On October 26, 2020, Confidence Leera received a life-threatening call from 08128865057, asking him to back off in his pursuit of justice over the illegal detention and murder of his 34-year-old brother, Edward Dumsara Leera, by policemen attached to the Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT).
At the time, the intelligence team was supervised by Abba Kyari, the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) recently indicted by an FBI report.
Like the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), which Kyari led in Lagos, IRT had garnered a reputation for notoriety. Edward’s wasn’t just a case of extrajudicial murder; the killers are yet to be brought to book. His family members are also dealing with life threats for trying to uncover impunity committed against them.
“It is either you lose your life while trying to expose us or you just forget about who killed your brother [sic],” an anonymous caller told Confidence on phone.
After the call, Confidence, an LGA lawmaker representing Ward 13 in Boue, Rivers State, would immediately run for his life and seek shelter with his elder brother in Abuja. Since his death, he had been unsettled in his constituency, shuffling or migrating between Abuja and Port Harcourt.
During this investigation, FIJ placed calls to the phone number from which Confidence claimed to have received the threat, but the line did not connect.
FOR SEEKING PEACE, EDWARD GOT WAR
In July 2019, Edward joined the entourage of Lahteh Lah Loolo, the then Chairman of Khana LGA, to execute an amnesty programme for repentant militants residing in Akwa Ibom and Rivers State. The programme was initiated in line with the Rivers State Policy under Governor Nyesom Wike. Their inter-state trips were, in fact, made with operatives of the Nigeria Police and the Department of State Services (DSS).
While the Peace Committee was returning to Rivers State from Akwa Ibom on July 30, 2019, they were intercepted by some IRT men led by ASP David Ameh Agbo. Edward, the chairman, and some other members of the committee were arrested and detained at the IRT D Division in Itam, Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom. Their crime? Illegal possession of firearms.
Apart from the detained chairman being a serving politician, Ameh soon found out that Edward’s brother was also a councillor at the time. He felt he could make quick money from these two politicians — and of course, he did.
Following the intervention of some security operatives, everyone else was released but Edward.
According to Confidence, Agbo first requested N3million as bail, but he begged him to release his brother with a promise to get the money and turn it in.
“When he finally released my brother on August 17, 2019, I transferred N5,000 as a token of trust. My brother subsequently sent him another N20,000 on August 23 because he wouldn’t stop disturbing both of us,” Confidence said.
“Once, he said he was begging us to bring the money and that a time would come that we would have to beg him but he would turn deaf ears.”
It was indeed confirmed that Edward transferred the money through his account bearing ‘Eddy Dumsira’, with Account Number 010926653, to a Fidelity Bank Account 4020282700, bearing ‘David Ameh Agbo’.
BEGGING OVER. POLICE BRUTALITY UNLEASHED!
In the evening of November 1, 2019, Agbo rearrested Edward alongside two other political allies of Khana chairman. The Police drove Edward to his house for a search in the midnight that preceded the dawn of November 2 but didn’t find any incriminating evidence.
Lemene, Edward’s wife, specifically recalled that Agbo advised her to terminate her pregnancy because that midnight would be the last time she would see her husband alive.
“I roamed the city of Uyo like a madwoman because I was trying to get my husband released but Agbo insisted on showing my husband pepper,” Lemene told FIJ.
“None of us, including the lawyer, was allowed to see him. All my life, I have never seen a case where a suspect’s lawyer will be denied access to his client, and without any knowledge of the charges levelled against such a suspect.”
With the help of a compassionate police officer at the Akwa Ibom Police ‘D’ Division, Lemene eventually spoke with her husband and father of the unborn child before the day of delivery on May 25, 2020.
It was the same police officer that gave Lemene the chance of receiving the newborn’s name from Edward: ‘Wisdom’.
In one of the conversations with his wife, Edward also hinted at the possibility of fund withdrawal from his account as Agbo had forced him to disclose his ATM card pin.
FIJ obtained bank statements that revealed a total of N417,000 was withdrawn from detained Edward Leera’s GTB account between November 4, 2019, and October 7, 2020. These withdrawals were done at GTB’s ATM stands and at POS outlets in Port Harcourt.
A source would tell FIJ that after Edward’s death, Agbo converted the car in which he was arrested to his personal use.
Pained by the continued detention of his brother, Confidence filed a suit against IRT before the State High Court in Bori, Rivers State. In December 2019, Justice G. C. Aguma ordered Edward’s immediate release but the Police disregarded the ruling. A copy of the court’s decision was sent to Kyari on December 19, 2019.
‘EDWARD WAS EXTRAJUDICIALLY MURDERED’
In February 2020, the Complaint Response Unit of the Nigeria Police Force Headquarters in Abuja took up the case and gave out #CRU888301 as the tracking number.
In a letter addressed to Kyari, with the policy no. CB/7000/CRU/FHQ/ABJ/VOL.5/148 and dated 02/03/2020, the CRU conveyed a directive from Mohammed Adamu, the then Inspector General of Police, for discreet investigation of the case and Edward’s release from detention, but Kyari failed to act on the letter.
Again, in September, CRU investigators combed Akwa Ibom and Port Harcourt stations to know where Edward was being detained. But he was not seen in all the locations visited. At the end of their field operations, CRU sent another memo to Kyari, stating that their investigation had confirmed that the Akwa Ibom’s IRT, under Samuel Martins, could not substantiate all charges against Edward. Their findings further confirmed the illegal detention and torture of Edward by IRT officers, as well as the extortion of the victim and his family by Agbo, the Investigating Police Officer (IPO) in charge of the case.
The CRU concluded that Edward “may have been extrajudicially murdered”.
Rather than act, Kyari ignored CRU’s recommendations that erring officers be sacked. FIJ would learn that he was particularly informed about this case on four different occasions.
FIJ also learnt that the IRT officers, including Martins and Agbo, hurriedly filed seven-count charges against Edward at the State High Court in Port Harcourt in July 2020, as an excuse to defend their blatant disregard for the initial court order. The new presiding judge, Justice E. N. Ogbuji, struck out the case on August 4, 2020.
The police case against Edward would not have sailed through in any court because the prosecuting counsel and the accused were never available at any of the hearings, even after four warrants were issued by the court.
Lemene stopped hearing from Edward on June 18, 2020. The family lawyer could also not see him in detention. All these stirred suspicions before the Police’s case was struck out in August 2020.
By the end of November 2020, the family had reported the case to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Abuja, which had set up a panel to hear cases of police brutality.
It was at an NHRC hearing that Agbo broke the news of Edward’s death. He claimed Edward and one Nnamdi Derek were hit by bullets during a gun duel on June 20, 2020, when the IRT officers went for a follow-up investigation in Boue community.
Multiple sources told FIJ that there was no such event in the community on the said date. For an attack of such magnitude, one would also expect a newspaper to have published news about the incident but no reportage was seen.
Agbo also said the remains of the dead suspects had been deposited at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital but he could not produce an autopsy report. This cast huge doubt on his narrative on how Edward and Derek died.
Agbo also said that Edward and Derek were part of the gang that kidnapped a businesswoman in February 2019. But a New Telegraph report which was shared by Kyari on Facebook on May 25, 2019, did not have Edward’s name mentioned in the confession of the suspects paraded on that occasion.
The question then is: when was the crime Edward was accused of, committed? Even the CRU investigators do not have answers to this. One of the memos exclusively obtained revealed that the IRT had trumped up charges against Edward.
However, when Ibikunle Alake, the CRU’s IPO in charge of the case, was contacted, he refused to speak, claiming he had sworn to an oath of secrecy as a police officer.
SKETCHY EVIDENCE ON EDWARD’S DEATH
The two times Edward was arrested by Agbo, he was not arrested alone, though others were usually freed about 48 hours later.
There are strong indications that Agbo was bribed by Barrister Lahteh Loolo when he arrested him and when, the second time, he arrested his political allies. But FIJ could not verify the amount involved and mode of oayment. The ex-chairman is yet to answer FIJ’s calls for comments on this case.
In mid-July, 2020, Mohammed Adamu, former IGP, disbanded IRT across all states of the federation, ordering that all cases in their state custody be transferred to the Force Headquarters. This directive gave a clue on the time Edward was likely murdered.
While all inmates yet to be convicted were transferred to Abuja, Edward was nowhere to be found. His wife, Lemene, was still able to speak with him till May 29, two days after the birth of their child, Wisdom. Lemene also received a text message that contained her husband’s ATM card pin on June 18, 2020.
One of Edward’s cellmates in Akwa Ibom told his family that Edward did not return to the cell after he was taken away in June.
LEAKED CONVERSATION REVEALS THE TRUTH
From a leaked conversation between two top police officers at Rivers State Police Command Headquarters, FIJ learnt that Edward’s case was never transferred to Port Harcourt from Uyo. No signal was also sent to Rivers State Police Command before Edward was arrested the first and second time in Rivers State. Yet, the Nigeria Police’s Code of Conduct provides that inter-state arrest can only be made after due documentation at the state command the suspect is to be arrested from.
All evidence and sources’ testimony points to the fact that Edward was extrajudicially killed after his release sometime in June, and his body hidden.
Victor Giwa, the lawyer representing Edward’s family before the NHRC panel, told FIJ that the allegations that Agbo made against Edward were ridiculous.
“How is it possible that Edward and Nnamdi were hit during a gun duel and no media reported it?” He asked.
“Before the case was heard at the panel, I called Abba Kyari but all he told me was that ‘the boy’s case was a bad one’. He went further to defend his officers. No remorse whatsoever! He clearly knows about the case.”
NHRC adjourned the case to April 12 but the panel was suspended on March 24 for administrative reasons.
In an interview with journalists following the suspension, Tony Ojukwu, NHRC Executive Secretary, had assured the public that the panel would resume sitting soon.
FIJ reached out to Agbo and Martin of Akwa Ibom IRT, the two principal officers directly involved in Edward’s case, for comments.
Agbo claimed he could not talk to the press because the case had been filed in court.
“Based on the police code of conduct,” he said, “when a case is before any panel or court, there is nothing more I can say about it.”
When told of his possible culpability in Edward’s murder, he said the allegation was not new.
“It is not my job to talk to you about it. Go to the Police authorities if there is anything you want to know,” he said. “The matter is everywhere. It is not my personal matter but the Police’s.”
Martins also gave a similar response: “If you know about that case you should know that it’s in court and before the Human Rights Commission, so I have no comment.”
ALL documents on this story can be accessed here.
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