A Coalition of Civil Society Organisations has written Vice President Yemi Osinbajo over the continued detention of Glory Okolie, a 21-year-old young woman arrested and enslaved by operatives of the Inspector-General of Police’s Intelligence Response Team (IRT) in Imo State.
The police had on June 17, 2021 arrested Okolie for allegedly being friends with a suspected member of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
She was later transferred to Abuja, despite efforts by her family members to secure his release.
After 66 days in detention, the police, in a statement said she was arrested for alleged membership of IPOB and for working with one Uzoma Emojiri to attack officers and stations in Imo.
Her detention stirred public outcry as many Nigerians, including civil society organisations, called for her release.
Leaders of 45 CSOs in a joint letter to the Vice President accused the police of detaining Okolie in flagrant disobedience to the orders of the Court.
They also sought her immediate and unconditional release from the custody of the police.
The letter read, “Your Excellency, for weeks Gloria’s parents and relatives searched for their daughter, running from community to community, hospitals to morgues, police station to police station, and churches, in search of any lead until her whereabouts was eventually disclosed by a commercial motorcyclist that was arrested alongside with Gloria two weeks earlier. This Good Samaritan traced Gloria’s family to inform them of the location of their 'missing' daughter.
“The police issued a belated and face-saving statement through their public relations unit claiming that Gloria was a spy girl for IPOB/ESN. This was in response to public outrage over her secret detention and enslavement for 70 days without charging her to court as required by law and causing her and her parents and community serious trauma.
“Your Excellency, which parent would sleep as much as with one eye while your daughter is missing! Even after confirming that your daughter is in police detention, which parent will be at ease not having access to her, not knowing her state of health, not being able to hold her and support her and reassure her that all will be well. Gloria is a student who sat for her JAMB exam shortly before her arrest. With her arrest and continued indefinite detention, she cannot write post-UTME, and whatever dream of acquiring higher education she has, may be jeopardised by the Police!
“Your Excellency, for the 100 days in unlawful detention, the IRT has stripped Gloria of every fundamental right guaranteed under the Nigeria 1999 constitution. The right to fair hearing. right to speedy trial. Right to legal representation. Presumption of innocence until convicted by a competent court. Right to dignity. For 100 days, Gloria has been denied access to family. She has been denied access to a lawyer. With the conduct of the IRT, it is safe to conclude that the Police has already convicted Gloria even without a trial. They have deliberately and consistently kept Gloria incommunicado.
“The police has also continued to conduct itself with impunity despite public outcry and repeated civil society calls for Gloria's release or immediate arraignment in court. Not even a court order on the Police, secured on behalf of Gloria will sway the Police. Instead, the Police has continued to stubbornly and contemptuously disregard the court order several weeks after the court's deadline for her arraignment in court or release.
“Your Excellency, public safety is seriously imperiled when the police, as the primary law enforcement agency, constitute themselves into the despicable role of chief lawbreaker. For decades the Police has remained a notorious institutional violator of human rights. Unfortunately, this culture carried over from colonial rule, through military rule now constitutes a major threat to our nascent democracy. Several writings on insecurity in Nigeria have identified the threats posed by police impunity to democracy and public safety.
“Your Excellency, you will recall the youth-led #EndSARS protest that shook the nation to its foundation in response to the excesses of the rogue Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS), the tragic incident of 20/10/2020 at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos that claimed many innocent lives of young people, and the consequent vandalisation of public properties. The horrors and pains of that incident remain fresh in the hearts of many. But the protest and the outcry signify the ever-present danger an unaccountable police poses to the people and government. As a people and a fledgling democracy, we can ill afford a rogue, unaccountable and irresponsible police that continues to revel in impunity while sowing more hatred and distrust for the Police institution among Nigerians.
“The continued detention of Gloria without bail or charge should concern you and every Nigerian genuinely committed to the rule of law and public safety. Therefore, having exhausted all avenues to make the Police act in accordance with the law unsuccessfully, we are writing to you as a father, a Pastor and the Vice President of the country to kindly use your good offices to intervene in the continuing detention of Gloria by the Police and help bring an end to the trauma and plight of her parents, family, and community.
“May we also inform you that in a vengeful move, the police had to lure back to the station the commercial motorcyclist that revealed Gloria's whereabouts, re-arrested and mercilessly brutalized him. His whereabouts remain unknown as we write this letter. There are speculations that he may have been killed for disclosing that Gloria and other detainees have been secretly held in IRT custody in Owerri, Imo State. Therefore, the police must be made to account for his whereabouts. Hundreds of other youths are similarly languishing in secret detention. This is not acceptable in a democracy.
“It is also important to order an end to the predatory policing strategy ongoing in Imo State and to order an independent investigation into the fate and/or whereabouts of several other young people randomly picked up and taken away by the police in Imo State by IRT and other units in the pretext of searching for IPOB/ESN members. All young people in Imo State are certainly not all IPOB/ESN members, and the Police should not continue to act on that premise or continue to turn the 'war' against IPOB into a war against the youth in Imo State or an opportunity to oppress and prey on residents of the state.”