December 12, 2011
The Inspector General of Police
The Nigeria Police Force,
Louis Edet House,
Shehu Shagari Way,
CONCERNING THE RAPE/DEFILEMENT OF 11-YEAR-OLD CHILD, DEBORAH EZUMA BY KELECHI IROHA, A BUILDING MATERIAL DEALER BASED IN OKIGWE, IMO STATE: NETWORK ON POLICE REFORM IN NIGERIA (NOPRIN) REQUESTS YOU TO ORDER TRANSFER OF CASE TO STATE CID OWERRI FOR IMPARTIAL AND EXHAUSTIVE INVESTIGATION AND PROSECUTION.
NOPRIN Foundation (Network on Police Reform in Nigeria), is a network of 46 civil society organizations spread across Nigeria and committed to promoting police accountability and respect for human rights.
NOPRIN hereby writes to bring to your attention the rape/defilement of 11-year-old JSS-3 pupil, Deborah Ezuma in Okigwe, Imo State allegedly by an Okigwe-based business man, Kelechi Iroha. As we show below, the Okigwe Police Division to which this case has been reported has been manifestly compromised in its investigation of this case. As a result, we respectfully and urgently request you to order the transfer of the case file to the SCID Imo State Command Owerri for honest, impartial and exhaustive investigation and prosecution. We will be grateful if the Inspector General considers and grants our request in a timely fashion.
We make this request based on our conviction that the only conclusion that can be drawn from this manner in which the DPO Okigwe Division (CSP Ambi 08034972000) has mismanaged this case is that he is clearly compromised. Evidently, the DPO is working hard and at the pleasure of the rape suspect, to cover up the crime, thereby aiding the suspected offender to escape the law and continue to imperil the lives of more children, while denying the victim and society justice.
NOPRIN is informed, and our independent investigation confirms that on December 7, 2011 Mr. Kelechi Iroha, a man married with children and a building material seller whose business name and address are ‘De Kelex International Ent. Ltd.,’ of No. 84, Owerri Road, Okigwe, Imo State deceitfully lured 11-year-old child, Deborah Ezuma to his house on the pretext that he was going to get money to pay her for the ‘fufu’ he bought from her.
The victim, a native of Arondizuogu, in Okigwe LGA, Imo state resides with her aunt, Mrs. Emilia Ogbuehi in Okigwe. She hawks “fufu’ for her aunt off-school hours to augment family income.
We are further informed that when they got to his apartment, Kelechi forcefully and unlawfully raped this child and subsequently detained her in the apartment until the morning of the following day December 8, 2011.
The following morning after this act of rape, accompanied by forcible detention, Mr. Kelechi handed Deborah over to a motorcyclist who drove her to her village- Arondizuogu, near Okigwe town. Meanwhile her aunt had been searching for the missing child in Okigwe.
Later that morning, Deborah’s aunt got a call from Arondizuogu informing her that the child had been found in the village. She went and brought her back to Okigwe and reported the matter at Okigwe Police Division. The IPO is one Ossai, whose phone number is 08063479188.
Sir, it is pertinent to inform you that the victim is still receiving treatment for trauma and has missed her examination on account of this incident.
When NOPRIN received the information, it contacted the DPO CSP Ambi on his mobile (08034972000), and he confirmed that the matter was reported and being investigated by his Division. He also confirmed that the child identified Mr. Kelechi as the man who raped her. But the DPO claimed that when he personally visited the scene of the crime- the house where the child said she was raped, it looked like it had been ‘abandoned for about two months.’
Although the DPO also claimed that the suspect was still in their custody as at the morning of the next day- December 8, 2011 when NOPRIN spoke with him, our verification showed that the suspect had been released that previous day, December 7. The suspect is a wealthy and influential businessman in Okigwe and well known within the Okigwe police Division. It took the intervention of the Okigwe Area Commander- ACP Assayomo, Emienbo Tonu (08033454228) before the DPO re-invited the suspect on December 8, 2011.
This was also following NOPRIN’s questioning of the DPO’s false claim that the suspect was still in police custody, and his knowledge that an official of National Human Rights Commission was coming to the station that morning in respect of the case.
Judicial Stage Management/ Chicanery
On the directive of the Okigwe Area Commander, and following pressure from NOPRIN and the National Human Rights Commission, the DPO arranged for Mr. Kelechi to be arraigned before Okigwe Magistrate court on December 9, 2011 in COP VS KELECHI IROHA ‘M’ 39 YRS, Charge No. – MOK/111/2011. At the Okigwe Magistrate Court, the matter was hurriedly heard- not in the open court, but in the office of the Magistrate- His Worship, Osuoha, who curiously granted the suspect bail at the sum of five hundred thousand with a surety who has a landed property in Okigwe.
With reference to the applicable laws and procedures, it is clear that:
1. ‘Under the Imo State Criminal Procedure Law, Magistrates have no jurisdiction over rape because the punishment is life and no Magistrate has jurisdiction to sentence for that long. The Magistrate could- at most, remand the suspect in prison custody pending the conclusion of investigation and proper arraignment before a High Court…’
2. An 11 year-old is a minor- a child under the Criminal Act, who is not legally empowered to grant consent for coitus. Even where she says ‘yes’, that goes to nothing. Under the laws of Imo State, defilement and rape are both triable by a High Court.’
We therefore, wonder why the Magistrate who does not have trial jurisdiction assumed jurisdiction to grant bail to the suspect! These are serious grounds to suspect collusion to pervert the cause of justice between the DPO, Okigwe Police Division CSP Ambi and Magistrate Osuoha of Okigwe Magistrate Court.
It is a common practice in most parts of Nigeria for unscrupulous Magistrates to collude with police investigators- often with the connivance of corrupt DPOs to pervert the judicial process thereby, providing escape routes for rich and influential criminal suspects. We believe that in this instance, the police arraignment of the suspected criminal, Mr. Kelechi before Magistrate Osuoha was a deliberate and stage-managed ploy by both the DPO and the Magistrate to pervert justice and set the suspected criminal off the hook.
Pressure and threats to the Victim’s Aunt.
The victim’s aunt informed NOPRIN that on December 8, before charging the matter to court on the 9th, the DPO CSP Ambi had called her, prevailing on her to ‘settle’ with the suspect. Again, immediately after the suspect was granted bail, the DPO, this time joined by other friends and members of the suspect’s family, started- and have continued to mount more pressure on the woman to ‘settle’ with the suspect. According to her, one of the men who approached and begged her on behalf of the suspect and his family is a transporter popularly known in Okigwe as ENTRACO who has many tipper Lorries bearing that name. Also, the man who brought this matter to the attention of NOPRIN says he has been receiving threat phone calls.
Appeal for Transfer of Case
Sir, it is obvious that the DPO of Okigwe Division CSP Ambi is an interested and compromised party in this case and has set in motion a process that will ensure that the suspect escapes the law while the victim and society are denied justice. As a matter of fact, the Okigwe Police Division now constitutes a threat to the safety of the victim, her aunt and other witnesses.
NOPRIN hereby requests you to order the DPO Okigwe to withdraw the matter from Okigwe Magistrate court with a view to transferring the case file to the State Criminal Investigation Department, Owerri where the matter should be sincerely, impartially and exhaustively investigated with a view to bringing the perpetrator to justice and ensuring that the victim receives adequate treatment, rehabilitation and compensation for the violation of her rights and dignity.
We also call for an investigation into the role played by the DPO Okigwe Division and the IPO of this case in attempting to shield the suspect from justice by perverting justice and for subtle threat on the victim’s aunt to drop the charges against the suspect. They must be subjected to appropriate disciplinary measures if they are found guilty of any misconduct.
CC: Commissioner of Police, Imo State.
CC: The Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission
CC: Hon. Minister for Youth Development
CC: Hon. Minister for Women and Social Development.