The Nigeria Police Force in Rivers State has detained a 57-year-old woman, Ala Alatoru, for over one month on the orders of Patience Jonathan, Nigeria’s former First Lady.
The action is however against the 1999 Nigerian constitution which clearly states that persons arrested or detained shall be brought before a court within a “reasonable time”.
According to the constitution, the reasonable time means a period of 24 hours when a court of competent jurisdiction is within a radius of 40 kilometres to the police station or a period of two days in any other case.
This implies that the detention of arrested suspects for more than 48 hours without being charged to court is against the provisions of the constitution.
SaharaReporters gathered that Alatoru was arrested on 23rd of September, 2022 and held in detention without being charged for any crime. She is held without access to a lawyer and without bail.
She was verbally accused of negligence by Mrs. Jonathan over an incident at her personal residence at Bauchi Street, Old GRA in Port Harcourt.
“Mrs. Ala Alatoru is an assistant to Mrs Jonathan, part of her duties includes managing of the Jonathan’s residence in Port Harcourt amongst others. Hence she has a set of keys and opens the residence whenever Mrs. Jonathan is around or on her instructions to open for visitors. She also supervises the cleaning of the residence by cleaners under her purview. On one of such cleaning occasions; one of the cleaners duplicated the keys of Mrs Jonathan’s private quarters entrusted to Mrs. Ala Alatoru,” a family member said.
“On a later day, the cleaner accessed the private quarters using the keys he duplicated, stealing gold jewelries as alleged by Mrs. Patience Jonathan. He was caught by the police and confessed to the crime. The persons he sold the items to were also caught and are all in Police custody. The cleaner has confessed to the crime and said he acted alone and Mrs. Ala Alatoru has nothing to do with it and she does not know anything about the theft. Mrs. Ala Alatoru was arrested due to this this incident.
“No one else was arrested for negligence except Mrs. Ala Alatoru, not even the security who are supposed to search everyone coming in and out of the said property. She was arrested and taken to the Old GRA Police Station on the 23rd of September 2022. She spent that weekend detained at Old GRA Police Station. On the morning of Monday the 26th of September, 2022 she was taken back to Mrs. Jonathan’s residence for interrogation and returned to the Old GRA Police Station in the evening.
“On subsequent days, every morning she is taken there for interrogation and returned to the Police Station in the evening. That has been the routine. On the evening of the 28th of September, 2022 she was transferred to State CID Port Harcourt. On the 29th of September, 2022 she was taken back to Old GRA Police Station briefly and then, transferred to Nigeria Police Force FCID Port Harcourt Base located around Alu, Rivers State.
“The children of the woman had gone and pleaded with Patience Jonathan several times to see if she'd have a change of heart but for whatever reasons, she has tied her heart and maintained that the elderly women would remain in detention until all her jewelries are recovered. She even threatened to move the case from PH to Abuja if the children of the woman dared to get a lawyer for her.
“An elderly woman has been in detention for many weeks now and there are no plans for her release.”