The audience at the ongoing Abuja panel hearing allegations of human rights violations by the police was stunned on Monday as the police confirmed the death of a suspect in their custody, after denying his family access to him for months.
Three senior officers attached to the Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team, Martin Samuel, Essien Edet and David Agbo, were accused of the unlawful arrest and enforced disappearance of Edward Dumisara.
The elder brother of the victim, Confidence Leera, brought a petition on the matter before the Abuja panel.
Mr Leera said the family had not set eyes on Mr Dumisara since his arrest in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, by the named officers in November 2019.
He said the police officers did not allow even Mr Dumisara’s then pregnant wife to see him.
However, the police told the panel on Monday that Mr Dumisara died during investigation, sparking weeping from his family members at the venue of the panel’s sitting.
“They killed my brother because of N3 million bribe,” Mr Leera howled as he gave vent to his shock and anguish.
Controversial arrests, ignored court order
In his narrative, Mr Leera, a local government councillor in Rivers State, traced his first contact with Mr Agbo, an ASP with Inspector General of Police Intelligence Response Team, to 2019, when the deceased was arrested alongside nine others in a case of possession of firearms retrieved from repentant militants in the area.
He was later released on bail in August 2019, only for the ASP to call on September 14 of the same year, demanding N3 Million for the closure of the case against his brother, an offer he rejected.
The deceased was again arrested in November 2019, for an alleged involvement in a kidnap operation, an event they said Mr Agbo called to notify them of on November 3, two days after the family noticed his sudden disappearance.
“We filed a suit for his release to the Rivers State High Court in December 2019, and the judgement was delivered in our favour. The judge ordered that N5,000 should be paid for each day he remained in detention until his release,” Mr Leera said, adding that the police disregarded the order and filed a counter suit against his brother in January 2020.
As a result of the police’s inability to present Mr Dumisara before court, the case was struck out in August, leaving the latter’s family quest for justice in limbo.
In a separate interview with PREMIUM TIMES before the second phase of the case hearing, Mr Agbo, of the accused officers, said the victim was mentioned in a kidnap case by two suspects.
Although the officer denied the allegation of demanding N3 million for the release of the victim, the printed bank statements seen by this reporter proved otherwise.
The original bank statement showed that Mr Agbo collected N5,000 and N20,000 directly from Mr Leera and one of the victim’s family members, while the case lingered on.
“It is a blatant lie. This is Dumisara when he was arrested. He was arrested for the murder of two policemen. He confessed to how they murdered policemen, how they shared the money from the kidnapping operation and how much he got.
“How can I demand money from a kidnapper who killed two of my fellow officers? In fact, the day I went to visit the man’s wife at the hospital, I was the one (who) gave them money out of tears. The officer has nine children,” he explained.
In his reaction to the allegation of barring the victim’s family from visiting while he was alive, Mr Agbo said no member of the family approached him personally, a statement Mr Dumisara’s wife contradicted.
He said she had personally contacted the officer on different occasions to see her husband but was turned down for no tangible reason.
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When this reporter asked Mr Agbo why he withheld such vital information concerning the deceased from his family, he argued that it was not in his place to divulge such information, since his superiors were directly involved.
“In police, we have a line of reporting and communication. When it happened, I informed SP Martins who informed our commander, Abba Kyari, who informed the IG.
“Since this incident, nobody has talked to me, they have been talking to Abba Kyari,” he told this reporter.
Due to noticed technicalities and the need for lawyers of parties involved to study new relevant documents to the case,the Justice Suleiman Galadima-led panel adjourned the case to January 11, 2021.