The family of Boniface Enwerem, a robbery suspect arrested by the police in Lagos since 2018, has approached the Lagos Judicial Panel of Inquiry to investigate the protracted detention of the suspect and his alleged murder in custody.
Paul Dike, the suspect’s uncle, appeared before the panel on Friday, representing the Enwerem family.
According to an affidavit sworn to the panel by Mr Dike, Mr Enwerem’s relatives could not reach him on December 18, 2018.
Six days later, they read in the Vanguard newspaper that he had been arrested for armed robbery.
Mr Enwerem and another suspect were arrested by operatives attached to Ilasamaja Division for allegedly attacking and robbing bank customers who had gone to withdraw money from banks at Sadiku/ Ilasamaja, along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Lagos.
According to Vanguard newspaper, a customer who had gone to withdraw N350,000 stepped out of a bank at about 2 p.m., and the suspects, Mr Ewerem, 46, and Joseph, 42, “ordered him to bring the money at gunpoint”.
“One of them according to eyewitnesses fired a shot into the air as he snatched the money from the customer and zoomed off in their operational motorbike.
“Luck, however, ran against them as policemen from Ilasamaja chased and caught up with them. Angry members of the community requested that the suspects be handed over to them with an apparent intent to carry out jungle justice on them,” the reports read.
Family approach panel
The uncle to the suspect, Mr Dike, said he got a call from Oluchi Nwaubani, Mr Enwerem’s fiancée, on December 18, 2018, that she had tried multiple times to reach him on the phone without any response.
“I personally tried to reach Boniface Enwerem on the phone but his number was still unreachable from the 18th-24th of December 2018.
“I made a report of a case of missing person at the Ojo Police Station on the 24th day of December, 2018, and the police informed me that the best solution to finding the whereabouts of Boniface was to track his number.
“I cooperated with the police with respect to tracking his number and was asked to pay the sum of N60,000 to facilitate the operation, which I did,” Mr Dike said.
He further narrated that on December 25, 2018, he got a call from one Messrs Salisu and Bawa, both officers at the Ojo Police Station, that Enwerem’s number was traced to a building in Lekki Phase 1, but on getting to the location, they discovered it was an abandoned building.
Mr Dike said after the search, he received another call from the police, where he was shown an online report from the Vanguard newspaper that his nephew alongside one Joseph were arrested for robbery.
“Based on the details as contained in the said Vanguard newspaper publication, I made a visit to the Illasamaja Police Station on the 27th of December 2018 due to the fact that the 25th and 26th were Public Holidays.
“Upon arrival at the llasamaja Police Station, I was directed to the Divisional Crime Officer who confirmed the said incident as published in the Vanguard and other newspapers and further notified me that My nephew had been transferred to Matori SARS Station at Ladipo.”
Mr Dike said at the Ladipo station, he was informed that his nephew had been transferred to the SARS Station at Ikeja, but on getting there, he was told Mr Enwerem was never brought to the Ikeja station.
“I made frantic efforts by calling serving and retired police officers to assist in ascertaining if indeed my nephew was at the SARS Ikeja Station. I was made to part with huge sums of money in exchange for information as to the whereabouts of my nephew, all to the avail up until today,” Mr Dike said.
He added that he hired a lawyer, Okechukwu Ohumaraeze, who gathered that Mr Enwerem was, indeed, arrested and paraded on the suspicion of armed robbery and had been transferred to SARS Ikeja.
“He paid a visit to SARS Unit Ikeja where he met with the head of the unit, who confirmed to him that Mr Boniface Enwerem was in their custody. He also requested for his men to bring the pistol Mr Boniface was apprehended with at the point of robbery. He further advised Mr Okechukwu Ohumaraeze esq. to stay away from the matter, as he was a ‘fine lawyer’ and should not accept such a case,” the affidavit reads.
Mr Dike said the lawyer could not continue his services because he could not afford his fees as a result of money he had expended on searching his nephew.
Mr Dike said the family hired another lawyer but all efforts to locate Mr Enwerem failed, urging the panel to unravel the mystery behind the whereabouts of his nephew.
Stating the demands of the family, Mr Dike said the judicial panel should mandate the police to arraign Mr Enwerem and allow the law take its natural cause, to determine his guilt or otherwise, as against the illegality of his protracted detention.
The family also demanded a compensation of N100 million “in the instance that he had been killed in detention”.
“In the alternative, and as we have been made to believe by those close sources within the Nigerian Police Force system, that our son might have been extra-judicially murdered by SARS officials, as its in their usual barbaric culture.
“We accordingly demand a monetary compensation on the sum of N100 million for the irreparable hurt and pain which has been caused by the Nigeria Police and its SARS operatives on our son and clan,” Mr Dike said.
Mr Dike, who supplied the phone number of the OC SARS to the panel, said his nephew was never taken to court nor allowed to see any family member.
The counsel to the family, Bernard Oniga, applied for the summons of the DPO of Ilasamaja and their former lawyer, Mr Ohumaraeze, to appear before the panel to assist in the case.
Doris Okuwobi, the chairperson of the panel, who granted leave for summons of the lawyer and DPO adjourned the matter till September 7.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401...