Okuama: Police, not Army should probe, try suspects — SANs, retired judges

Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs, and retired judges, yesterday said the Nigerian Police Force, NPF, ought to handle investigations into the recent murder of 17 soldiers, and an unconfirmed number of villagers at Okuama in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State.

The legal luminaries, who faulted the handing over of the traditional ruler of Ewu Kingdom, Delta State, HRM Clement Ikolo, one of the eight persons declared wanted by the Defence Headquarters, DHQ, Abuja, over the incident, by the Police to the Army, said it is not the constitutional duty of the Army to investigate the murder.

They advised the Army to return the monarch to the Police for proper inquiries into, and prosecution of the the murder cases.

Among those who spoke to Vanguard were former chairman of the Special Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property, Okoi Obono Obla, SAN, Cosmos Enwelizor, SAN, Chief Magistrate E. O. Eferakoro, retd, former Attorney-General of Akwa Ibom State, Uwemedimo Nwoko, SAN, a retired President of the Delta State Area Customary Court, Miakpor Emiaso, and Hon. Justice Jonathan.E. Shakarho, retired Judge of the Federal High Court.

Police should handle investigations – Enwelizor, SAN

Cosmos Enwelizor, SAN, who spoke on the phone in Rivers State, said: “My take is that the Army should allow the Police do the investigation and punish whoever is found culpable in the crime committed.

“Every criminal matter should be handled by the police as enshrined in the constitution. Our constitution does not give power to the Army to declare any Nigerian wanted. The constitution does not also empower the Army to arrest and prosecute anybody. It is not their responsibility. It is only in Nigeria that you see the Army doing everything and this is not good for our constitution.

“The Army should refrain from committing a constitutional breach by declaring citizens wanted for criminal offences. It is only the Police that has the constitutional right to arrest, prosecute, and or declare anybody wanted and not the Army. If there is any crisis anywhere, the Police have the power to wade in and arrest the situation, not the Army.

“If you go to other countries, even in Africa, you can never see a soldier on the streets. The role of the Army is to protect the country’s territorial integrity, not to declare citizens wanted. How can the Army invade a community, Okuama, destroy everything, and then declare a king wanted?

“While I sympathize with the families of those 17 soldiers killed by hoodlums, I want to say that the killers of those soldiers might not necessarily be indigenes of the community.”

Army not empowered to probe murder – Obla, SAN

Also reacting yesterday, constitutional lawyer and former aide to ex-President Muhammdu Buhari, Obono Obla, SAN, told Vanguard in Cross River State: “The Army has no scintilla modicum of constitutional or statutory duty to investigate a case of murder.

‘’The constitutional or statutory responsibility of the Army is to defend the country against external aggression or anything that would compromise the country’s territorial integrity.

“The allegation against the suspects is that they murdered 17 soldiers. The army can arrest them. However, after that, they have to hand them over to the Nigeria Police Force which has the constitutional and statutory responsibility to detect and prosecute those who have committed crimes.

“Section 4 of the Nigeria Police Force Act 2020 lists the duties of the Police force to include prevention and detection of crime, apprehension of offenders, and preservation of law and order.

“The Army is part of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by Section 3 of the Armed Forces Act 2004. By section 3 (3), the Armed Forces shall be charged with the defence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by land, sea, and air and with such other duties as the National Assembly may, from time to time, prescribe or direct by an Act.

Army has no right to declare anybody wanted – Eferakoro, retired judge

Speaking in Delta State, a retired Chief Magistrate E. O. Eferakoro, said it is an aberration for the Army to have declared the king wanted, advising his lawyers to file for fundamental human rights applications.

His words: “The Army does not have the right to declare anybody wanted. It is a function of the Police. Then, the Police in Delta State should not have handed the king over. The best they could have done is to hand him over to the Inspector-General of Police, and not the Army.

“At this stage, the king’s lawyers should go to court and file fundamental human rights applications. Ordinarily, as a citizen, since he heard that they declared him wanted, he did the right thing by submitting himself to the Police in charge of civil authority, not the army.

“I believe the lawyers should go to court. If they can be rehabilitating riff-raff in the north, why will they be declaring our own dead or alive and then putting a bounty on their head?

“Then, what was the Army’s mission to that place? There are conflicting stories. They should investigate these things; the Police should do the investigation. There are allegations by the youths that the Army came for an illegal operation and that some persons were using the Army. I believe they should investigate these issues.”

Army shouldn’t be involved – Emiaso, retired Customary court president

Similarly, a retired President of Delta State Area Customary Court, Miakpor Emiaso, said: “I do not think it is much of a constitutional issue, it is simply what the law is. It is not everything go to the constitution; there are things we do in our common world that are regulated, not necessarily on direct provisions in the constitution.

“We have different sources of law, the constitution is one of them. Of course, we have judicial precedence and then we have statutes.

“We run a country governed by law and the law spells out the limit where each person belongs, where your authority lies, and where it stops. We need to straighten out these things in the country.

“The military getting involved in the Okuama thing is in itself against the cannons of natural justice because here, they are the accusers and the prosecutors and apparently, they are going to be the judges.

“They are aggrieved, they are the ones that have been hurt. It is bad, it is terrible that people should kill our soldiers, persons who are in military uniform, raised hands against them, not just hit them, but kill them, snuff life out of them; it is highly condemnable.

“But we are saying that having happened that way, the military who are aggrieved are the accusers, they are now investigating what has happened, they have taken over the whole scene of the crime in Okuama, not allowing any other person to come into the place, not even the Police. You can, of course, predict the outcome of whatever investigation they are carrying out.

“Their decision eventually would match their preconceived notion of who did what in Okuama. In this situation, an independent neutral body stands some chance of being objective in what they do, and the outcome of what they would do, l align myself with that position. You cannot be a judge in your case.”

What the military is doing is illegal- Justice Shakarho, retd

On his part, Hon. Justice Jonathan. E. Shakarho, a retired Justice of the Federal High Court, said: “It is the Police that have powers to investigate and prosecute, all the Army is doing is illegality from beginning to end. If people come to my house to attack me, then I will bring my family people to fight them.

“You do not do that, you report to the Police, they will investigate, and those found culpable will be arrested and prosecuted. The Army is taking laws into its hands. They have killed civilians in so many states.

“The king did the right by saying, look I am innocent, let me hand myself over to the police, and he did that. Police were wrong to have handed him over to the Army. The Police hierarchy was wrong to allow it; the Inspector-General of Police should stop it. That is anarchy.

“You kill a naval officer, you give him a warrant to go and attack, you kill Air Force personnel, Air Force will go and attack, you kill an Army officer, and Army will go and attack? It is not done like that. Police should retrieve the king and carry out their investigation; they should be the ones to charge the matter to court.

“If they feel it is a murder case, then they will file information through the Ministry of Justice in the necessary High Court, not the Army. The Army has no right to prosecute any matter. Holding the king is illegal, even from the start of destroying Okuama and everything, it is illegal.

“Two wrongs do not make a right. Holding the traditional ruler in Abuja in military custody is an illegality, there is no justification in law.’’

Hand Delta monarch back to police after interrogation –Nwoko, SAN

Also reacting, former Attorney-General of Akwa Ibom State, Uwemedimo Nwoko, SAN, advised the Nigerian Army to hand the traditional ruler of Ewu Kingdom back to Delta State Police Command for proper investigation and prosecution.

Nwoko, who admitted that the constitution empowered only the Police to investigate murder cases, noted that the Okuama incident is a little bit complicated because it directly affected the Army, as the Police were not on the ground.

His words: “It is not as simplistic as people would like it to sound. First, they killed soldiers when they went for an operation. Whatever the name of the operation; whatever took them there is another issue, they were soldiers who were murdered.

“Since the soldiers are the direct victims of the attack, and being that they were the security team on the ground, there is nothing wrong with soldiers stepping in to take preliminary steps to apprehend the culprits or persons suspected to be involved.

“After apprehending suspects, they should immediately, after preliminary findings, hand them over to the civil authorities, the police, to now investigate because it is multiple murder cases that are being alleged. It is not within the powers of the Army to investigate murder or punish or prosecute.

“It is within the powers of only the Police to do that. Since the soldiers saw what happened, if they can arrest one or two persons, they should hand them to the police which represents civil authorities for proper investigation and prosecution.
“As of the time that Ewu traditional ruler surrendered himself to the police, do not forget that the army had cordoned off the scene of the crime, they had barricaded the entire community. The police do not know anything that happened there.

“The man that goes out to hand over himself to the police did the right thing. The Police, on the other hand, do not have access to the scene of crime, it is for them to say, soldiers, you were the people on the ground, what happened?

“For soldiers to give a packaged report to the civil authorities that would help in a proper investigation, they should also have the privilege of asking the suspects: who are you? Where do you live?”

Asked if a constitutional aberration is in the making, Nwoko responded: “The only problem we have is that the Army are the direct victims, so, they are the only people that can say this is what transpired.”

“If by tomorrow, that man or any other person arrested in respect of that matter is charged to court, any evidence given by any other person outside the soldiers that were on ground will be hearsay, and not admissible. The police that would prosecute him were not on the ground.

“Formally, since the man has reported himself, the Army should find out who he is and where he was on the day the incident happened, and then, package the report and hand him over to the police.’’

It’s in the army’s interest to hand over to the police- Afolabi, SAN

In Edo State, Olayiwola Afolabi, SAN, said: “The Nigerian Army is the complainant in this matter, so, the Nigerian Army, being the complainant, cannot investigate its case, they are working against themselves, it is wrong and in that way, the case will fail because the constitutional responsibility of investigating a crime is the police’s.

“The case in question is not a coup; it is not a coup plot. If it is a coup, the Nigerian Army has the right to investigate the coup plotters, but in this case, it is a criminal allegation of murder.

“They do not have the right to investigate it because by doing that, they are destroying the case against themselves. The police should investigate, and charge them to the court if found culpable.

“Now, you are the one that is alleging a crime, and you are the one that is investigating the same crime, it is wrong. It will be in their interest to hand over the investigation to the police and any statement they have obtained from those suspects. Constitutionally, it is wrong.

“Police will have to start afresh, there have been similar cases that the courts decided, and once this action by the army is continued, the case will fail from the onset.”

Govt ought to demand monarch’s release – Okpoko, SAN

Also speaking to Vanguard, Chief Thompson J. Onomigbo Okpoko, SAN, said: “The constitutionality of what happened when the police handed over the monarch to the army is neither here nor there. The duty to investigate criminal activities is that of the police, not the army.

“But because the army appears to be the complainant in the matter, the police ought to have been circumspect in handing him over to those who are complaining against the killing.

“The whole nation is complaining about the killing of our soldiers. The killing of the soldiers particularly touches me, if people cannot respect themselves, and do what is right, we should be able to say it.

“The monarch did what was right and surrendered himself to the police. The police ought to keep him and inform the army that the man has surrendered to them.

“Therefore, the police will have custody of the man, but you know the soldiers, they think force can resolve all disputes. If they go to the police and say this man who surrendered to you, we want him; if the police refuse to give him up, it may result in a crisis.

“To save the situation, the police handed him over to the army. The fact that they handed him over to the army is not a license for the army to humiliate the monarch, torture, or detain him beyond the period the constitution prescribes.
“It is a matter of compromise. As I said, the government should demand the release of the monarch and insist on an independent commission of inquiry to find out the truth.’’

Proclaiming monarch, 7 Urhobo natives wanted obnoxious – UPU

Meanwhile, the Urhobo Progress Union, UPU, the apex group of the Urhobo ethnic nationality in Delta State, has expressed displeasure with the action of the Nigerian Army in declaring the traditional ruler of Ewu kingdom, HRM Clement Ikolo, and Urhobo natives wanted over the killing of 17 soldiers, recently, in Okuama community, Ughelli South Local Government Area.

President General of the group in a statement, Chief Ese Gam, said: “The Urhobo nation condemn in its entirety this unprovoked declaration of eight prominent Urhobo sons and daughter wanted by the Nigeria army .

“First, what is the condition for this unwarranted declaration? Did the police or the army invite them? Did they refuse to come? We should not do things to attract media attention…

“This is a country of laws, if a person is to be declared wanted, it should be seen that there was an invitation and if the invitation is turned down, there should be a repeat invitation, but from nowhere, you say a professor, a lecturer in Delta State University, and the president general of Ewu Kingdom is declared wanted

“The police is the only body in this country that is empowered statutorily to arrest, investigate, and prosecute an alleged crime, here is a king (Ovie of Ewu Urhobo Kingdom) because he knows that his hands are clean, surrendered himself to the police, now, the police on their own handed over our royal majesty to the army.”


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