Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin
The Edo State Judicial Panel of Inquiry for victims of human rights abuse by men of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad, yesterday, began hearing on petitions with an officer of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Isaac Edoh, who is yet to know the whereabouts of his son, whether dead or alive.
Edoh, who is from Benue State, said the last time he saw his son, Baba Edoh, was inside the custody of the Edo State Police command in 2011.
Narrating his story to the panel in Benin City, he said his son was an undergraduate of English Literature, Usman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto, before he was allegedly killed by the police.
He said in June 2011, he received an anonymous call from the State Criminal Investigation Department of Edo State Police Command that his son was arrested along Auchi road for alleged kidnapping.
Edoh told the panel that he immediately took permission from his superiors at the office and rushed from Lagos to Benin to see his son but saw him lying in his pool of blood obviously from physical assault and inhuman treatment melted on him.
“I tried speaking with him but was prevented by officers on duties despite knowledge of the relationship between me and the suspect in their custody”, he said.
The Customs officer said the following day he visited the station and discovered that the name of his son was not on any of the records of the detainees in the cell.
“I immediately contacted the officer-in-charge of kidnapping section who informed me that my son was not in their custody. I was informed that he was one of the suspects paraded in a national television on June 4, 2011.
“I was told armed robbers attacked and shot my son while the police were conducting further investigations in Auchi. None of the Police officers sustained injuries. The only person they said died was my son. Since his death, the police have refused to release the corpse.
“I later filed a suit in the high court for fundamental rights, and got judgement but unfortunately the police appealed the case on the basis of identity conflict. The court of appeal urged us to return to the high court for retrial. Since then I have been demoralised, and don’t know whether he is alive or dead; all I want is justice”, he said.
The chairman of the panel, Justice Ada Ehigiamusoe (retd), admitted a photograph of the son, Compact Disk(CD) of paraded suspects, and court proceedings as exhibits.
The Panel adjourned hearing on the case to Thursday, November 17, so as to get a response from the police officers.
In a related development, another victim of human rights abuse, Sunday Akpan, told the panel that he was smacked repeatedly on his ear by a police officer for allegedly selling his wife’s refrigerator and shop to pay the debt.
His Counsel, Festus Obijeko, who spoke to journalists, said the victim is facing hearing difficulties due to the assault he received from the officer.
He added that his client’s condition has made it difficult to fend for his family.
“He was told that the said officer died in the line of duty and that the command will get back to him, that was sometime February this year. Since that time till this moment, they have not gotten back to him”, he said.
“In a civil domestic matter has broken the marriage and as I am talking with you now, himself and his wife are not together again, the children are not in school, the children are not well fed, that psychological coverage that family should offer to his children has been missing”, he said.
As of November 5, the panel has received 24 petitions.
The chairman of the panel, Justice Ada Ehigiamusoe (retd) assured the victims of police brutality that the panel would be balanced and thorough in their job and would not rely on the account of one party to make their judgement but would also invite the police to give their own side of the story.
Justice Ehigiamusoe said the panel is not to indict anyone but could only make recommendations to the government on how the victims of police brutality could be compensated at the end.