Police fault complainant as army officer seeks reparation over arrest
The police, yesterday, told the Independent Investigative Panel probing allegations of human rights violations by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) that they have power to investigate, arrest and prosecute any person allegedly involved in criminal breach of trust, adding they are empowered to do so by the Police Act.
The police were responding to Nicholas Ogbedo Azuka’s petition over alleged abuse of office and arbitrary arrest in a case of criminal breach of trust reported against him by Mr. Uzoma Nwachukwu and Mrs. Victoria Nwachukwu (couple), who had informed the panel that Azuka defrauded them when they tried to purchase a property (house) from him.
Counsel to the police, Fidelis Ogwobe, reiterated the powers of the police to effect arrest while investigating criminal breach of trust before the 11-member panel chaired by Justice Suleiman Galadima (rtd) in respect of the petition.
According to Ogwobe, from the evidence before the panel, there is a valid criminal allegation against the complainant (Azuka) for which the police arrested and detained him. He cited Section 66 of the Police Act, which, he noted, empowers the police to deal with such matters.
The police counsel recalled that the evidence of Mr. and Mrs. Nwachukwu, who are 3rd and 4th respondents, respectively, in the matter shows there is a valid criminal allegation against the complainant.
Responding to the complainant’s position that the police lack the power to recover money from him during their investigation of the aforementioned criminal breach of trust, Ogwobe told the panel that the police are empowered by the law to investigate cases of breach of trust, which culminated into criminal acts.
On the contention by the complainant that the money recovered by the police during investigation should be returned to him, he argued that the Supreme Court has already taken a decision on similar matters, citing the case of Ajiboye Versus Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN), where the Supreme Court held that courts (and by extension panels) should not allow any person to take a benefit of his crime.
Also, a retired army officer, Mohammed Labaran, told the panel that his arrest by the police was malicious, refuting assertion that it was done in good faith.
Labaran was cross-examined by counsel to the police, Malik Taiwo.
Taiwo informed the panel that he would not be calling any witness in the matter and that he was prepared to make his defense.
The complainant is seeking among other reliefs: refund of N1.4 million withdrawn from his bank account by the police while in detention. Refund of N2 million paid to regain his freedom. The matter was adjourned to November 25, 2021.