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Is Delta Police Command Lawless?

By Emmanuel Onwubiko
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Perhaps the one thing that a lot of Nigerians will have a consensus of opinion is the perception that the Nigeria police Force is bedeviled by a groundswell of problems of credibility deficit; corruption; incompetence; indiscipline and operatives of this near-

dysfunctional police Force are seen as largely unpatriotic.

This general impression of the institution of the Nigeria Police Force most probably explained the overwhelming cynicism among most analytic Nigerians regarding the torrents of positive remarks that have consistently emanated from the Acting Inspector General of police Mr. Mohammed Abubakar since he assumed office.

Realizing that a majority of Nigerians are pretty uncomfortable with the obviously poor and notorious policing standard exhibited by a lot of operatives of the Nigerian Police Force, the Acting Inspector General of police has paid familiarization visits to different police formations and state commands with a view to assuring Nigerians to expect   the best and highest form of policing standard during his tenure.

The Acting Inspector General of police chose a very symbolic city-Maiduguri, Borno State, to make a very solemn pledge to transform the Nigerian Police Force from the notorious violators of human rights to a new Nigerian Police whose ranks and file and the entire operatives will henceforth become people friendly and will respect the fundamental human rights of the citizens as enshrined in chapter four of the 1999 Constitution as amended. I chose to refer to Maiduguri as symbolic because of the obvious fact that the ongoing bombing and terrorism campaign by the armed Islamic fighters has its operational base in that city and the ordinary members of the general public have come under intense human rghts violations by operatives of the Nigerian military and police.

If truth be told, the new police boss has got his job cut out for him because of the monumental quantum of operational problems that weakens the operational competence and professionalism expected of a police force of the twenty first century that ought to follow international best practices.

The new police chief of Nigeria has to settle down quickly to work, talk less but should set up proactive task force to embark on transparent house cleaning and work out ways and means of instilling discipline in the Nigeria police Force and also stamp out corruption in all its ramifications.

In virtually all the state commands of the Nigerian Police Force, the citizens have raised series of complaints that border on corruption, indiscipline, extra-legal execution and bribery. However, Delta state police command is one place whereby serious allegations of violations of the human rights of Nigerians and other manifestation of corruption have been lodged by members of the general public.

In Delta State very recently, a senior police officer assigned the role of fighting and combating the unprecedented rise in cases of kidnappings was arrested for allegedly sponsoring the activities of these dare-devil kidnappers.

In the same Delta state police command, there have been several reported cases of flagrant disobedience of court orders by operatives of the police. Of all these, the most disturbing is the failure of the operatives of the Nigerian police, Delta State command to comply with the decision reached on 28th April 2006 by Justice I.N. Auta of the Federal High Court, Benin Division, Edo state with Suit number FRC/R/CS/157/2000 between Mr. David Opene and 2 others (representing Sand Dealers multi-purpose co-operative society, Asaba) and Inspector General of police and 5 others.            

The above mentioned police disobedience of a subsisting court decision has snowballed into allegations of multiple murder of workers of some of the plaintiffs in the matter following alleged invasion by armed thugs of the business premises of the Sand Dealers multi-purpose cooperative society, in the bank of the legendary River Niger in Asaba.

Incidentally, even when the office of the Federal Attorney General wrote to the office of the Inspector General of police last year, the Delta state police command has allegedly failed to comply and obey the subsisting decision of the competent court of law.

Two law firms namely Alex Oketa chambers and Chief Frank Ekwunife and company were the authors of petitions to the offices of the Federal Attorney General and the Inspector General of police demanding that the operatives of the Delta State police command take action to protect the plaintiffs from attack even as the court granted the prayer of the plaintiff on the continuous operation of their business activities.

On September 28th, 2010, the Director of public prosecutions of the Federation had written a letter to the then Inspector General of police asking him to ensure that his operatives in the Delta State police command comply with the valid decision of the Federal High Court in the matter involving Sand Dealers multi-purpose co-operative society.

In the letter signed by the Assistant Director, public prosecutions of the Federation on behalf of the Federal Attorney General the police high command were specifically told thus; 'Please refer to the attached petition titled 'Flagrant Disobedience of Court order' Re: SAND DEALERS MULTI-PURPOSE CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETY dated 22/6/10.'

'The Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice having studied the file and considered the facts and circumstance of this case hereby direct that you comply with the order of the Honourable Court.'

'As you are aware all Court orders must be obeyed until they are stayed, vacated or set aside. This is in conformity with the RULE OF LAW in all decent and democratic Societies. Accordingly, the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice request that you direct the Commissioner of Police Delta State Police Command to obey the Court order of the Federal High Court Benin, Benin City, dated 24th day of June, 2005.'       

In summary, Chief Frank Ekwunife, an Onitsha-based legal practitioner had highlighted the history of the police disobedience to the court order thus; 'The blunt truth is that a lucrative sand business has for a long time flourish on the banks of the River Niger at Asaba and its environs. A great syndicate has been established, annexing secretly some important police officers in the Delta State Police Command, who act as insulators and nameless shareholders in the lucrative sand enterprise.'   

The lawyer further alleged that; 'The syndicate has grown political, corrupt and discriminatory. It has tried to permeate even some arms of Governments, like Federal Ministry of Solid Mineral Development. It was this syndicate that split into two the initial peaceful grand umbrella association of the local sand dealers on the River Niger beaches, otherwise known as the SAND DEALERS MULTI-PUPOSE CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETY and turned one faction into a new group now called the RIVER NIGER SAND DEALERS MULTI-PURPOSE CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETY LIMITED.'

'This situation triggered off litigation in Suit No. FHC/B/CS/157/200: Kutty O.C Esumai & 2 Ors. V. Hon. Minister, Federal Ministry of Solid Minerals Development & 4 Ors., our client being the 2nd plaintiff in that suit. Judgment was finally delivered in favour of our client on the 24th of June 2005, the Hon. Mr. Justice I.N. Auta Presiding.'       

According to the lawyer; 'The syndicate, together with the Police have refused to obey the Court Orders. The syndicate, in its Police strength, has refused and frustrated all the Enforcement Orders from various Judges, including even Writ of Possession, committal proceeding is but a mere paper tiger to them.'  

On March 22nd, 2012 the law firm of Alex Oketa sent a petition to the office of the Inspector General of Police on the same matter of alleged disobedience of court order by operatives of the Delta state police command.

Briefly, the Abuja-based lawyer Alex Oketa narrated the ordeals of his clients thus; 'We are Solicitors to Mr. Mbadiwe Ossai (aka Jah-Dav Opene), Mr. Raymond Efe Adams, Obinna Mbanefo, Anthoney Ikem, and the family of late Mr. Chukwuma Emordi Okolotu on whose instructions we write this letter.'

'Our clients operate in the registered name of Asaba Sand Dealers multi-purpose co-operatives society Ltd and are into the business of sand dredging, Agriculture and Sundry activities at the beaches and banks of River NIGER AT Asaba, Delta State and Atani in Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State.'

'Mr. Mbadiwe Ossai is the legal proprietor of all that land situate and lying at the banks of River Niger in Asaba, Delta State and particularly known as Elechele beach, Bridge-Head beach, Ogbeofu beach, Marine beach, Nnebisi beach, Shell beach, John Holt beach Otuogu beach, Anwai beach, Osamalla/Nteje beach and Mile Five beach where our clients carry out their business. Mr. Mbadiwe's proprietorship of the said land/beaches was affirmed by the judgment of the Federal High Court sitting in Benin in suit NO. FHC/B/CS157/2000.'

The most disturbing aspect of this disobedience of the order of the Federal High Court Benin on the ownership tussle of the sand business on the bank of the River Niger has led to the alleged violent killing of (Chukwuma Okolouto) one of the workers of one of the plaintiffs and there are suspicions that the Asaba Division of the Nigerian police Force may have contributed actively to this alleged murder.

Alex Oketa law chambers specifically alleged thus; 'Prominent among the officers in the Nigeria Police who are assisting the syndicate for monetary gains are Supol Chike of the General Investigation Dept. Force CID, Abuja, Mr. Ibrahim Baba AIG Zone 5, Benin City, Inspector Clifford Jegbefume of the Delta State police command, Yusfu Usman DPO, B Division, Asaba, Delta State.' 'The syndicate, together with the police have refused to obey the court orders and have rather used the instrumentality of the Delta State Police Command   to frustrate all the Enforcement Orders and writ of possession from various judges who include Hon. Justice L. N. Auta, Hon. Justice GC Okeke, Hon. Justice O F Olayiwala, Hon. Justice Nwokorie.'

The lawyer alleged further; 'The hostility generated against our clients by this syndicate soon developed into aggravated cases of murder, armed robbery, assault occasioning grievous bodily harm, malicious destruction of properties and terrible blackmail against our clients and their workers.'          

'It is pertinent to note that no Appeal was or has been filed against the said judgment till date."

The Acting Inspector General of police is therefore called upon to rapidly resolve this affront to the rule of law and ensure that officers of the Delta state police command do not constitute themselves into obstacles to frustrate the transformation agenda of the current President Goodluck Jonathan's administration.

The Acting Inspector General must activate effective mechanism to investigate the ignominious roles allegedly played by some top police officers in the Delta State police command and the alleged directive to withdraw police protection from the business premises.       

The lawyer in his petition had written thus; 'On the 16th day of June 2011 the AIG Zone 5, Benin City, Mr. Ibrahim Baba beckoned on the Commissioner of police to withdraw the mobile policemen in less than 30 minutes after the withdrawal of the policemen, the group stormed the beaches in a commando grand style wielding guns, cutlasses and other dangerous weapons and caused serious bodily injuries on our client's workers, shot and killed our client's workers, Austin Duru and Kelechi Nmaku who were trying to escape through the river during the attack....'

'On the 20th day of June 2011, the notorious Asaba cult thugs numbering over 50 and armed with dangerous weapons   attacked our   clients and they succeeded in killing one of our clients' members by name Chukwuma Emordi Okolouto and grievously wounding several others,'   the Lawyer affirmed. The ball is in the court of the police chief to repair this damaging public image and bring to justice all the indicted police officers and/or clear them of these allegations.     

Emmanuel Onwubiko, head, HUMAN Rights Writers' Association of Nigeria writes from