By Shola Akingboye
A complaint at the Independent Investigation Panel on Human Rights Violations by defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad and other units of the Nigerian Police Force, Chinenye Igwetu, whose younger sister, Linda Igwetu was allegedly shot dead by one Inspector Benjamin Peters, contrary to the Police claims has on Monday told the Abuja panel that she never testified before any FCT high court in respect of her late sister.
Asked by the Chairman of the 11-Member panel at the resumption of the sitting in Abuja, if she made any testimonies before the FCT high court with regard to her late sister, she responded, “I don’t know anything about what he is talking about”, apparently referring to submissions by counsel to the Nigerian Police, Fidelis Ogwobe, who said that the murder case was already being prosecuted at the FCT high court and therefore cannot be heard by the panel.
However, counsel to the panel, Pwadumdi Okoh who was asked by the lead counsel to the panel, Chino Obiagwu (SAN), to handle the case told the panel that complainant’s written address was served to the police on 1st April, 2021 to enable them to respond accordingly.
Okoh sought to the permission of the panel to adopt the complainant’s final written address even when the police was not ready to adopt theirs.
With the consent of the panel, she adopted the final written address adding that the panel should determine whether the police were obliged to protect the lives of citizens and whether the police is vicariously liable for the death of Linda Igwetu.
She submitted that the complaint is deserving of the relief of N200 million compensation for the loss of her sister in her prime and promising age, an incident her family cannot for go in a short time.
The panel counsel also observed that the panel is investigative and fact finding in nature and that it has not delved into any criminal trial as being insinuated by the police counsel, Ogwobe.
On the other hand, Ogwobe insisted that the panel lacks jurisdiction to hear the petition which according to him is criminal in nature and was already being prosecuted before the FCT high court.
He pointed out that the murder case was first filed before the FCT high court sitting in Nyanya, Abuja before it was later transferred to FCT high court holding in Maitama, Abuja and therefore cannot be entertained by the panel at the same time.
Besides, he urged the panel to discountenance the issue of vicarious liability of the Nigeria police over the killing of the corp member since the petition did not list the Nigerian Police Force as one of the respondents.
After carefully listening to all the submissions by all the counsel in the petition, the Chairman of the panel asked Ogwobe to read a copy of the National Human Rights Commission’s Act, saying that “it appears that Ogwobe is not conversant with the Act”, which empowers the Commission to investigate all forms of human rights violations in Nigeria.
At the beginning of the hearing in 2020, Chinenye Igwetu had testified before the panel that her sister had gone out with some of her friends to celebrate the successful completion of her Youth Service on July 3, 2018 when the police shot at a vehicle they were moving in near Cedi Plaza around 3.am which later led to her death.
She had also informed the panel that following the incident, Linda was rushed to the Garki General Hospital where she was allegedly not given emergency attention on account of not presenting a police report, leading to her death around 6 am, few hours after she was shot.
In a similar petition by Confidence Leera over the alleged enforced disappearance, disobedience to court order, unlawful arrest and detention of Edward Dumsira Leera by some police officers, the panel ordered the complainant’s counsel, Victor Giwa to immediately serve the affected police officers with final written address to enable them respond accordingly.
The panel observed that the 1st to 3rd respondents, SP Martin Samuel of IGP Intelligence Response Team (IRT) ‘D’ Division, Itam, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, DSP Essein Edet Esq., (IRT), ‘D’ Division, Itam, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State and ASP David Ahmed Agbo (IPO), IGP IRT ‘D’ Division, Itam, Uyo Akwa Ibom State, were yet to be served with the complainant’s final written address.
In view of the above, the panel gave the three listed police officers 7 days upon receiving the complainant’s final written address to respond and file the same before the panel and adopt the same on the 1st of November 2021.
Counsel to the AIG, IGP Intelligence Response Team, Commissioner of Police Akwa Ibom State Command and Inspector General of Police who are 4th to 6th respondents, James Idachaba told the panel that that G.C. Ijeoma who was handling the case for the police has retired from the police force and that they need to make some adjustments to be able to continue with the matter in Ijeoma’s absence.