A human rights advocacy group, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) has written a letter to the Inspector-general of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, to request him to order a prompt and impartial investigation to unravel the mystery surrounding the claim by the Imo State Police Command that a man, Thaddeus Ikechukwu Ojokoh, who had been in police custody, was among those who carried out the dastardly killing of police officers in Imo State on a date that the same man was still in the custody of the Police.
RULAAC said the man in question, Thaddeus Ikechukwu Ojokoh, a 53-year-old professional tailor and father of five, was arrested by operatives of the Anti-Kidnapping Unit of the Police Command, Tiger Base, Owerri, the State capital on April 15, 2023, and has been detained incommunicado ever since.
In the letter dated May 8, 2023 and signed by the Executive Director of the group, Okechukwu Nwanguma, it further said that on April 30, the Imo State Police Command issued a statement that Ojokoh was among the men that murdered the policemen on national duty.
“He was eventually paraded by the Imo State Police Command along with others who were later arrested following the killing of the police officers on April 21and said to be among the assailants who attacked and killed the police officers in Ngor-Okpala, Imo State on April 21, 2023.
“Members of Thaddeus Ojokoh’s family of Umugwa Umuokrika, Ahiazu Mbaise LGA Imo State informed us that Thaddeus was still in police custody as at the date of the condemnable attack and killing of the police officers. How then could he have participated in the attack and killing while still in police custody?
“Thaddeus Ikechukwu Ojokoh, a well-known Professional Tailor at Afor Oru Market in Ahiazu Mbaise, Imo State was arrsted on April 15 on the claim that he is a member of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The attack against police officers was launched on April 21. He was still in police custody as at that date.
“His family members have not had access to him since the day he was arrested. They seriously fear about his life because most people arrested by the Police in Imo State and labelled IPOB members have usually been executed extrajudicially or disappeared. There have been instances of people arrested on the claim that they were IPOB members and killed or disappeared and evidence later emerged to disprove the claim.
“Thaddeus Ojokoh’s family members find it both curious and ironic that Ojokoh who was arrested on April 15 and still detained at the Tiger Base Owerri as at April 21 when the attack was carried out and has not been released up to date could be paraded alongside others alleged to have carried out that same attack.
“Ojokoh’s family members were hoping that the police would have finished their investigation and cleared him of any links with IPOB or charged him to court. But on April 21, six days after his arrest, hoodlums attacked policemen on patrol at Ngor-Okpala and killed four of them,” he told the IGP.
The group noted that attacks on police installations or killing of police officers are totally condemnable serious and unjustifiable crimes.
It added that the attack and killing of four police officers at Ngor-Okpala junction on April 21, 2023 was unjustifiable and all those responsible should not be spared the maximum penalty permitted by law.
“However, parading a man for a crime committed while in police custody raises serious concerns and questions, and calls for careful investigation to ensure that an innocent person is not accused wrongly or made to pay the price for a crime he did not commit.
“We hereby humbly request the IGP to order a discrete investigation to unravel this mystery
“It has also become necessary to call the IGP’s attention to the attitude of many police officers in the Southeast presuming everyone accused of being an IPOB member of having automatically lost their Constitutionally guaranteed rights to due process, including the presumption of innocence until otherwise proven in a fair trial.
“This is a very dangerous attitude that has led to the murder of many innocent citizens. The Constitution guarantees every person arrested for a recognizable offense the right to fair trial. Summary executions and extrajudicial killings amount to murder and can have ugly repercussions including creating a cycle of violence.
“We request the IGP to order an investigation into the continued detention of Thaddeus Ikechukwu Ojokoh and the circumstances surrounding his being accused of being among those who carried out an attack on police officers on a date he was still in police custody.
“He should be released or charged to court if he has any case to answer. His family and legal representatives should also be allowed access to him,” RULAAC executive director concluded in the letter to the IGP.