By Archibong Jeremiah
Barrister James Ibor, Principal Counsel Basic Right Counsel and Convener, All Cross River Youth Forum, who is championing the case of extra judicial killing of one Mr. Derek Moses Ben, a 3rd year Accounting student of the University of Calabar, UNICAL and 5 others by 14 policemen of the Special Anti Robbery Squad, SARS Zone 6 Police Command Calabar in this exclusive interview with CrossRiverWatch, expressed disappointment with the speed at which the case is going, and has called on students to be more vocal for Derek who until his gruesome murder, was one of them.
Can you give us an update on the case of extra judicial killing of 6 young men by a group of 14 policemen in Calabar?
The last time I checked the state Attorney General has recommended for the prosecution of the 14 police officers that were indicted by the police investigation report, as you know 11 have been dismissed, we are still waiting for the police service commission to comment on the standing of the three superior police officers that are also in police custody. I am saddened that it is taking ages for the police service commission to react on the report sent to them, as the popular saying goes, justice delayed is justice denied. We’ve been denied justice because murderers have not been tried, the earlier they are tried the better for them, us and the society.
I want to use this opportunity to commend the Inspector General of Police and the then Assistant Inspector General and the present AIG for the assurances they have given to us that helped cushioned the trauma the families of these young handsome men whose lives where extra judicially terminated were faced with. When the police investigation came out it was like a healing balm that gave us hope that there is still justice in this country. Now they need to be tried in a competent court of law and justice be properly served, the police concluded their investigation since about four months ago, they also completed the orderly room trial of the 11 junior officers about two months ago, the three superior police officers have not been tried yet, they are still in the police custody I understand it is the duty of the police service commission to decide their fate. Are we going to wait for ages, the Attorney General of our state I think is waiting for the police service commission to administratively determine the fate of these 3 officers so that he can arraign the 14 murderous police officers in the court of law together.
As the 3 senior officers await their fate from the police service commission can’t the 11 dismissed be arraigned?
The eleven of them can be arraigned but I think the Attorney General would want to arraign the 14 of them at once; it will be neater if the 14 of them are arraigned together. The Attorney General has the power to arraign the 14 of them even now; I urge the police service commission to react to the report sent to them by the police investigative team in respect to the three superior police officers.
Do you think the police service commission will be fast in treating the case or will want to kill or frustrate it?
One of the reasons why Nigeria is still backwards is because we are very slow to act and that is not good for business, it is not also good for the police officers themselves because they should know their fate and move on with life, is not good for the family of the victims because they are fighting for justice, so the police service commission should expedite action. They can sit on the ten cases in a month if they can’t they should come out to tell the Nigerian people what their challenges are so that we can see how to aid, they are looking for justice and we want justice, at times the delay is caused by those who want to divert or circumvent justice as we are aware that the family of the murderous policemen are looking for who to bribe but we still trust that the police service commission will leave up to expectations.
Do you think it is advisable for families whose loved ones have missed or are still missing till date with no trace to visit the UNICAL anatomy department for search considering that the bodies of the victims of this case were dumped there?
I encourage families whose loved ones have been missing to go the anatomy department of the University of Calabar, UNICAL and check they may find them there if they may not have been used already for practicals because I was reliably informed that this same team has been in the killing of people extra judicially and dumping them at the anatomy department UNICAL for long. The law for every civilized state regulates conduct so anything done outside the provision of the law becomes uncivilized, and the law in chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution as amended clearly state and guarantee the right to life, no body or authority in the state have the right to take life unless and except as prescribed by the law, the way and manner which the lives of those young men were taken is not in line with the provisions of the Constitution of this country that is why we call it extra judicial”.
What do you expect of students considering the fact that Derek was a student and some of the boys as we hear are graduates?
I expect students to show solidarity because Derek was a student; they are the major victims of the so-called Special Anti Robbery Squad, SARS. I expect them to encourage the Nigerian Police and the government to police the people properly in a more civilized way by showing solidarity. They ought to use this case as an opportunity to condemn extra judicial killing. I want them to be more vocal not going to Derek’s mother to say we are sorry, they can organize peaceful rallies because it will help out the police service commission to act”.
Talking about civilized and proper policing, do you support state police?
I believe in decentralization of powers, I believe local government should be autonomous, I believe we should have the state police and central police, the police as it stands today is terribly underfunded, corruption in the Nigeria police is huge because of the way they are organized. Like today all states fund the police but we call it federal police, they should not fund them because they are federal or let the federal government take their hands off police and allow the state fund them? Every now and then like in Cross River State you will see the state government donating patrol vehicles to the Nigerian police: that is funding and the cost is huge, if you look at the Cross River State budget you will see that they spend a lot on security, Operation MESA was provided by Cross River State government and they give them daily allowances, indirectly we are practicing state police but yet the commander is not taking orders from the person funding them in the state which is ironic.
I think with state police, efficient policing will be done, let me tell you the truth policemen kill themselves, the Nigerian police is commercialized, as a complainant you pay money for your case to be investigated, you buy paper to write a statement, as an accused person you pay money to be released when even on the form you fill it is written bail is free, so who is fooling who? And investigations are not properly carried out, they don’t have the facilities and expertise. Take for instance the Derek’s case, it will amaze you to know that up till now, no ballistician has examined the bodies because the police don’t have one, finger print detector is a strange technology in Nigeria, I don’t know if the one in Lagos is still working because if there’s such case now in Cross River that is where they will go to, in Nigeria to fight crime is a big deal we don’t have the money and expatriates, let us not pretend that is the truth!.
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