Suspects reportedly arrested over the killing last year of an Abuja-based pastor, Eunice Elisha, have been released, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt.
The suspects, whose identities were not revealed by the Abuja police command, were released because police investigation “could not link them to the murder,” said spokesperson of the command, Manzah Anjuguri.
“What happened is that when the incident occurred, arrests were made. But during the course of the investigation we found that the persons arrested could not be linked to the said murder. And we cannot keep them if we do not have any case against them,” Mr. Anjuguri told PREMIUM TIMES.
“They were released under the condition that they will be invited for questioning whenever the need arises. The commissioner has instructed the Divisional Police Officer for that region to intensify efforts on the matter; the case has not been closed. The investigation is still ongoing,” said Mr. Anjuguri.
His statement contradicts his earlier claims that the suspects were helping in the investigation.
Hours after the murder of 42-year-old Mrs. Elisha on July 9, 2016, the police said it had arrested suspects in the matter, and said their confessions were considered helpful in the investigations into the matter.
“We have made some arrests and they are helping in our investigation”, the police spokesperson had said at the time.
“The commissioner of police has ordered the homicide section of the command to take over the investigation of the case,” said Mr. Anjuguri, the same day Mrs. Elisha was found dead on the streets of Kubwa, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory.
During that disclosure in July, Mr. Anjuguri stated neither the number of suspects “arrested” nor their identities.
He told PREMIUM TIMES that the identities were withheld because “the investigation was at an early stage and the matter was a crucial one”.
Five months later in December, Mr. Anjuguri declined commenting on the status of those arrested, when contacted by this paper.
“All I can tell you is that investigation is still ongoing,” he said in December 2016.
Mrs. Elisha was killed while conducting an early morning preaching in the streets of Kubwa, a suburb of Abuja.
Speaking also in December 2016 about the government’s failure to address the matter, president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Samson Ayokunle, said the State Security Service and other agencies expected to ensure the safety of Nigerians had neglected thier duty.
“How can the life of somebody be snubbed out like that on the streets of Abuja, Nigeria’s seat of power? Where has evangelism become a crime in Nigeria? The SSS, police and other law enforcement agencies are being paid salaries in order to enforce law and apprehend criminals but in this case, they failed to justify their pay,” said Mr. Ayokunle.
Also speaking on the matter, Catholic Bishop of Abuja Arch Diocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, described the situation as grossly unfortunate.
“We have to put this in the context of a country where law enforcement is not at its highest; a whole Attorney General of the Federation was killed and till now we do not know who committed the act. That kind of situation should tell us that we are in a country where human life is practically negotiable.
News of the release of the suspects came months after Kano State government also released suspects in the killing of a 74-year-old woman, accused of blasphemy.
Bridget Agbahime was killed by a mob at a market in Kano.
The government filed charges against her suspected killers, but later freed them without giving reasons for its decision.
“What we need to say and say it without any hypocrisy is that in Nigeria, there is no law against blasphemy,” said Mr. Onaiyekan.
“There is no better proof of that than the fact that more often than not, our Lord Jesus Christ is blasphemed against by those who do not believe in him, without any action taken against them. So we just need to take this matter seriously; any body who is believed to have committed murder, under the excuse of blasphemy should not be excused on that ground because there is no law in Nigeria against blasphemy.”