By Shola Akingboye, 25th February, 2021
Petitioners at the ongoing Independent Investigative Panel on human rights violations of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other police units has been charged to always conduct themselves in a civil manner whenever they appear before the panel, following the unruly attitude of the family of the late Festus Idehen who according to the family allegedly died in Police custody in 2016.
This warning was issued by the Chairman of the eleven man IIP panel, Justice Galadima in reaction to the outburst from relations of the deceased at the hearing on Thursday, says such “unruly behaviour will not be tolerated” at the sittings.
Festus Idehen’s team had raised objections to the testimonies of ASP Kingsley Ojeomokhai, who in their view was telling lies against their late brother while he was giving his evidence on the circumstances that led to the death of Festus Idehen in 2016. The bereaved family in anger called the Police officer names as they rain curses on him.
Meanwhile, ASP Ojeomokhai in his testimony before the panel claimed that late Festus had tried inciting mob against him upon labelling him an armed robber before he quickly identified himself as a policeman. He also alleged that the same mob, that late Festus wanted to use against him (the policeman) now later confronted him (Festus) when they leant that he was a crime suspect.
The ASP had equally claimed that the mother of the deceased told him that the family did not have money to pay hospital bills while their son was being treated in the hospital he was taken to in Kaduna after being beaten by the mob. The situation, he noted, informed his decision to pay the sum of N42,500 for the medical bill of the victim and subsequently took him to Abuja where he could be treated at the police clinic.
The testimonies of ASP led to the emotional outbursts of the deceased relations, who started calling him a liar.
In details, ASP Ojeomokhai stated that on the 28th August, 2016, he was assigned with four other officers to investigate a case of criminal conspiracy and armed robbery involving two suspects; Lawal Mohammed and Abubakar Mohammed.
ASP Ojeomokhai claimed that Lawal Mohammed in his statement said they sold a stolen Mercedes 350 Jeep, black, to one Onyeka in Kafanchan, who is an in-law to Festus Idehen (deceased).
Stating further, the ASP said on 2nd September,2016 he launched a signal activity to the Kaduna Police Command and also documented their arrival at area Command Kafanchan to apprehend Onyeka and Festus.
The ASP also alleged that on 3rd September 2016, Lawal Mohammed (the suspect), a police team including himself moved to Onyeka’s house to apprehend him. He said under interrogation, Onyeka admitted selling the said car to Festus Idehen. ASP Ojeomokhai on hearing this directed him to call Festus. Under pretence Onyeka called Festus that he had laptop for sale and Festus agreed to meet him at Gonin Gora, a suburb in Kaduna, to have a look at the laptop. Immediately ASP Ojeomokhai and his team, along with Lawal Mohammed and Onyeka moved to Gonin Gora to await the arrival of Festus.
According to ASP Ojeomokhai, “Festus came to Gonin Gora in the alleged stolen Mercedes and when he sighted us and others, he raised alarm and called us armed robbers inciting attack on us, while driving away in the Mercedes jeep”.
Immediately, mob gathered ready to attack ASP Ojemokhai and his team, he had to quickly identify himself and informed the mob that they were rather there to arrest Festus over allegation of a stolen jeep.
According to him the mob did a U-turn and went after Festus, who unfortunately got stuck along the road, making it easy for the mob to descend on him and eventually they attacked him with dangerous weapons.
He noted that “it took the intervention of one of my members, Inspector Okey Samuel to rescue Festus from the mob, though his leg had already been broken and they were about to crack his head with a big stone”.
Continuing his narration, ASP Kingsley informed the 11 man investigative panel that while trying to rescue Festus, he alleged that another set of mob attacked his personal tinted gulf car . “They turned it upside down while attacking Onyeka and Lawal inside, I had to call for reinforcements from Kaduna Police Command and the mob were dispersed”.
The injured suspects were all rescued and taken to the Barau Umaru Dikko Hospital in Kaduna where they were admitted and treated. Due to the broken leg, POP was administered on Festus. He alleged he paid N42,500 as medical expenses for the three suspects.
Still in his testimonies before the panel, ASP Kingsley said he went to the hospital on the 5th of September 2016, where he met the family of Festus, “and the mother specifically appreciated how I took care of her son after the Gonin Gora attack”.
To avoid further expenses, he told the mother to take charge of the medical bills, but she pleaded she had financial constraints and this made him to transfer Festus to Abuja from Kaduna.
On getting to Abuja the same day, he took Festus to the Police Clinic for further treatment, after he was discharged, he placed him under custody.
The next day, 6th September,2016 he took him to Asokoro General Hospital, for further medical examination, and the doctor who diagnosed him, said he had lost a lot of blood and might not survive.
He alleged that he tried getting blood transfusion for him, “but Festus later died in the evening”.
Under cross examination, ASP Ojeomokhai claimed that the Mercedes jeep has been registered and it is with the Exhibit keeper of the police and the other suspect still in police custody. While Onyeka has been released on bail.
However, at the end of hearing, Justice Suleiman Galadima(rtd) directed the respondent counsel to make available the hospital admission and treatment records of both the Police clinic and Asokoro General Hospital at the next adjourned date.
The Chairman further directed the counsel to the complainants to prepare their closing address and present on 4th March 2021, while the respondents’ counsel will present their closing address on 11th March, 2021.
It will be recalled that on the 18th November 2020, Doris Idedia, sister to the deceased testified before the panel that Insp. Kingsley arrested her brother in Kaduna over an allegation of car theft.
In her narration, Doris had alleged that Insp. Kingsley incited mob action against her brother who according to her was seriously beaten.
Thereafter, he allegedly brought him from Kaduna to Abuja in a cruel, inhuman degrading manner. She added that he was tortured to death in Abuja.
Further hearing has been adjourned till 7th April, 2021