Enugu-Ezike Lawyers Forum, an umbrella body of lawyers of Enugu Ezike extraction, in Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area of Enugu State, has called on the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Police hierarchy to ensure that investigation into the death of Miss Stella Ifeoma Abugu, who was allegedly murdered by the operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian Police Force, Abuja on September, 11, 2020, was transparently and diligently carried out.
Late Ifeoma, a native of Ugbaike Community in Enuge-Ezike, was alleged to have been arrested by the SARS operatives on September 10 in place of her fiancé but by the next day, when her relatives visited the police facilities where she was detained, she was already dead.
Investigation by the body of lawyers revealed that the deceased might have been gang-raped by the three officers that arrested her and murdered just to conceal their evil act.
A statement by the Chairman, Justice for Ifeoma Committee, Prof. Uwakwe Abugu, said: “Unfolding revelations from reliable sources indicate that three SARS operatives, whose identities are still being shielded by the Nigerian Police Force, in the evening of September, 10, 2020, went to the deceased’s residence with the mission to arrest her fiancé, but when they could not find their target at home, they illegally and brazenly arrested and took away Ifeoma in lieu of her fiancé. The following morning, September 11, Ifeoma was already dead in their custody and SARS operatives deposited her seriously violated body in the morgue.”
The lawyers are insisting that close observation of the deceased’s body revealed traces of physical and sexual assault; a justification of their suspicion that she might have been raped and murdered to avoid being implicated.
The lawyers argued that the administration of criminal justice act clearly states that “arrest in lieu of,” is a clear negation of the law. “We see the wasting of this budding and brimming young graduate, who just completed her National Youth Service programme, as the height of police brutality and arrant disregard of the lives of the citizens they are paid to protect. In the first place, the action of SARS operatives by arresting Ifeoma in place of her fiancé is out-rightly illegal and in clear breach of the law. Section 7 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, unequivocally states that no person shall be arrested in place of a suspect.”
The group described as inhumane and degrading the treatment meted to the young lady, which consequently led to her brutal death, saying, “The circumstances surrounding our daughter’s death conjure all trappings of illegality, unconstitutionalism, criminality, abuse of office and power, and man’s inhumanity to man. This is one death too many in the hands of the operatives of SARS as the Nigerian media is replete with reports of similar treatments and murder of other innocent Nigerians in different parts of the country.”
The group, however, also enjoined the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to pressure the Police authorities to be able to conduct credible investigations into the dastardly act and ensure that the culprits face the full weight of the law.
“We appreciate that Ifeoma cannot be brought back to live to tell her story, but circumstances do not lie and this Forum is poised to get to the bottom of the matter through all legal and constitutional means available to us.
“We assure the public and, in particular, all the individuals, groups, institutions and other concerned citizens who are pained by Ifeoma’s death, that working in collaboration with relevant stakeholders and agencies, we shall leave no stone unturned, to ensure that her spirit gets justice, the bereaved compensated, and the perpetrators brought to book.
“We, hereby, register our recognition and appreciation of the efforts of some lawyers, individuals, groups and nongovernmental organisations that have already initiated some steps towards getting justice for Ifeoma. Justice for Ifeoma is a must, even if heaven falls,” the lawyers submitted.