[By Theo Rays]
A group of legal practitioners, under the umbrella body of the Lawyers of Enugu-Ezike indigenes, in Igbo-Eze North local government area of Enugu State, have called on the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Alhaji Mohammed Adamu, to pull a stronger force into the murder case of Stella Ifeoma Abugu, a lady who allegedly died in the custody of Operatives of Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS).
The lawyers are also demanding that the police chief ensures that those behind her death face the full wrath of law.
According to a statement signed by Chairman of the group, Professor Uwakwe Abugu, the late Abugu died a day after she was arrested by SARS Operatives in place of her fiancé who was said to be the target of the security officers that went for the operation.
“The SARS Operatives went to her fiancé but he was not available at that point, instead leaving a note to invite him to their station they decided to arrest Abugu,” the statement added
“We issued this statement as the immediate relatives and mourners of the late Miss Stella Ifeoma Abugu, a native of Ugbaike Community in Enugu-Ezike who was gruesomely murdered in the hands of the operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigerian Police Force, Abuja on 11th September, 2020. We also issue this Statement in pursuance of our oaths as legal practitioners to defend and promote the cause of justice and our bounding duty to seek justice for our sister, her immediate family, Enugu State and humanity in general.
“We condemn in strongest and unmistaken terms, the inhumane and degrading treatment and consequent murder of our daughter in circumstances that conjure all trappings of illegality, unconstitutionalism, criminality, abuse of office and power, and man’s inhumanity to man. This is one death too many in the hands of the operatives of SARS as the Nigerian media is replete with reports of similar treatments and murder of other innocent Nigerians in different parts of the country.
“Unfolding revelations from reliable sources indicate that three SARS operatives whose identities are still being shielded by the Nigerian Police Force, in the evening of 10th September, 2020 went to the residence of late Ifeoma and her fiancé with the mission to arrest the man. On their arrival and finding that their target, the man, was not at home, they illegally and brazenly arrested and took away Ifeoma in lieu of her fiancé. The following morning, 11th September, 2020 Ifeoma was already dead in their custody. And SARS operatives deposited her seriously violated body in the morgue.
“We see the wasting of this budding and brimming young graduate, who just completed her National Youth Service, as the height of police brutality and arrant disregard of the lives of the citizens they are paid to protect. In the first place, the action of SARS operatives by arresting Ifeoma in place of her fiancé is out-rightly illegal and in clear breach of the law.
“Section 7 ofAdministration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 unequivocally abolished any “arrest in lieu” in the following words: “No person shall be arrested in place of a suspect.” Secondly, what manner of inhumane and degrading treatments were meted out to Ifeoma that she died before the break of dawn, with her corpse revealing suspected physical and sexual assaults can hardly be justified under any guise.
‘We appreciate that, come what may, Ifeoma cannot be brought back to tell her story. But “circumstances” do not lie and this Forum is poised to get to the bottom of the matter through all legal and constitutional means available to us.
“Consequently, the Forum calls on the Inspector General of Police(IGP) and the Police hierarchy to ensure transparency and diligence in the investigation of Ifeoma’s death. We equally enjoin the National Human Rights Commission to exert requisite pressure on the Police authorities to conduct credible investigations and ensure that no culprits are not shielded from appropriate punishment.
“We assure the general public and, in particular, all the individuals, groups, institutions and other concerned citizens who are pained by Ifeoma’s death, that we shall, working in collaboration with relevant stakeholders and agencies, leave no stone unturned, to ensure that Ifeoma’s spirit get justice, the bereaved compensated, and the perpetrators brought to book.
“We hereby register our recognition and appreciation of the efforts of some lawyers, individuals, groups and NGOs who have already initiated some steps towards getting justice for Ifeoma.