Breaking: Rivers State Government yields to pressure, orders release of ‘Ikoku Four’

Okenyi Kenechi

The Rivers State Department of Public Prosecution, DPP, has ordered the immediate release of the apprentice (Ikoku Four) of the murdered mechanic, Chima Ikwunado.

Mr Chima and his boys were arrested by the notorious Eagle Crack unit of the Rivers State Police command and tortured to death.

His colleagues were subsequently tortured, detained and arraigned on trumped-up charges and remanded in Port Harcourt Prison.

Police accused them of armed robbery but oral testimonies of the owners of the cars stated otherwise.

A magistrate court in Port Harcourt had on 23 January denied bail to the now popular ‘Ikoku four’.

Chief Magistrate A.O Amadi refused to grant them bail with reasons that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the matter.

The Chief Magistrate had earlier on the 9th of January when the four Defendants were arraigned before his court by the police, made an order transferring the case file to the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, for legal opinion and remanded the four in prison custody.

During the court proceeding, Rueben Wanogho, Counsel to the ‘Ikoku four’ filed an application for bail for the Defendants.

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Chief Magistrate Amadi however said, he has already ruled and cannot overrule the court, stressing that the matter cannot be heard in a lower court.

Reuben Wanogho told newsmen that they are working to ensure their release, adding that they have filed motions in the High Court.

“The case was called at our instance, we filed an application for their bail before the lower court that remanded them in the first place because we felt the Magistrate ought not to have remanded them.

“In the Magistrate’s opinion, since he has made an order transferring the case file to DPP office for a legal opinion, the court has become “functus official” in order words, the court business as regarded that case is finished, the court cannot overrule itself. But, thankfully we have already filed motions in the high court for the bail of the four of them that are alive.

“We hope that any moment from now, we should be able to get those motions assigned and secure a date to take those applications.

“We are very hopeful that all things being equal, they should be released on bail because the offences levelled against them are bailable by the high court,” he said.

Pressure mounted on the state government to release the four illegally detained persons on Tuesday when Civil Society Organisation in Rivers State gave the Rivers State Government two weeks ultimatum to wade into the matter and direct the Attorney General of the state to free the four boys.

They also asked the commissioner of Health to ensure they are given adequate medical attention.

Chairman Rivers Civil Society Organisation, Enefaa Georgewill, in a press conference in Port Harcourt had said that if nothing is done within the timeframe, the organisation will organize a mass action against the government.

Mr Georgewill called on the National and State Assemblies to immediately commence investigation on the true situation of the matter and recommend appropriate punishment for those found wanting.

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Also, the Civil Right Council (CRC) condemned in its entirety the torture that led to the death of Mr Chima by the E-crack unit.

“It is unfortunate that we have since last year raised an alarm over the various acts of torture perpetrated by policemen of the Eagle crack unit, we have petitioned the commissioner of police who has a direct charge and responsibility of supervising the E-crack unit”, Barr. Aruchukwu Paul Ogbonna, National Coordinator of CRC said in a statement.

“Unfortunately nothing was done till this very ugly incident. The Civil Right Council in furtherance of our campaign has articulated various human right abuses from the E-crack unit since last year, precisely since October last year.

“We have written to the governor of Rivers State and copied to the Attorney General, and we are demanding the disposition, the tendency pinched out for the E-crack unit to torture Rivers people and Nigerians in the bid to force out confessional statements, more so, when they have committed no crime is capable of triggering out crisis and mass uprising in the state.

“The governor should use his good office to call them to order and ensure that the perpetrator of this act that led to the death of Chima be punished.

“The police authority should take this as a lesson to ensure that bad eggs are fished out from the force.

“Civil Right Council will not hesitate at any time to raise real advocacy and complain about human right abuses being perpetrated by police officers and other security agencies on Rivers people and Nigerians”