Joseph Egbunike, Head of the Police Special Investigations Panel examining Abba Kyari’s indictment in a recent FBI report on fraud conspiracy, has a recent history of human rights violations and contempt of court, FIJ can report.
Egbunike, a Deputy Inspector General of Police and Head of the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID), was on Friday July 7 called out, alongside three other police officers, by Justice I. N. Buba of the Federal High Court, Abuja, over disobedience of a court order.
In a sitting on July 1, the court had ordered the release of three Enugu residents — Akpa Francis, Obinna Mamah and Joshua Ogbonna — detained by Egbunike for dropping comments considered offensive to some top Enugu politicians on a WhatsApp group, Enugu Political Arena.
They were arrested on June 16 and were not released until July 28, six weeks after — something the Police is not empowered by law to do without recourse to a court order.
WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED?
The Police in Enugu had invited the admin of ‘Enugu Political Arena’ WhatsApp platform, Comrade Francis Akpa and other participants. At the station, the group admin was informed about a petition written by Ifeanyi Ossai, accusing them of character assassination, among others.
Not long after, Joshua Ogbonna, one of the Whatsapp group participants, was arrested by police officers from Anti-Kidnapping Squad but was granted bail after two days in detention.
The applicants thereafter presented themselves for investigation whenever needed but this did not prevent Ossai from getting the case transferred to Abuja. When they honoured the subsequent invitation to Abuja by DIG Egbunike, they were detained despite being granted bail earlier.
On June 30, their lawyers filed Suit No. FHC/EN/CS/96/2021 in court to enforce their fundamental rights to life, liberty and dignity.
In line with Order IV of the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules, 2009, the applicants also filed a motion exparte praying for bail and interim order directing the Police to stay all actions relating to the complaints of the applicants.
The court granted their prayers. Therefore, the bailiff of the court proceeded to FCID Enugu office, being the address endorsed for service of the processes, to drop the order. But after placing calls to DIG Egbunike, the Assistant Commissioner of Police (ASP) in charge of FCID Annex Enugu refused to be served.
Following the insistence of the bailiff to drop the order in his office, ASP Kasamu, believed to have been emboldened by Egbunike, instructed his men to lock the bailiff up and release him only when he was ready to take back the court order.
“Being constrained and in grave danger, the helpless bailiff picked up the processes and left with the applicants lawyers who acted as pointer to the bailiff,” said Barrister Valentine Umeha, who spoke on behalf of over 15 lawyers representing the complainants.
On learning of Egbunike’s refusal to release the detainees as directed, the court, on July 7, 2021, ordered the officer in charge of Police Legal Department, State CID Enugu, to appear before it to explain the disobedience of the order.”
Egbunike and the other police respondents also refused to appear before the court on Thursday July 8 as instructed, prompting Justice Buba to declare that he would no longer entertain any police case pending before him until the police started obeying court orders.
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