The Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) has petitioned the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Usman Baba, on the false parade of Thaddeus Ojokoh as a suspect in the killing of some policemen.
The centre said in a letter dated May 8 and signed by its Executive Director, Okechukwu Nwanguma, that Mr Ojokoh, 53, was arrested on April 15 on an allegation of being a member of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and that the Imo State Police Command later issued a statement saying he was among the suspects who killed some policemen on April 21.
RULAAC said it learnt from the family of Ojokoh that he was still in police custody as of the date of the killing of the policemen and that the police have been keeping him incommunicado.
The letter read, “RULAAC writes to bring to the attention of the Inspector-General of Police and to request you to order a prompt and impartial investigation to unravel the mystery surrounding the claim by the Imo State Police Command that a man who had been in police custody was among those who carried out the dastardly killing of police officers in Imo State on a date that the man was still in the custody of the police.
“Mr. Thaddeus Ikechukwu Ojokoh, a 53-year-old professional tailor and father of five, was arrested by operatives of the Anti-Kidnapping Unit, Tiger Base, Owerri, Imo State on April 15, 2023 and has been detained incommunicado since that date.
“On April 30, Imo State Police Command issued a statement that Ojokoh was among the men that murdered the policemen on national duty.
“He was eventually paraded by the Imo State Police Command along with others who were later arrested following the killing of the police officers on April 21 and said to be among the assailants who attacked and killed the police officers in Ngor-Okpala, Imo State on April 21, 2023.
“Members of Thaddeus Ojokoh’s family of Umugwa Umuokrika, Ahiazu Mbaise LGA Imo State informed us that Thaddeus was still in police custody as at the date of the condemnable attack and killing of the police officers. How then could he have participated in the attack and killing while still in police custody?
“Thaddeus Ikechukwu Ojokoh, a well-known Professional Tailor at Afor Oru Market in Ahiazu Mbaise, Imo State was arrested on April 15 on the claim that he is a member of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The attack against police officers was launched on April 21. He was still in police custody as at that date.
“His family members have not had access to him since the day he was arrested. They seriously fear about his life because most people arrested by the police in Imo State and labelled IPOB members have usually been executed extrajudicially or disappeared. There have been instances of people arrested on the claim that they were IPOB members and killed or disappeared and evidence later emerged to disprove the claim.
“Thaddeus Ojokoh’s family members find it both curious and ironic that Ojokoh who was arrested on April 15 and still detained at the Tiger Base Owerri as at April 21 when the attack was carried out and has not been released up to date could be paraded alongside others alleged to have carried out that same attack.
“Ojokoh’s family members were hoping that the police would have finished their investigation and cleared him of any links with IPOB or charged him to court. But on April 21, six days after his arrest, hoodlums attacked policemen on patrol at Ngor-Okpala and killed four of them.
“Attacks on police installations or killing of police officers are totally condemnable serious and unjustifiable crimes. The attack and killing of 4 police officers at Ngor-Okpala junction on April 21, 2023 was unjustifiable and all those responsible should not be spared the maximum penalty permitted by law.
“However, parading a man for a crime committed while in police custody raises serious concerns and questions, and calls for careful investigation to ensure that an innocent person is not accused wrongly or made to pay the price for a crime he did not commit.
“We hereby humbly request the IGP to order a discrete investigation to unravel this mystery.”
The centre also brought to the IGP’s attention the attitude of many policemen in the South-East “presuming everyone accused of being an IPOB member of having automatically lost their constitutionally guaranteed rights to due process, including the presumption of innocence until otherwise proven in a fair trial.”
The centre said it is a very dangerous attitude that has led to the murder of many innocent citizens, adding that summary executions and extrajudicial killings can have ugly repercussions including creating a cycle of violence.
“We request the IGP to order an investigation into the continued detention of Thaddeus Ikechukwu Ojokoh and the circumstances surrounding his being accused of being among those who carried out an attack on police officers on a date he was still in police custody,” the letter by RULAAC said.
“He should be released or charged to court if he has any case to answer. His family and legal representatives should also be allowed access to him.”