The two men, who abandoned militancy, embraced amnesty by the administration of former Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, to help protect their community
Family members of Chike Chiba and Felix Omerije, two members of a local vigilante group in Oja community under Ohaji Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State have demanded their unconditional release from the Nigerian police custody, nearly one year after their unlawful arrest.
SaharaReporters learnt that the vigilante group was formed to protect the residents of Oja community from the menace of kidnappers, armed robbers and rapists.
The two men, who abandoned militancy, embraced amnesty by the administration of former Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, to help protect their community, but they have remained in custody since December 2021.
This was after when they were invited to the Imo State Government House, Owerri, by members of the Inspector-General of Police Special Tactical Squad for questioning following the arrest of two notorious criminals named Emperor and Obinna in Delta State.
Ibrahim Mamman, a friend of both men, who had accompanied them to the Imo State Government House, Owerri, was also arrested and kept in unlawful detention since that period.
The vigilante team headed by Chiba and Omerije known as Horsepack had made attempts to arrest Emperor and Obinna for terrorising members of Oja community before the suspects fled to Delta State where they were subsequently apprehended by the police.
Upon their repatriation to Imo State where Emperor and Obinna made confessional statements to the police, Chiba and Omerije were invited to the Imo State Government House, Owerri, from where they were flown in a chartered aircraft to Abuja together with Mamman and kept in custody for over seven months before being returned to Imo without being charged to court. They have also been denied access to a lawyer and family members since that period.
“Emperor in his confessional statement inside the Imo State Government House, Owerri, claimed that he was fighting Chibi and Omerije on behalf of the state governor, Hope Uzodimma, for being sponsored by Okorocha and his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, to destabilise the state.
“Despite discovering that this was a lie, the police have refused to release Chiba, Omerije and Mamman. They are even denying that the men are in their custody even when the victims sent out a letter recently soliciting for food and other items. We have proof of this but can’t understand why the police are denying having them in unlawful custody.
“While in Abuja, the police forced them to say that Rochas Okorocha and his son-in-law were sponsoring them to commit mayhem in Imo State. They were on handcuffs for three months in Abuja.
“One DCP Kolo Yusuf and his team collected N1.5million from their family that they would change the case file and release them. They were later moved to Owerri around July this year and have remained in detention at the Imo Police Command.
“We have petitioned the Inspector-General of Police, Attorney-General of the Federation, AIG Zone 7, Commissioner of Police in Imo State, the state governor and commandant of Tiger Base and copied the National Human Rights Commission, Police Service Commission, and Minister of Police Affairs,” Alhaji Musa Gokaru, founder of One Foundation, the non-profit organisation fighting for their release, said.
Apart from filing a suit at the Federal High Court Owerri over the matter and getting the NHRC to register the case, the non-profit organisation has also petitioned the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and the International Human Rights Commission over the issue.
“Nigeria is a country governed by law and no one is above the law not even President Muhammadu Buhari let alone governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodimma or the police,” the group added.
A relation of Chiba, Mr Emezuo Nwaeze, while lamenting the situation, disclosed that they had spent a lot of money as a family in trying to secure the release of their son.
According to him, they have not received support from external sources despite the fact that Chiba popularly known as Banga and Omerije were serving public good at the time of their unlawful arrest and detention.
“The matter has really affected the family because we have spent a lot of money in trying to secure their release to no avail.
“They are being detained at Tiger Base in Owerri but each time we visit the place we are denied access to them.
“We are calling on the federal government to intervene in this matter to ensure that both men are released from unlawful detention,” he said.
Family members of the two other men detained unlawfully disclosed that the situation has brought sorrow and difficulty into their lives.
When contacted over the issue, spokesperson for the police in Imo State, CSP Mike Abattam, did not respond to calls and a text message sent to his mobile number.