The Abuja hearing into alleged violations by the defunct Special Anti-robbery Squad and other units of Nigerian police took a rowdy turn on Monday morning when an officer, Kabiru Salisu, threatened a reporter during the hearing.
Mr Salisu, an assistant commissioner of police, was brought before the independent panel by Paul Effiong over the former’s alleged involvement in the extra-judicial killing of Emmanuel Ephraim, in 2017.
Before his sudden outburst, Mr Salisu, who was a Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in Calabar, Cross River State, at the time of the incident, denied his team’s participation in the joint operation that claimed the deceased’s life.
“I received a distress call through a walkie-talkie that armed robbers were operating at Albatim Street (in Calabar). I sent my boys on patrol that day to check it and they called me that nothing happened in that place,” he told the panel.
Mr Ephraim’s bullet-ridden lifeless body was brought into his police branch shortly afterwards as the passerby killed during the encounter, Mr Salisu said.
Narrating how his brother was killed, Mr Effiong said his brother was allegedly killed on his way from church on June 17, 2017, by men from Mr Salisu’s police division under Operation Skolombo in Calabar.
He said his brother’s body was withheld by Mr Salisu on the ground that his father’s letter to the state’s commissioner of police to claim the body indicted the state police command.
During his session with the panel, Mr Salisu admitted he withheld the deceased body based on an indicting letter written by the victim’s father.
However, Mr Salisu started losing his temper during cross-examination by the counsel to the panel, China Obiagwu.
“I didn’t come here to answer your questions,” Mr Salisu said in a hardened voice as he changed his countenance when Mr Obiagwu asked whether the former did an autopsy on the body as directed by Cross River police commissioner.
It was amidst similar responses to the panel’s questions that a reporter working with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) moved closer to Mr Salisu to take a better picture of him.
“I will destroy that camera if you don’t…,” Mr Salihu said to the microphone as he leaned forward, brandishing his fingers to pass across his message to the reporter who was close to him.
Infuriated by the police officer’s statements, a member of the panel called him to order.
“Are you threatening us? Why are you raising your voice? We are here because of police brutality and you just exhibited a similar thing to the world,” Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) first vice-president, John Aikpokpo-Martins, told the police officer.
PREMIUM TIMES noticed that some other members of the panel nodded in agreement with Mr Aikpokpo-Martins.
Before the panel adjourned the case to December 15, to allow the provision other required documents, the panel noted lapses in how Mr Salisu-led police team handled the body of the victim.
The Suleiman Galadima-led panel, therefore, summoned members of Operation Skolombo involved in the operation that led to Mr Ephraim’s demise.
The panel also asked the police and the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital mortuary to present all entries made within that period.
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