Cynthia Okogwu was drugged and strangled in her hotel room in Festac, Lagos.
Nov. 6 (PREMIUM TIMES) — One of the seven suspects in the death of Cynthia Osokogu, murdered in cold blood in her hotel room in Lagos, has brought a N50 million suit against the Nigeria Police for damages.
Gideon Okechukwu, who allegedly drove the killers to the hotel, also joined the Attorney-General of the Federation in the suit in which he said that the fee would cover “general and aggravated damages.”
Mr. Okechukwu, 39, also demanded a public apology to be published by the respondents in a “conspicuous portion” of a national newspaper.
On Monday, all the suspects in the murder case were brought to the Yaba Magistrate Court where the advice of the Directorate of Public Prosecution was to be read.
However, the court observing its annual leave meant they had to be returned to the Kirikiri Prisons until November 27, the date fixed for the court to sit.
The police had said in its investigations that Mr. Okechukwu, an unregistered cab driver, drove Okwumo Nwabufor, a prime suspect in the murder case, and Ms. Osokogu to Cosmilla Hotel in Festac where the latter was strangled to death.
The police also stated that Mr. Okechukwu usually drove Mr. Nwabufo during his numerous operations and also aids him in escaping from crime scenes.
In the suit, deposed at the Lagos High Court, Greg Anumenechi, counsel to the suspect, denied all the claims, adding that his client has been in police detention since August 20 without being charged to court. Mr. Anumenechi also stated that the forceful seizure of his client’s Mazda 626 car is unlawful and a violation of his right.
‘A police vendetta’
In an affidavit in support, Ugwunna Okechukwu, stated that the police had earlier arrested Mr. Okechukwu on June 5 after they found a hand cuff in his taxi’s boot.
The police detained Mr. Okechukwu, who lived with an army colonel at that time, and efforts to release him on bail failed because the family could not meet up the monetary demand of the police, according to Ugwunna. “Frustrated, we consulted our solicitors who wrote a letter to the Area Commander demanding his release from detention,” said Ugwunna, Mr. Okechukwu’s younger brother.
“He was however released but not without threats of various kinds for daring to engage solicitors to his rescue,” he added. In the wake of Ms. Osokogu’s murder, Mr. Okechukwu had said that he was arrested by the police, on August 20, in an ambush in Festac Town.
“Nwabufo (one of the suspects) called me on the phone that I should come and take him to University of Lagos. He said I should come and pick him up…. I didn’t know that he was being used by the police to lure me. When I arrived there, I was immediately arrested,” Mr. Okechukwu had said in September. Ugwunna said that his brother’s crime was that his phone number was seen in the phone number of one of the suspects.
“To our surprise, he was not being held for being part of the crime as thesuspects all stated that he was not one of them.
“His Mazda 626 with Registration Number BF 832 JJJ was unlawfully seized and detained,” Ugwunna said.
“To our further surprise, when the other suspects were moved from Festac Area Command to State Criminal Investigation Department, Panti, the Area Commander kept him back in detention at the Festac cell.
“When I demanded why, he stated that it was time for his vengeance.”
Ugwunna said that while his brother was in detention, efforts by family members to feed him or provide him with healthcare, when he fell ill, were rebuffed by the police.
He alleged that members of the investigation team demanded N500,000 so they could release Mr. Okechukwu, a sum which they failed to raise. “Severally, he was called out to make statements of incidents that did not occur and if he refuses, he will be severally beaten up and thrown back into the cell,” Ugwunna said.
In a copy of a petition to the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Zonal Headquarters, Lagos; Mr. Okechukwu’s lawyers accused Damien Okoro, the Area Commander of Area E, Festac, of making monetary demands before releasing their client.
“The Area Commander has made insinuations that ‘this is (his) own time for revenge over (a) previous incident and that if it had been a shooting incident, he would have used his personal and official pistol to shoot Mr. Gideon Okechukwu,” stated the petition, dated September 5, 2012, and seen by PREMIUM TIMES.
Mr. Anumenechi called on the police to carry out a full investigation into the allegations.
Last September, Mr. Okoro, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, and six other officers were awarded a ‘Civic Recognition Award’ by the National Orientation Agency for their “excellent performance in investigating and arresting the killers” of Ms. Osokogu.
Ngozi Braide, the Lagos State Police Spokesperson, did not respond to PREMIUM TIMES’ enquiries on the allegations.
Mr. Anumenechi insisted that the Area Commander has no legal right to detain his client without charge.
“The Area Commander has no powers to dehumanize the applicant and force him to make confessional statement of a crime that he was not a party to,” Mr. Anumenechi added.