(PRESS STATEMENT) Rights group condemns ex-judicial killing of Derek Ben, 5 others
Press Statement On The Extra Judicial Killing Of Citizen Derek Ben & 5 Others By 14 Dismissed Police Officers In Cross River State
The attention of the Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (COHRD) has been drawn to a case of extra judicial murder of 6 Nigerians in Calabar, Cross River State by 14 officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force who had since been dismissed from service.
A DETAILED ACCOUNT OF THE EXTRA JUDICIAL KILLING OF DEREK MAURICE BEN & 5 OTHERS AS GIVEN BY THE MOTHER OF DEREK IS PRESENTED BELOW:
The trial of the 14 dismissed policemen is ongoing in charge no. Hc/2c/2016 between:
The State Vs: 1. Horsfall Minafuro, 2. Etim Anoke, 3. ASP Ewa Rapheal, 4. Gershom Isotuk, 5. Anyin Gregory, 6. Lawrence Egbe, 7. Okidi Akpokabowei, 8. Anthony Idoko, 9. Okey Oyama, 10. Unyime Jumbo, 11. Edidiong Jeremiah, 12. Atari Micheal, 13. Patrick Koke, 14. Erienekpe Fineman (Accused persons/dismissed police officers)
One Mrs. Eno Maurice Enang, the mother of late Mr Derek Maurice Ben, informed us as follows:
1. That her son until his untimely death was 21 years old and a 300 level Accounting Student of the University of Calabar, Cross River State, and was allegedly murdered by a police officer by name Sgt. Anthony Idoko and his cohorts and that Derek was not of questionable character and had no criminal record. Derek was only a year old when he lost his father.
2. That Sgt. Anthony Idoko before his dismissal from the police force was attached to the SARS in Cross River State and was her family friend.
3. However, trouble started when Mr Idoko’s wife who had just put to birth sometime ago was no longer seen only for Mr Idoko to bring in another woman into his house. That people in the neighbourhood became apprehensive about the whereabout of Idoko’s wife and child and the sudden arrival of another woman.
4.That the Church of Christ where her family and Mr Idoko do fellowship decided to investigate the matter. The Church later excommunicated and dis-fellowship Mr Idoko following his inability to account for the whereabout of his wife and new born baby, and sudden cohabitation with another woman. That Idoko accused her of reporting him to the Church and failing to protect him from being excommunicated. He stopped visiting her house and started threatening to deal with her and her children.
It should be noted that till date, the whereabout of Idoko’s wife and child remains a mystery.
5. That on the 16th day of April, 2014, Derek was picked up by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and detained. In the night of the same day or soon thereafter, he was called out from the SARS cell by then Sgt. Anthony Idoko with 5 other inmates who were arrested with him and summarily executed.
It should be noted that there were eye witnesses inside the cell who saw when Idoko called out Derek from the cell (whom he identified and asked what he had done). The witnesses who were at the time inmates at the SARS cell idenfied Idoko when Idoko and the 13 other dismissed police officers were paraded for identification.
6. The 6 victims summarily executed includes; (1) Derek Ben; (2) a young graduate who had just finished serving the country in the NYSC; (3) another young man who had been shortlisted for recruitment by the DSS; (4) the taxi driver and two others.
7. That one of the dismissed policemen, ASP Horsefall Minafuro, the then O/C SARS in Cross River State, voluntarily confessed that it was himself and 13 of his officers (including Anthony Idoko) who murdered her poor fatherless child and 5 others in cold blood. It was also revealed that his body was sold to the Anatomy Department of the University of Calabar to dissect for academic purposes. At the Anatomy Department, corpses (cadaver) of several other young Nigerians were seen which may have also been supplied by them.
8. The six people murdered that night were all shot in the same position within the heart region with matchet cuts and wounds either on the face, ankle, head and neck – a clear case of brutal summary execution.
9. Derek was shot three times in the chest/heart. This can never be as a result of any encounter, but rather an organized murder.
10. That Anthony Idoko had previously attempted to assassinate her two children, before Derek was subsequently murdered, because according to him, she was responsible for his excommunication from the Church.
11. That on the 9th of February, 2016, Gershom Ishotuk, one of the dismissed policemen currently standing trial for the murder, subjected a star witness in the ongoing trial to a search within the court premises with the full assistance of a serving policeman who escorted them to the court and the attention of the trial Judge was drawn to the incident.
12. That Okidi Akpokabowei, another dismissed police officer/accused person in the case, subjected a brother to one of the 6 victims they also murdered that night (the taxi driver) to a thorough search with the assistance of serving policemen. The phone of the brother to the late taxi driver was seized by the policemen within the court premises.
13. That several other witnesses have been threatened and harassed on many occasions by serving policemen in the Cross River State Police Command who are overtly sympathetic to their dismissed colleagues with utter impunity.
The Coalition of Human Rights Defenders is particularly alarmed that the trial Judge, Hon. Justice Ogpojo Ogar of the High Court of Cross River State (Court 4), on the 6th of April, 2016, unexpectedly granted bail to all the 14 accused persons who have already been dismissed from the police force for the murder of Derek and 5 others after an in-house (room) trial despite the serious nature of the offence; the evidence which the Judge himself admitted in open court to be weighty; the persistent threats to witnesses which the court is very aware of, and other troubling circumstances.
It is worrisome that the Cross River State Judiciary is not mindful of the potential risks the release of the accused persons pending their trial, poses to the witnesses and the society in general.
COHRD has equally been informed that the accused persons were first arraigned before Hon. Justice Michael Edem of Cross River High Court (Court 2). The Judge we are told, had shown a suspicious interest in first hearing bail applications for the accused persons on the day of their arraignment and adjourned for few days for ruling on the bail applications. However, the Chief Judge of Cross River State intervened and reassigned the case to Justice Ogpojo Ogar following public outcry.
It is worthy of note that Justice Ashwu Ewa of the Cross River State High Court is the elder brother to one of the dismissed policemen, Mr Raphael Ewa. We demand that the said Judge should be thoroughly investigated for his alleged interference with the course of justice in the case.
COHRD has been informed that before the accused persons were arraigned in court, Justice Ewa had made frantic efforts to secure the release of his brother participated in the execution of Derek & 5 others from police custody.
Following persistent pressures from the Judge, the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) in Charge of Zone 6 in Calabar, ordered that the Judge’s younger brother, Raphael Ewa, and two other dismissed officers (Etim Anoke and Horsfall Minafuro) be separated from the rest of the accused persons and transferred from their cell(s) in Calabar to the Akwa Ibom State Police Command, Ikot Akpan Abia, Uyo.
Justice Ewa we are told, felt slighted by the action of the AIG and boasted to some persons that except his brother and the other accused persons are not tried in Cross River State, the case will never see the light of day.
We also note with consternation that the 14 dismissed policemen/accused persons, were NEVER remanded in prison custody pending their trial. Instead, they were remanded in police custody before being granted bail on the 6th of April, 2016 – in a capital offence of murder.
In the light of the foregoing, we at the COHRD demand as follows:
1. That the Cross River State Judiciary should be mindful of the fact that the human rights community is following this case with interest.
2. That Justice Ashwu Ewa, who is the elder brother to one of the dismissed policemen, Raphael Ewa, be thoroughly investigated for his alleged interference with the course of justice in this case.
3. That the witnesses in the case be given appropriate and adequate protection by the police authorities and that disciplinary measures be taken against serving police officers found to have aided the accused persons in intimidating and harassing witnesses.
4. We urge the trial Judge to revoke the bail the of accused persons and extricate himself from every conceivable external or fraternal pressures and dispense justice without fear or favour.
5. We call on the Government of Cross River State and the Attorney General of Cross River State to see to the diligent prosecution of this case.
6. We appeal to media and the civil society to follow this case to its logical conclusion.
Finally, we wish to state that though it is not within our powers at COHRD to determine the culpability of any of the 14 accused persons, we take firm solace in the epochal pronouncement of the Supreme Court of Nigeria Per OPUTA, JSC. (as he then was), in the celebrated case of Josiah v. State (1985) 1 NWLR (Pt.1) p. 125 at 141 where his Lordship espoused the concept of justice as it relates to a criminal case thus:
“And justice is not a one-way traffic. It is not justice for the appellant only. Justice is not even only a two-way traffic. It is really a three-way traffic – justice for the appellant accused of a heinous crime of murder; justice for the victim, the murdered man, the deceased, “whose blood is crying to heaven for vengeance” and finally justice for the society at large – the society whose social norms and values had been desecrated and broken by the criminal act complained of. It is certainly in the interest of justice that the truth of this case should be known and that if the appellant is properly tried and found guilty, that he should be punished. That justice which seeks only to protect the appellant will not be even handed justice. It will not even be justice tempered with mercy.” – PER OPUTA, JSC, of blessed memory.
Injury to one, is injury to all.
Inibehe Effiong Esq.
Convener – 08065142135
Fejiro Oliver – Co-Convener
Comr. Eneh John
April 14, 2016