A superintendent of police, on Thursday, appeared before the #EndSARS panel in Abuja in a case of a suspect said to have been missing from custody since 2019.
The panel had, on Tuesday, summoned Chinedu Okonkwo after he was linked to the case in the testimony by another police officer.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how Mr Okonkwo’s police colleague, Paul Odey, an assistant superintendent of police, named him in the case of the missing suspect, Ebuka Aniegu.
Both Messrs Okonkwo and Odey were said to be members of the Inspector-General of Police-Intelligence Response Team (IGP-IRT), which was then being led by embattled Abba Kyari, a suspended deputy commissioner of police.
A sister of the victim, Ebuka Aniegu, who petitioned the panel, had said IRT operatives arrested her brother on May 10, 2019.
Testifying on March 8, 2022, the petitioner had told the #EndSARS panel that her brother was about moving abroad when he was “unlawfully” arrested by the police in Abuja in May 2019.
She claimed Mr Odey requested N1 million to release her brother.“I informed him I didn’t have such money,” she said.
Despite all efforts, Ms Aniegu said Mr Odey refused to release his brother. Mr Odey denied making such demand in his testimony on Tuesday. He also denied any wrongdoing regarding the case.
The petitioner is asking for N500 million compensation in her testimony.
At the previous sitting of the panel on the case on Tuesday, Mr Odey said he could not provide information on the victim’s whereabouts as he received an instruction from Mr Kyari through Mr Okonkwo to hand over the case to another police officer, John Onyema, whom he said died last year.
Similarly, Mr Okonkwo was unable to provide a clue about Mr Aniegu’s whereabouts on Thursday.
In his testimony on Thursday, Mr Okonkwo corroborated Mr Odey’s claim that Mr Aniegu was arrested based on allegations of armed robbery and rape.
Mr Okonkwo, who was then a deputy superintendent of police, added that the then commander of IGP-IRT, Mr Kyari, directed that the case file and suspect be handed over to a deputy superintendent of police, John Onyenma.
“When he gave that directive, I called the DSP John Onyenma who was my senior then and he followed me to the detention cell,” Mr Okonkwo said.
He added that he called the name of the suspect, Mr Aniegu. He said the suspect acknowledged himself before he handed him over to Mr Onyenma.
“I handed the suspect and the case file to him and he endorsed the duplicate file,” Mr Okonkwo added.
Panel’s cross examination
Fielding questions from the panel, Mr Okonkwo confirmed that after the handing over, a signal was sent declaring the death of Mr Onyenma.
He added he lost touch with the case after handing it over to Mr Onyenma.
Asked if he knew whether the suspect was still in the detention centre, the witness answered in the negative.
He was also asked if he knew any of the members of the team of Mr Onyenma, to whom they claimed to have handed over the case to.
“I have my own job and he has his. I don’t know his team (members). It is his case, and I didn’t have anything to do with it anymore,” the police officer said in response.
He also tendered the signal document to back his claim of transferring the case to Mr Onyenma. The panel admitted the document as an exhibit.
The panel adjourned the case for final report.
IRT and Kyari
The Mr Kyari-led IRT has a series of petitions of inhuman treatment against it at the #EndSARS panel. Mr Kyari, who is being detained by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency over allegations of criminal dealing in cocaine, has been summoned by the panel on different occasions with regard to some of the cases.
Mr Kyari, who is also being wanted in the United States of America over charges of fraud, had refused to honour any of the #EndSARS panel’s invitations.
The panel in its last effort to bring him to answer to the allegations against him ordered the NDLEA to produce him.
The independent investigative panel, also known as EndSARS panel, was set up by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in the aftermath of the October 2020 #EndSARS protest against police brutality.
The panel is probing cases of rights violation allegations allegedly committed by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other police units.