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Coalition of CSO’s condemns unlawful detention of Gloria Okorie

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Civil Society Organisations (CSO’s) have strongly condemned the continued incarceration of 21-year-old Gloria Okorie by the police in utter disregard to a court order directing the police to either release her or produce her in court.

The group also called on the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Usman Alkali Baba, to order his men to release Gloria on bail or charge her to court for prosecution, if she has any case to answer.

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According to the group, the continued unlawful detention of Gloria and the contempt for the courts only worsen the negative public perception of the police and widens the trust gap.

“It also raises the suspicion that there is more to this act of impunity than meets the ordinary eyes. Why is the police shielding Gloria from access to her family and lawyers?” they asked. 
    
In a statement jointly signed by Centre for Impact Advocacy, Centre for Liberty, Lagos Civil Society Participation for Development (LACSOP), Initiative for Equal Rights, and 44 others, they said the police, by their posture, are only lending credence to the fears expressed in some quarters that Gloria may have been violated, including sexually and likely impregnated.

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“Going by records, this is not beyond the Nigeria Police. The police must dispel these fears and suspicion by immediately complying with court orders to release her without further delay. The Nigeria Police cannot be seen to be institutionalising impunity by engaging in acts that are unconstitutional, unlawful, irresponsible, and lawless,” they said.
  
According to the group, Gloria’s parents were in search of their missing daughter for more than two weeks before it was revealed to them that their daughter was in the custody of the Nigeria Police Force Intelligence Response Team (IRT) in Owerri, Imo State.

They said a commercial motorcycle operator, 41-year-old Izuchukwu Okeke, who was conveying Gloria and was also arrested along with her and detained at the Tiger Base, Owerri office of the IRT revealed her whereabouts to her parents after he was released from two weeks of illegal detention.

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Their words: “Gloria was eventually transferred to the Abuja headquarters of the IRT days after her parents and lawyers visited several times in a futile effort to secure her release, and after the Police had extorted various sums of money from them on false promises to release her.
  
“Following the outrage that greeted public knowledge of the secret detention of the young woman and revelations that she had been held as a slave in custody – used for washing clothes and doing other humiliating chores, the police issued a belated, statement in an attempt to save face, and claimed that Gloria is an informant to IPOB/ESN and that they would charge her to Court ‘soon’ upon conclusion of “investigations.”

“It was also reported that the police re-arrested and detained Okeke, the commercial Motorcycle rider on July 5 when they lured him back to IRT Tiger Base Owerri Imo State for revealing that Gloria was in their custody and warned his family never to show up at the police station to ask for him or they would be shot. His whereabouts remain unknown to date.
 

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“Despite police’s promise to ‘soon’ charge Gloria to court, they have continued to hold her in unlawful custody and her family and lawyers have been denied access to her since June 17, 2021, when she was arrested – nearly 80 days as of today.”
  
The group explained that following a fundamental rights action brought on her behalf before an Abuja High Court, Justice Sylvester Oriji on August 27, 2021, ordered the police to either release Gloria from unlawful custody or charge her to court.

They regretted that the police have continued to detain her in flagrant disobedience to the orders of the Court, adding that she has been held incommunicado and denied access to her family and lawyers.

The CSO’s said: “The continued incommunicado detention of Gloria in flagrant disregard to a court order is irresponsible, unconstitutional and contemptuous of the court. It is a further violation of her fundamental rights to personal liberty, the dignity of her human person, the presumption of innocence, and fair trial. The actions of the police amount to a subversion of due process and rule of law.”

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The organisations noted that Section 35 of Nigerian Constitution guarantees Gloria’s right to liberty.

The Constitution, they said, provides that where the Police arrest a person, the police is required to bring the person before a court of competent jurisdiction within 24 hours or 48 hours where the court is not within a 40km radius, otherwise, the police are obligated to release the accused or detained person on bail.
 
They also call on the IGP to order the immediate release of the commercial motorcyclist re-arrested and detained for revealing Gloria’s secret detention by the police.

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