ on the same date, time and place in the aforementioned Magisterial District did rape one Ese Isaiah who was detained in the police cell by unlawfully and forcibly having carnal knowledge of her without her consent, and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 358 of the Criminal Code, Cap ‘C’ 21, Vol. 1, Laws of Delta State of Nigeria 2006.”
“When the case came up for mention, the trial Magistrate Judge, Mr. J. D. Epete, ordered the suspects to be remanded at the Federal Prisons, Sapele, while hearing on the case was fixed for the May 3”.
“Meanwhile, it was reliably gathered that the Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of Zone 5, Alhaji Hamisu Argungu, has ordered an orderly room trial of the policemen on duty on the fateful day.
………… Seyi Olu Awofeso (Legal Practitioner in Abuja)