By Ameh Ejekwonyilo
The Independent Investigative Panel on Human Rights Violations by defunct Special Anti- Robbery Squad (SARS) and other units of the Nigerian Police on Monday ordered the Police to produce evidence to prove that it deposited the dead body of Emmanuel Ita Epharaim which Police claimed was brought to Atamkpa Divisional Police station, Calabar, Cross River state by Officers of the Department State Service (DSS) and Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC).
The panel also ordered the 2nd Respondent, Operation Skolombo Calabar which the Police alleged were on patrol the time Emmanuel (the deceased) engaged in exchange of gunshots with armed robbers, to appear before it on December 15, 2020.
ACP Salisu upon his examination by Police Counsel, Godwin Ijeoma, said Police personnel were not part of the Operation Skolombo the very day the incident happened.
However, he stated that Operation Skolombo was set up by the Cross River State Goverment to assist in the maintenance of law and order in the state.
The 11-member investigative panel chaired by Justice Suleiman Galadima (Rtd ) had warned the 4th Respondent, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Kabiru Salisu, to be careful with his conduct before the panel. The Senior Police Officer who was a Chief Superintendent of Police when the incident occured had suddenly raised his voice when Counsel (NHRC) to the panel, Chino Obiagwu (SAN) asked him to tell the panel the time of his last promotion.
Seemingly losing his temper, ACP Salisu in a loud voice retorted, “This is not why i came here” and the Chairman of the panel corrected him saying, “You don’t shout here. If you don’t know the answer to the question, say i don’t know.”
The panel almost adjourned the matter on account of the ACP Salisu’s conduct before Obiagwu SAN and Police Counsel, Godwin Ijeoma apologised on his behalf.
When ACP Salisu heeded the advice of the panel and calmed down, he continued and informed the panel that he only got involved in the case when he received a distress call via his walkie-talkie and thereafter directed his men who were on a patrol around his division to go to the said troubled spot and attend to any possible security challenge.
ACP Salisu who was a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) at the time the alleged extra-judicial killing occured explained that his patrol team informed him that nothing happened when they got to the location where the distress call came from, which according to him informed his decision to ask the team to continue with the normal patrol.
Continuing, the ACP told the panel that he later came to his Divisional Police station only to find an unidentified dead body and that upon informing the State Commissioner of Police, he directed him to deposit the corpse in University Teaching Hospital, Calabar.
Earlier, younger brother to the deceased, Prince Engr. Paul Offiong told the panel during his examination by Counsel (NHRC) to the panel, Chino Obiagwu (SAN), that his brother had on June 17, 2017 gone to Christ Embassy for the purpose of worship and he never came back again.
According to him, the deceased who was suffering from depression was frequently going to the Church to worship and to be possible healed so that he could go back to his normal business only for someone to inform the family that their brother has been shot.
He stated that his father, Dr.Charles Offiong who is also a Clan Head in the Community went to the Divisional Police Atankpa and confirmed that the late Emmanuel was his son.
He told the panel that his father wrote to the Police to released the corpse to the family for burial but according to him the Police told him that they would oblige him if he would accept to tone down the language in his letter of request to have the deceased released to the family for burial.
He said the Police allegedly complained about the language of the deceased father’s letter to the Police to avoid implicating the force.
Engr. Paul, the complainant told the panel that his father then accepted to write another letter which the Police accepted and later released the corpse to the family for burial, having made the father of the deceased to include in his later that he will not open the case of the alleged extra-judicial killing again.
He emphasized before the panel that the police said they believed the victim was an armed robber.
But later apologised to the family for the death of their loved one.
The Panel later adjourned the case to December 15, 2020, for continuation.