The panel probing rights violations by defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and other units of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) has ordered the police to produce evidence it deposited the corpse of Emmanuel Ita Ephara, allegedly killed extra-judicially, in a morgue.
The 11-member panel, set up by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), gave the order after hearing a petition the deceased’s younger brother, Prince Paul Offiong, who told the panel that Emmanuel had on June 17, 2017 gone to Christ Embassy for the purpose of worship, but never returned home alive.
A police witness, Kabiru Salisu (an Assistant Commissioner of Police), had told the panel that Emmanuel’s corpse was brought to his station at Atamkpa Divisional Police, Calabar, Cross River State by men of the Department State Service (DSS) and Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), following which he directed that the body be deposited in the University Teaching Hospital, Calabar.
Offiong, while presenting his petition in which he alleged extra-judicial killing, said his late brother suffered from depression and was always going to church to worship, hoping to be healed one day, “only for someone to inform the family that their brother has been shot.”
He stated that his father, Dr. Charles Offiong, who is also a Clan Head in the community went to the Divisional Police Atankpa and confirmed that the late Emmanuel was his son.
Offiong said his father wrote the police to release the corpse to the family for burial, a request, he said, the police promised to grant if his father would accept to tone down the language in his letter of request to have the corpse released to the family for burial.
He said his father later wrote another letter, which the police accepted and released the corpse to the family for burial.
Offiong said the police made their father to include, in the letter, that he will not open the case of the alleged extra-judicial killing again.
He said the police insisted the deceased was an armed robber. He added that the police later apologised to the family for the death of their loved one.
Testifying for the police, Salisu told the panel that Emmanuel’s corpse was brought to his station by men of the Operation Skolombo, an outfit set up by the Cross River State Government to assist in the maintenance of law and order in the state.
Salisu, who explained that the outfit is made of personnel of the Department of State Service (DSS), NSCDC, Police, Military and Navy, said his men were not with the outfit the day Emmanuel was allegedly killed.
The witness said he only got involved in the case when he received a distress call via his walkie-talkie and thereafter directed his men who were on a patrol around his division to go to the said troubled spot and attend to any possible security challenge.
Salisu, who was a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) at the time the alleged extra-judicial killing occurred, explained that his patrol team informed him that nothing happened when they got to the location where the distress call came from, which according to him informed his decision to ask the team to continue with the normal patrol.
The witness said he later got to his station station only to find an unidentified dead body, adding that upon informing the State Commissioner of Police, he directed him to deposit the corpse in University Teaching Hospital, Calabar.
Following the testimony, the panel, led by Justice Suleiman Galadima, ordered that the head of Operation Skolombo Calabar, which the police alleged were on patrol the time Emmanuel (the deceased) engaged in exchange of gunshots with armed robbers, to appear before it on next adjourned date of December 15, 2020.
Proceedings in the case was almost aborted when Salisu, on being asked when last he was promoted, raised his voice at the panel’s lawyer, Chino Obiagwu (SAN).
The panel’s Chairman cautioned him, saying: You don’t shout here. If you don’t know the answer to the question, say i don’t know.”
The panel almost adjourned the matter on account of the ACP Salisu’s conduct before Obiagwu and police’s lawyer, Godwin Ijeoma apologised on Salisu’s behalf.