The Chief Magistrates’ Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, has remanded four police officers of the Eagle Crack Squad of the state police command to the Port Harcourt Correctional Centre for alleged murder of the late Chima Ikwunador, an auto technician based in Ikoku, and torture of four others.
The defendants, Ayogu Fidelis, Eke Chibuzor, Egbunefu Felix and Rose Georgewill, are standing trial on a seven-count charge bordering on conspiracy, murder, attempted murder, causing harm by hanging one of the victim upsides down and flogging him.
When the matter came up in court yesterday, the police prosecutor and legal counsel with the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), Romeo Queensoap, said the accused persons committed the offence in December 2019.
Earlier, the police command has dismissed the four officers from the force after an orderly room trial on the matter. Queensoap said they arrived at the number of suspects in court after intense investigation.
When the charge was read before the court, the defendants pleaded not guilty, but their plea was not taken.
The magistrate, Promise Iroanya, ordered that they should be remanded in the Port Harcourt Correctional Centre for the alleged offences.
Counsel for the family of the late Ikwunado and others, represented by Priceless Lawrence, told the court that the police did not arraign all the suspects in the crime. She said it would be unjust if some persons who were part of the torture escape the wrath of the law for the offence committed.
In his submission, David Abuo, counsel for the female officer who manhandled Ikwunado’s private part, pleaded with the court to urge the media to save his client from media trial.
Ikwunado died in detention after being arrested by officers attached to the Eagle-Crack Squad in Port Harcourt. He was reportedly being tortured along with four others who were accused of car theft, an allegation that turned out to be false.
Meantime, some residents have expressed delight over the arraignment of the officers. The residents say the move would checkmate the excesses of police officers. They commended civil society organisations and the media for their sustained campaign for justice over the matter.
One of the residents, Moses Boma, said the case should not be thrown out based on technical grounds and should not be unnecessarily delayed.
“We need accelerated trial and judgment on this matter because it is sensitive and would serve as a deterrent to other police officers,” he said.