The Nigeria Police have denied responsibility for the bungled prosecution of Aminu Ogwuche, a suspected Boko Haram member accused by the government of coordinating a deadly bomb attack in Nyanya, a suburb of Abuja, in April.
The police said the prosecution of Mr. Ogwuche was handled by the State Security Service, SSS, and the Attorney General of Nigeria, and that police merely helped with the extradition of the suspect from Sudan.
The statement came three days after a federal judge dismissed a two-count terrorism charge against Mr. Ogwuche for the Nyanya attack, which killed more than 70 people.
“For the record, at no time did the Nigeria Police arraign the suspect in court for terrorism related offences,” a spokesperson for the police, Emmanuel Ojukwu, said in statement. “Moreover, the purported prosecution/arraignment by the Police could not have happened as the Police could not prosecute a suspect it never arrested, never investigated nor had in its custody.”
The blast at the Nyanya Motor Park occurred during morning peak hours as residents were hurrying to work.
The Nigerian government said Mr. Ogwuche fled to Sudan after coordinating the attack. He was later repatriated to Nigeria to face charges.
At the resumed hearing Monday, the prosecution counsel was absent from court.
“This criminal charge is hereby struck out for want of diligent prosecution by the complainant, Inspector General of Police and his prosecutor,” the judge ruled.
The judge did not however order Mr. Ogwuche’s release, an indication the state could file fresh charges against him.
But the police said their role in the case was only in facilitating the repatriation of Mr. Ogwuche from Sudan to Nigeria.
The force said it was merely requested by the SSS to help coordinate the extradition with Interpol.
After that, police filed charges in court for documentation to secure the approval of the Sudanese government to repatriate Mr. Ogwuche, Mr. Ojukwu said.
The statement, issued Thursday, appeared to highlight the friction within the Nigerian law enforcement community, which analysts have blamed for the poor prosecution of criminal cases in the past.
Read part of the police statement below:
It would be recalled that the Department of State Security (DSS), that had intelligence on the Nyanya Bombing and was investigating it, made a formal request to the Nigeria Police to assist in extraditing one Aminu Sadiq Ogwuche to Nigeria from Sudan, through the Interpol channel of which the Nigeria Police is well versed.
It was at this stage and for this reason that the Nigeria Police Force filed charges against the suspected fugitive Aminu Sadiq Ogwuche, based on information that he fled to Sudan.
The filing of charges against the suspect is a legal procedure to enable the Nigeria Police formally request the Sudanese authorities to grant Nigeria’s extradition request in respect of the suspected fugitive.
For the records, copy of filed charge(s) against a fugitive must be appended to documents in support of extradition request made to the host country, which in this case, is Sudan.
These facts were made known to the court when it insisted on the production of the accused even before his extradition to Nigeria.
Following Ogwuche’s extradition which the Nigeria Police accomplished successfully, the DSS, obtained a Court Order to remand the suspect for an initial period of three months in line with the Prevention of Terrorism Act and also liaised with the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation to undertake his prosecution.
For the record, at no time did the Nigeria Police arraign the suspect in court for terrorism related offences. Moreover, the purported prosecution/arraignment by the Police could not have happened as the Police could not prosecute a suspect it never arrested, never investigated nor had in its custody.
It is therefore grossly erroneous, mischievous and malicious to impute lack of diligent prosecution to the Police. The Nigeria Police Force is manifestly and positively committed to the will of Nigerians to rid the nation of violent crimes like terrorism. Many of our officers have paid the supreme sacrifice on account of this.
The Police while respecting the rights of the media to publish, however appeals that due diligent check be observed to ensure that misleading information is not disseminated to the reading public.