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April 16, 2021

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#EndSARS: My brother has been ‘missing from police custody’ since 2009

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A witness, Kate Okwor, on Wednesday, told an Independent Investigative Panel probing complaints of rights violations committed by the police, how his elder brother, Jude Onunze, had been missing from the Kuje police station in Abuja over 12 years ago.

Ms Okwor, who appeared before the 11-man panel in Abuja, said her brother was arrested by police officers from Kuje police station on January 1, 2009, following the complaint of assault lodged against him by his friend.

The witness said she last heard from her brother at the police station on January 2, 2009.

Petition

She appeared before the panel on Wednesday to testify in support of a petition submitted to the panel by her family.

The panel, chaired by a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Suleiman Galadima, was set up by the National Human Rights (NHRC) in response to last year’s nationwide #EndSARS protests against the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and acts of police brutality.

The NHRC’s press unit shared the details of Wednesday’s proceedings of the panel with PREMIUM TIMES in a statement.

According to the NHRC’s statement, Ms Okwor told the panel that her brother’s friend had lodged a complaint of assault against him at the Kuje police station.

She said her brother called her when he was arrested and taken to the Kuje police station on January 1, 2009.

She said she eventually met the officers in charge of her brother’s case at the police station that day and was told by them to come the following day.

According to her, she arrived the police station with food for her brother on January 2, 2009.

She said she was able to pass the food and water to him over the counter after tasting them as requested by the police.

The NHRC’s statement added, “the witnesses said she, together with her husband, and Chairman of Igbo community in Kuje, Akpata Justice, went to the police station on January 4, 2009 when the 5th respondent, Peter Ageh (the investigative police officer), Kuje police station said that my brother had been taken home in a patrol vehicle.

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“Upon hearing this, she said that they quickly went back and on getting to his brother’s house, he discovered that the door was locked and that there was no sign to show he was around.”

According to the witness, she and some members of her family then returned to the police station to inform them that his brother was not at home.

She said her brother had not been seen since then.

She said she had gone to court and the National Assembly over the alleged enforced disappearance of his brother before reporting the case to the NHRC.

Cross-examination, indefinite adjournment

While cross-examining the witness, the counsel for the Nigerian police, James Idachaba, said the “matter had been taken to the court and decided by the court”.

Mr Idachaba informed the panel that an appeal was pending before the Court of Appeal in respect of the matter.

But the complainant’s lawyer, Chukwudi Igwe, told the panel that the missing Jude person was presumed dead and that he was not aware that the same matter was pending before the Court of Appeal.

The panel, therefore, adjourned the matter indefinitely to enable the parties ascertain the status of the matter at the FCT High Court or the Court of Appeal and report back to the panel.

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