A civil society coalition, Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN), has called on the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Ibrahim K. Idris, to order an investigation into the alleged intimidation of witnesses in a murder case by police officers attached to the IGP Monitoring Unit. The call was made in a statement signed by Mr. Okechukwu Nwanguma, National Coordinator, NOPRIN.
According to the statement, the coalition received information from members of Umuebulu Community in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State that Messrs. Victor Nwadike, a Superintendent of Police; and Usman Garba, Deputy Superintendent of Police, are the leaders of a group of officers attached to the IGP Monitoring Unit, who have been interfering in a murder case.
NOPRIN said it received the information via a petition addressed to the IGP by representatives of Umuebulu community.
According to the petition, dated 18 September, Messrs. Nwadike, Usman and their colleagues are working to pervert justice in the case of the murder of Mbuchi Bekee Njoku, a member of the community, allegedly by Mr. Dan Njoku and others at large.
The community members alleged that at about 3 pm on 5 May, a gang led by Dan Njoku invaded the community with armed thugs, who fired shots indiscriminately, killing Bekee Njoku and injuring many other residents. Mr. Njoku, a father of three, also left behind his heavily pregnant wife. The attack, said the petition, was reported at the Rivers State Police Command, which arrested Mr. Dan Njoku.
But while investigations were still in progress and the autopsy report was being awaited, Mr. Dan Njoku and others at large went to the Force Headquarters in Abuja and got their friends attached to the IGP Monitoring Unit to take over the case.
This, community members alleged, was aimed at compromising and derailing the investigation already being diligently carried out by the Homicide Section of the Rivers State Police Command.
“On 19 May, a team from the IGP Monitoring Unit, led by Messrs. Nwadike and Garba, arrived the Rivers State Command and quickly secured the release of the prime suspect, Mr. Dan Njoku, from detention, on self-recognition, and dropped a letter of invitation for all the complainants and eye witnesses to the murder requiring them to report at the Force Headquarters immediately,” the petition alleged.
The letter of invitation was addressed to the oldest man in the community and demanded that he should bring all the complainants to Abuja. As a result, representatives of Umuebulu petitioned the IGP on 22 June, asking that the case be transferred back to the Rivers State Police Command.
The IGP, in a letter (Ref: CB: 7000/X/FHQ/A63/VOL/430/329), ordered that the case be returned to Rivers State Police Command.
However, following his release, Dan Njoku fled into hiding. His disappearance stalled the investigation by the Homicide Section, Rivers State Police Command until 16 September, when the command re-arrested him on the orders of the IGP.
But on the same day he was rearrested, Umuebulu representatives further alleged, Mr. Nwadike returned to the Rivers State Police Command, hijacked the case file from and ordered the release of the prime suspect.
Since then, Mr. Dan Njoku is said to have been boasting that Mr. Nwadike and other officers attached to the IGP Monitoring Unit will ensure he is freed from the charge. He was also said to have boasted that he had given N20million to the officers to truncate investigations.
“Victor Nwadike has demonstrated substantial personal interest in this matter and has been calling the Investigating Police Officers in Rivers Command, as well as the witnesses in this matter, via his mobile number 08035955552, to come to Abuja, with the apparent intention to harass and intimidate them and threaten them into abandoning the case,” they alleged.
The prime suspect, the Umuebulu community members similarly claimed, is thinking that the long distance between Rivers State and Abuja, cost of transportation and the inconveniences of frequent travel will discourage the complainants and witnesses, many of whom are old and frail.
NOPRIN noted that the efforts of the prime suspect, abetted by officers of the IGP Monitoring Unit, to truncate the investigation have generated tension in Umuebulu Community. This, the coalition added, could result in the complainants seeking self-help.
“If Mr. Nwadike’s actions are found to be true, they would amount to an exhibition of undue personal interest and would not good for the image of the police. They would undermine the IGP’s unrelenting efforts to promote professionalism in the police and run contrary to the IGP’s repeated warning to officers to shun corruption, abuse of police powers and other professional misconduct,” said NOPRIN.
It called on the IGP to immediately order an investigation Mr. Nwadike’s interest in the matter and issue a that he or anyone else desist from interfering with the investigation.