INVESTIGATIONS by PUNCH Metro have revealed that the whereabouts of a widower, Bernard Orji, who had been languishing in the custody of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, for over three years without trial, is unknown.
This was confirmed by our correspondent who disguised as Bernard’s younger brother when he visited the SARS detention facility at Abattoir, in the Guzape area of Abuja, to ascertain the whereabouts of the 43-year-old.
On getting to the premises, it was observed that the buildings of the defunct SARS and Intelligence Response Team of the Nigeria Police Force were situated on the same premises in Guzape, Abuja.
Our correspondent, while on the premises, asked a policeman to direct him to the office of ASP Felix Onoja, whom Bernard’s sister, Comfort, had accused of leading the operation to her brother’s residence in Nasarawa State, to arrest him.
The policeman, thereafter, proceeded to the IRT office where he called Onoja to assist our correspondent’s quest to ascertain Bernard’s whereabouts since March 2019.
Upon sighting Onoja, our correspondent, after exchanging pleasantries with him, said Bernard’s family had accused him of depriving them access to their son after he led a team to arrest him in Nasarawa State.
Responding, Onoja, denied being directly involved in the case, adding that the investigating police officer handling the case had been invited for questioning following the PUNCH Metro report on Bernard’s detention for three years.
Onoja said,’’I am not the one directly in charge of the case. My role was to investigate the activities of the police officers involved in the case after Berbard’s sister, Comfort, complained about them.
“That Ogbu you came here to look for was a leader of a ‘one chance’ syndicate terrorising Nyanya area and had been arrested more than twice before the March arrest.
“Let me tell you, Comfort knows those investigating her brother’s case. When this (SARS) office was this office, she could not come here and that was when I stepped in to investigate the action of the policemen investigating the case and not the case.
“Comfort’s brother’s case was transferred to the IRT. The person in charge of the case has been invited to the IRT office by 3pm today (Thursday) after the report by The PUNCH Newspapers. My boss also forwarded the link of the report to me.”
Asked about Bernard’s whereabouts since the last place his family claimed to have seen him was at the defunct SARS detention facility, Onoja said he could not ascertain if the widower was alive or dead.
He said, “I do not know if he is still alive or dead. The only person that can know this is the person investigating the matter. I was not the one that went to arrest her brother.”
Contacted on the whereabouts of Bernard, the IRT commander, Tuji Disu, declined to comment but referred our correspondent to the Force Police Public Relations Officer, Muyiwa Adejobi.
Adejobi, when contacted on Bernard’s whereabouts, promised to find out and revert. He had yet to do so as of the time this report was filed.
Meanwhile, when confronted with Onoja’s allegations, Bernard’s family lawyer, Napoleon Otache, said the allegations were baseless, adding that only the court could pronounce a suspect guilty.
He said, “The allegation that Bernard is a chronic armed rubber is laughable. This is a poor damage control tactic. This will fail. The police institution is not a court of law to declare anyone guilty.
“In line with the laws of the land, it is expected that whoever is accused of any crime should be arraigned and prosecuted in a court of competent jurisdiction.
“The Nigeria Police Force cannot be the accuser and at the same time be the judge. Under the Nigeria laws, no amount of suspicion is strong enough to earn a human being a perpetual detention with cruel torture except as permitted by court.
“The most honourable thing to do now is for the police to release the detainee with compensation or arraign him in court. We are willing and ready to defend him in court if he is arraigned tomorrow.”
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