Thirty-six human rights and civil organisations have raised a petition to the House of Representatives in Abuja, over the Nigeria Police Force’s continued illegal detention of Gloria Okorie, a 21-year-old woman from Orlu, Imo State, and the police's disobedience to court orders.
The 36 human rights groups in a petition dated October 15, 2021, and addressed to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said the NPF under Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, ignored a directive from the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, on Okolie and had rather chosen to keep her in illegal detention.
SaharaReporters had in several reports detailed how Okolie, from Orlu/Orsu and Oru East Federal Constituency, was clamped in police detention for over four months – a period of over 120 days.
She was arrested on June 17, 2021 and detained secretly by the Inspector-General of Police's Intelligence Response Team (IRT) at their Tiger Base office in Owerri, Imo State, before she was transferred to the Abuja headquarters of IRT.
The petition, titled, “Re: Continued Indefinite Detention of Gloria Okorie by the Nigeria Police and Police’s Flagrant Disobedience to Court Orders to Release her or charge her to court,” was sent to Gbajabiamila through Jerry Alagbaoso, the Chairman, House Committee on Public Petitions and Member Representing Orlu/ Orsu/ and Oru East Federal Constituency, Imo State at the House of Representatives.
The civil societies said, “We, the undersigned human rights and civil society organizations in Nigeria, write to you most respectfully regarding Gloria Okorie, the 21-year-old female from Orlu, Imo State under Orlu/Orsu and Oru East Federal Constituency, who has been in police detention for over 4 months. For 120 days, the police have continued to stubbornly and contemptuously detain Gloria in defiance of several legitimate efforts to release her, including a court order on the police to release her on bail or immediately charge her to court, repeated pleas and efforts by her parents, family members and lawyers to secure her bail, civil society demands for her release on the grounds of her constitutional rights under Nigeria’s 1999 constitution as well as public outcry and media reports and critical commentaries over her continued detention by the police in flagrant violation of the law.
“This is an indictment on the rule of law credentials of the present Buhari government. Mr. Speaker, 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.
“Mr. Speaker, 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.
“Mr. Speaker, for the 120 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 120 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 have already convicted Gloria even without a trial. They have deliberately and consistently kept Gloria incommunicado.
“For decades the Police have 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.
“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. We had addressed a petition dated September 19, 2021 to the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria seeking his intervention to ensure the release of this poor girl. The Vice President replied through a letter dated 23 September, 2021 acknowledging our letter and informed that he had forwarded our submission to the Inspector General of Police for 'urgent investigation and necessary action'.
“Three weeks after the Vice President forwarded the letter to the IGP, Gloria Okorie remains in unlawful custody. We have not been informed of any reason why the police will continue to defy public opinion, court orders and the Vice President's directive. Therefore, having exhausted all avenues to make the Police act in accordance with the law unsuccessfully, we are writing to you as a father and the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 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. He has been arraigned with a phantom terrorism charge for disclosing that Gloria and other detainees have been secretly held in IRT custody in Owerri, Imo State. Hundreds of other youths are similarly languishing in secret detention.
“This is not acceptable in a democracy. It is also important that the House investigates the predatory policing strategy ongoing in Imo State to ascertain 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.”
The civil societies are; Civic Space Consortium, Spaces for Change, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC), Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy & Development (FENRAD Nigeria), International Peace and Civic Responsibility Centre (IPCRC), Human Rights Social Development and Environmental Foundation (HURSDEF), Public Enlightenment Project (PEP), Citizens' Solution Network, Centre for Community Empowerment and Poverty Eradication (CCEPE), Dinidari Foundation, Agape Care Initiative, Centre for Impact Advocacy, Youth Initiative Against Violence and Human Rights Abuse (YIAVHA), Dorothy Njemanze Foundation (DNF), FEMBUD, The Interactive Initiative for Social Impact, Tap Initiative, the HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS(HURIDE) ANAMBRA STATE CHAPTER, Lex Initiative for Rights Advocacy and Development (LIRAD) and the Centre Against Injustice and Domestic Violence (CAIDOV).
Others are; Human Right Advocacy and Monitoring Group (HURAMG), Confluence of Rights, the Citizens center for integrated Development and social rights (CCIDESOR), Hope for Justice and Capacity Building Foundation, Vision Spring Initiatives, Michael Adedotun Oke Foundation, Access to Justice, One love foundation, Ihensekhie Samuel: Samuel Ihensekhien Jnr. Esq., Criminal Justice Network of Nigeria, Democracy & Human Rights Network, Ethics and Corporate Compliance Institute of Nigeria, Justice Support Network, Sterling Centre for Law & Development, Community Outreach for Development and Welfare Advocacy (CODWA) and the NOPRIN Foundation.