The Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN) is a network of civil society organizations throughout Nigeria committed to reform and transparency in policing institutions. NOPRIN has submitted a petition and letter to the current Acting Inspector General of Police (IGP) Solomon Arase on the indefinite and secret detention of Afam Nriezedi since January 17, 2015.
Afam Nriezedi, a Lagos resident, was arrested by the Special Anti-Robbery Unit of the police and has been denied access to his family and legal representation, according to the NOPRIN letter.
Solomon Arase has replaced Suleimon Abba as the de facto IGP following Abba’s termination after the State elections on March 28th 2015. Former IGP Abba was sacked because of his refusal to accommodate the requests from President Jonathan to manipulate the final vote collation, according to an investigation by SaharaReporters.
The full NOPRIN letter submitted to IGP Arase can be read below:
May 4, 2015
The Inspector General of Police
The Nigeria Police
RE: ARREST, INDEFINITE DETENTION INCOMMUNICADO OF ONE AFAM NRIEZEDI AT SARS, IKEJA SINCE JANUARY 17, 2015 AND HIS APPARENT ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCE:
NOPRIN REQUESTS THE IGP TO ORDER THE O/C SARS, IKEJA AND THE LAGOS STATE POLICE COMMAND TO DISCLOSE THE WHEREABOUTS OF THE ACCUSED AND TO RESPECT HIS DUE PROCESS GUARANTEES.
Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN) is a network of 46 civil society organisations, spread across Nigeria and committed to promoting police accountability and respects for human rights. It was established in 2000 to provide opportunity for civil society input to police reform processes and the enhancement of safety, security and justice.
First, may we again, congratulate you on your appointment as the Acting Inspector General of Police of the Nigeria Police Force.
As we said in our earlier statement in reaction to your appointment, your appointment represents a great opportunity for the Nigeria police. There is no doubt that you possess the rare leadership qualities and competences that an IGP of the NPF requires to effectively lead and reposition the NPF into a police force of modern democracy capable of effectively discharging its constitutional duties and capable of public trust and partnership.
This will be our first petition to you since your assumption of office as IGP. We believe that how you treat this complaint will set the tone for how you will address increasing public concerns and complaints about pervasive and flagrant human rights abuses by the police which your predecessors have largely ignored or failed to address.
We write to you concerning one Afam Nriezedi, a Lagos resident, who was arrested in Lagos on Friday January 17, 2015 by officers from the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS), Ikeja, Lagos and detained incommunicado since then. The detaining authorities have denied his family members and legal representative access to him.
The accused person’s family members informed NOPRIN that the SARS operatives first trailed, double-crossed and arrested his two elder sisters, assaulted them for no just cause, seized their phones and forced them into their vehicle and asked them to lead them to where their brother was. None of the two women had any prior information or invitation from the police concerning any crime that their brother may have committed or any other reason for looking for him. The two traumatised women took the police officers to a hospital in Ikorodu, Lagos where their brother had gone for a surgery the previous day. One of the police officers, Abdurrahman (08062080913) later told the women that their brother was wanted for being in possession of four AK47 rifles belonging to the police. The two women found this claim incredible because their brother has been very close to them and has never, to their knowledge, been involved in any such heinous act.
About two weeks after Afam Nriezedi’s arrest, his family members, to their utter chagrin, read a report in some newspapers, including SATURDAY INDEPENDENT of January 31, 2015, p. 9 claiming, this time, that the accused is an informant to a kidnap gang which allegedly kidnapped two prominent oil dealers in Lagos.
The family members said they were perplexed because the initial information the police gave them which was that their brother was wanted allegedly for being in possession of four AK 47 rifles belonging to the police contradicted the later allegation published in newspapers that their brother was involved in kidnapping and that he confessed during interrogation at SARS.
Afam Nriezedi’s family members have not been allowed, despite several efforts, to see him, ask him some questions and hear his response to the allegations levelled against him. They say they seriously doubt the allegation by the police because they are not aware of their brother’s involvement in any criminal act, let alone one involving the use of firearms. They say they are also aware that, for numerous reasons, SARS usually tortures innocent people to ‘confess’ to crimes they did not confess.
More than three months after the arrest of Afam Nriezedi, it is disturbing that the police have continued to unlawfully detain him incommunicado, denied him access to family and not accorded him his right to appear in court for trial in accordance with the due process.
Upon receiving this complaint on April 27, 2015, NOPRIN called the O/C SARS, Ikeja, Mr. Abba Kyari and inquired from him about it. The O/C SARS replied thus through a text message:‘My brother, he is a member of a kidnapping gang that kidnapped Mr. Ademola owner of Dapsy oil and Alh Fashola owner of Kings Oil. The arrest of Afam nriezedi; Chukwube, Kelvin and etc was celebrated all over the news papers and television. We are still making serious efforts to arrest Ikechukwu and two others before they will form new gang to kidnap innocent Citizens again. Thanks’
NOPRIN then inquired from the O/C SARS about the whereabouts of the accused, but got no further reply.
However, the IPO, Abdurrahman later sent a text message through 08062080913 and said ‘Is a transfer case Sir'.
In further effort to ascertain from sources at the Force Headquarters, Abuja if and where in ‘Abuja’ the case may have been ‘transferred to’ as claimed by SARS Ikeja, NOPRIN called thePrincipal Staff Officer to the IGP, Mr. Austin Ewa (CP), narrated the incident to him and requested him to assist us with inquiry to locate where the case/suspect may be in Abuja, which he promised to do. Subsequent efforts to reach back to the PSO for feedback has not yielded any success.
A NEW TWIST
Curiously, on Sunday May 3, 2015 one Prophet David Babalola a self-styled General Overseer of His Presence Redemption Ministry, Ogba called one of the accused person’s sisters, Mrs. Ngozi Nriezedi who worships in his church and informed her that some police officers from Abuja had come to Lagos to pick up a file relating to the case from SARS Ikeja. The ‘man of God’ told her that the officers would like to meet with any member of their family. Mrs. Ngozi Nriezedi went to see the ‘man of God’ in his Church and he gave her one of his workers who took her to a hotel in Ikeja where she met a man who claimed to be police officer Patrick and who claimed that he was a member of the police team from Abuja.
The said Police Officer Patrick asked Mrs. Ngozi Nriezedi to write a statement stating that her brother, Afam Nriezedi, was arrested in a beer parlour with members of his gang and that she should not mention that her family had given any money to Prophet David Babalola to assist them in ‘settling’ Abuja and securing her brother’s release. She said she could not write such a statement changing the facts of her brother’s case.
Sir, you well know that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria presumes any person arrested and detained for any alleged crime as innocent until proved otherwise after a fair trial before a competent court. Any person detained for a crime is also entitled to be allowed access to family members, doctors and legal representatives. It is prejudicial to fair trial to try an accused person on the pages of newspapers without allowing the person the opportunity to appear before a court of competent jurisdiction to prove his innocence or otherwise.
NOPRIN request you, sir, to kindly direct the O/C SARS, Ikeja to grant the family of the detained person immediate access to him or disclose to them his whereabouts if he is no longer in the custody of SARS.
NOPRIN further requests you, sir to order a prompt, impartial and exhaustive investigation into this case, with a view to:
1. Ascertaining the true identity of the ‘police officers’ who claimed to have come from Abuja and who wanted the sister to the accused person to make false statements rewriting the facts of the case.
2. Ascertaining the role of Apostle David Babalola (the General Overseer of His Presence Redemption Ministry, Ogba, Lagos), especially his involvement in brokering this curious meeting between the ‘police team from Abuja’ and the detainee’s family.
3. Ascertain why the police officers chose to meet with the detainee’s family in a hotel rather than at the police station.
4. Ascertain the information we received from the family that Prophet David Babalola has so far deceitfully and fraudulently obtained from them the sum of over five million naira (N5,000,000.00), ostensibly to assist them to ‘settle some top management police officers in Abuja’ and secure the release of the suspect.
*Note that the original version of this story incorrectly stated that Mr. Nriezedi was a robbery suspect. Mr. Nriezedi was never accused of being involved with a robbery, he was arrested on the allegation that he was in possession of AK-47 rifles despite the police having no evidence to detain him on such charges.