Confusion erupts as the Nigeria police on Thursday denied custody of a suspect, Eric Ezeala, whom it arrested and paraded in 2017 along side others as criminal.
But the Independent Investigative Panel on human rights violations by the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other police units insisted that the burden rests on the police to provide the whereabouts of Eric Ezeala, citing video evidence of the earlier parade of the suspect tendered by the family.
This argument arose when the Police said that Eric Ezeala, who was arrested by the officers of the Intelligence Response Team in 2017, is not in their custody and there is no record of his arrest, detention and custody with the police.
Barrister Blessing Ezeala, the OC legal of the IGP-IRT had disclosed to the panel that the police have no record of arrest or detention of Eric Ezeala.
“We have checked our records and there are no traces of this case in our file and I humbly request the panel to provide copies of the petition and other documents related to this matter” the police counsel added.
The Justice Suleiman Galadima (retd) however rejected her submission and told her that the burden is on the IRT to explain the whereabouts of Eric Ezeala because there was a video (tendered by the family and admitted as exhibit by panel) which was circulated on social media showing the, then IRT Commander, Abba Kyari parading Eric Ezeala alongside others as criminals.
One of the panellists, John Aikpokpo Martins, told the OC legal IRT that the burden is on IRT to explain the whereabouts of Eric because of the pictorial evidence submitted by family of the victim.
Blessing Ezeala of the OC Legal IRT was reminded that the panel at the last sitting, specifically ordered for the appearance of two officers; the IRT Commander and Second in Charge (2 IC)
In response to the position of the panel with respect to the whereabouts of the victim, the police lawyer read out a message from the IGP-IRT office, which says, “it is our wish to be here to honour the panel’s invitation, however, based on the security situation of the country, they (IRT Commander and the 2IC) are unavoidably absent. IRT Commander is in Kaduna over the issue of terrorism and kidnapping”.
Upon receipt of the summons from the panel, I immediately published a signal, requesting that any operative who knows about the case should come up. There was no feedback. I checked our system there was no clue or information about Eric Ezeala.
Justice Galadima (retd) adjourned the petition till 15th of December, 2021 to enable police counsel, Blessing Ezeala to provide the necessary information about the victims.