By Shola Akingboye, 15 December 2021
The Nigerian police on Tuesday finally admitted before the Independent Investigative Panel on human rights violations by the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other police units in Abuja, that Eric Ezeala, was arrested by the officers of the Intelligence Response Team in 2017, and later died at the Ikeja General Hospital while receiving treatment.
According to the police, Eric Ezeala fell sick twice in the course of investigating allegation of kidnapping against him, hospitalised for the second time and died thereafter.
Testifying before the Justice Suleiman Galadima retd led panel, ASP Izuka Eguzoikbe, a principal member of the IRT, confessed
that Eric Ezeala was arrested following the confession by Evans, the famous notorious kidnapper.
According to the police, the alleged self confessed kidnapper stated that Eric was his accomplice in his notorious business of kidnapping.
ASP Eguzoikbe stated that Evans said Eric was not only his accomplice, he was also the second in command in their group.
Evans gave out Eric’s phone number, which was forwarded to Technical Intelligence Unit (TIU) Force headquarters to track and locate the whereabouts of Eric.
Following the lead of the OC Legal of the IRT, Barrister Blessing Ezeala, ASP Eguzoikbe informed the panel that the first tracking indicated that Eric was hiding out in Osun state, but evaded the arrest.
Stating further, Eguzoibe said the second tracking which led the team to Ihime Mbanu in Imo state, resulted to the arrest of Eric on the 17th July, 2017 at about 17.00 hours.
Continuing his narration, ASP Eguzoikbe, stated that Eric was brought down to the Imo state police command where he also confessed working with Evans and he was subsequently brought down to Abuja where both “Evans and Eric acknowledged one another as partners in the kidnapping business and he was detained in the IRT cell” he added.
ASP Eguzoikbe disclosed to the 11 man panel that in the course of investigation, Eric’s wife allegedly claim that she is not aware of her husband’s activities because he is hardly around. She claimed that she had always suspected his activities and had reported to his family members her suspicions about him.
ASP Eguzoikbe further stated that Eric was later transported to Lagos, where he showed the IRT where they house their kidnapped victims. Eguzoikbe lamented that it was in the process of taking them to where they store their arms and ammunition for their operations that Eric fell sick for the second time, and was taken to the Ikeja General Hospital where he eventually died.
“We felt very pained with the death of Eric Ezeala, because we could not get all the information we needed about their activities and armoury in his possession” ASP Eguzoikbe concluded his testimony.
Following the death of Eric Ezeala, the panel asked if autopsy was conducted on the deceased to ascertain the cause of death. The ASP response was that the wife blantantly refuse to show up for the autopsy and there was no way the police was going to conduct the autopsy without the consent and presence of the family.
Under cross examination, Counsel to the Ezeala family, Nonye Okpor asked the ASP whether he was aware that Hilda Ezeala, mother to the deceased visited Abuja on two occasions but she was denied access to her son.
While submitting copies of Eric Ezeala’s statement, statements from his wife, extract from crime diary and signal sent to IRT Commander to the panel, one of the panellists John Aikpokpo-Martin asked the ASP, whether the arrest was documented and incidented by IRT records, to which the ASP answered in the affirmative.
He further added that, signal was sent to Commander IRT who authorise the arrest.
“It may interest you to know ASP Eguzoikbe that before today there was no record of arrest and detention of the deceased” Aikpokpo-Martins told him.
The matter has been adjourned for panel’s report.