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The Anambra State Police Stakeholders Partnership Forum in collaboration with the Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre have shown serious concerns about the controversy surrounding the death of one Uchenna Okafor (male), who allegedly died in the custody of the Anambra State Criminal Investigation Department annex, Awkuzu, in December 2022.
The organisations urged the Anambra police to be transparent and explain what truly happened in relation to the teenager’s mysterious and contentious death.
On January 9, a social justice activist using the Twitter handle @Ada mummyya made public Okafor’s passing while in police custody.
The tweep claimed that on December 23, 2022, Okafor was transported to the police station after being detained for a case of ‘two fighting.’
It was reported that the parents of the deceased were asked to bring the sum of N150,000.00 to bail him, but six days after the arrest, when the parents of the deceased got to the station, and inquired about their son, they were informed that Okafor had died.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Nigeria Police Force, CSP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, who reacted to the tweet, said he had asked the Anambra State Police spokesman, DSP Tochukwu Ikenga, to look into the matter and revert to him.
Ikenga, who reacted to Adejobi’s tweet, said the state police command had started a probe into the ‘death of a suspect Uchenna Okafor, who died in detention’.
According to a statement made available to journalists on January 11, Ikenga also said the command had started a probe into the ‘death of a suspect Uchenna Okafor, who died in detention’.
Ikenga, said, ‘It is a case of armed robbery and not a case of ‘two fighting’ as alleged. The complainant positively identified the three suspects. There were marks of violence and serious wound on the body of the complainant as a result of the attack by the suspects.
‘The suspects’ statements were taken and they all confessed to the crime. They were detained with other suspects in the cell. The other suspects, while in custody, revealed that as they were sleeping, late Uchenna started acting abnormally.
‘He screamed and hit his head on the wall before he slumped. The victim was taken to the hospital and he was confirmed dead by the doctor. No money was demanded or collected by the IPO or any policeman as attested by the deceased father.’
Ikenga, therefore, stated that the police had extended an invitation to the social justice advocate and Twitter user @Ada_mummyya for questioning after ‘he claimed that the trio (suspects) were asked to bring N50,000.00 each for bail’.
The police promised to conduct an autopsy into the incident to ascertain the cause of Okafor’s death, but up until now, 18 days after, nothing has been heard from the police.
In separate statements signed by the Coordinator, PSPF, Anambra State chapter, Chris Azor, and Executive Director, RULAAC, Okechukwu Nwanguma, both groups said the actions and silence of the police on the development are suspicious.
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The statement, which is titled, ‘Citizen Uchenna James Okafor: Suspicious death in Anambra police custody’, was made available to journalists in Awka, on Sunday.
It read, ‘The Anambra Police Stakeholders Partnership Forum and the Rule of Law and Accountability, Advocacy Centre, are concerned that two weeks after the public statement by the Anambra State Police Command, nothing has been heard again from the police and the parents of the victim.
‘The narrative of the police and that of the Twitter handle @Ada_mummyya are miles apart. One report is claiming ‘two fighting’; the police are claiming ‘armed robbery’.
‘It is suspected that the victim may have been tortured to death. A transparent and credible autopsy will reveal the cause of death.
‘We are aware that torture remains a prevalent practice in the Nigeria Police contrary to Sections 35-37 of the new Police Act 2020, which prohibits torture, cruel and other degrading and inhuman treatment. Section 62 of the new Police Act 2020 also states that ‘arrested person must be released within 24 hours with or without bail, except it involves a capital offence, which is punishable with death.’
‘The police accepted that Uchenna James Okafor was arrested on December 23, 2022 and died in their custody. Between the time of Uchenna’s arrest and the time the news of his death in detention became public, it was a gap of two weeks.
“We stand by the fact that the police are charged with maintaining law and order and delivering public safety. They are obligated to partner with the community and to be accountable in the discharge of their duty.
“The Anambra State Police command did not make any public statement on the death of Uchenna James Okafor while in their custody, until the social justice campaigner twitted and exposed the death. And it took the directive of the Force PRO for the Anambra State command to make a statement on the incident.
“Even after the directive from the Force headquarters, It took Anambra State Police command two (2) days to issue a press statement on the death in custody of Uchenna James Okafor. Could it be that his death was being concealed? What action(s) did the police take when it was discovered that Uchenna died in their custody?
“Days are running into weeks after Anambra Police Command promised to conduct autopsy on the deceased. Stakeholders have yet to be briefed on the outcome.
“Inquiries by Media personnel about the contacts of the deceased especially, parents and relatives, have been rebuffed by the police authority.
“During a visit by some journalists to the victim’s community, the traditional ruler feigned ignorance of the incident. This is curious and points to a likely cover up bid and attempt to suppress information and allow public attention shift from the incident.
“We, therefore, call for proper investigation into the arrest, detention, causes and circumstances surrounding the death in custody of Uchenna James Okafor.
We demand that Anambra Police Command makes a public statement revealing, among other things, the identity of the other citizens arrested with the deceased, the condition of their health, and how far the police have gone with investigation into the case, including the result of autopsy conducted on the deceased.